When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things: one part of me wants to take her home, be real nice and treat her right; the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick.

Edmund Emil "Ed" Kemper III, a.k.a. "The Co-Ed Killer" or "The Co-Ed Butcher", is an American serial/spree killer, necrophiliac, ephebophile, and cannibal active in the early 1970s. His murders coincided with those of another California serial killer, Herbert Mullin.


Kemper was born on December 18, 1948, in Burbank, California. His parents were Edmund Jr. and Clarnell Kemper (née Strandberg). He also had one older and one younger sister and was very close to his father. Because of this, he was troubled when they divorced in 1957 and his mother took Kemper and his sisters and moved to Helena, Montana. Though very bright (he was later found to have an IQ of 145 during adulthood), he displayed sociopathic traits at an early age; he was a pyromaniac and often used his sisters' dolls to enact murders and bizarre sexual rituals. He particularly enjoyed pulling their heads off. He took great delight in torturing and killing cats; one of them he stabbed to death. Another he reportedly buried alive, dug up again, decapitated it and put its head on a pole. He fantasized about being executed by electric chair and would often enact it as a game with his sisters. His emotionally abusive mother would often lock him in the basement because she was afraid that he would rape the youngest. At the age of 13, he ran away and made it all the way to his father in California, only to discover that he had remarried and made his stepson the object of his affection. Kemper, heartbroken, was sent back to his mother.

Edmund Sr. and Maude Kemper

Edmund Sr. and Maude Kemper, his grandparents (in their youth).

At the age of 14, Kemper was sent to live with his paternal grandparents, Edmund Sr. and Maude Kemper, at their ranch in North Fork, California. Even though he already was an imposing 6 foot 4 inches (1,93 m) tall, he was easily bullied by classmates. He also didn't get along with his grandmother. On the afternoon of August 27, 1964, he shot and killed first her, then Edmund Sr., with a rifle that had been given to him for Christmas the previous year. Sources vary on exactly how it happened; some claim it was a spur of the moment after Kemper and she had an argument. Others claim that she was working on her next children's book when she was shot and that Kemper did it just to find out how it felt. He then killed his grandfather when he came home from grocery shopping to spare him the sight of his dead wife and made two phone calls; first to his mother to tell her what he had done and then to the local police to do the same. He then sat down on the porch and waited for their arrival. After being arrested, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and placed in mental care at the Atascadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He surprisingly got along well with his psychiatrist and was even made his assistant. On December 18, 1969, on his 21st birthday, Kemper was released against the wishes of several psychologists and placed in the care of his mother in Santa Cruz.

Serial Killings, Capture, and Incarceration

After being released, Kemper, still living with his mother, took a number of menial jobs before eventually getting a job at the State of California's Department of Public Works as a laborer. He was then 6 foot 9 (2,05 m) and weighed ca. 300 pounds (ca. 140 kg). He befriended several local police officers and even planned to become one himself, a dream that ended when he learned that he was above regulation height. Though he wasn't good with money, he eventually saved up enough to move away from his mother and get an apartment with a roommate. After getting a $15,000 settlement through a motorbike accident, he bought a yellow Ford Galaxy and began cruising the Pacific coast area in search of female hitchhikers, all the while gathering kill supplies such as a knife, plastic bags and handcuffs. He eventually had to leave his apartment and move back in with his mother, who had been divorced a total of three times by that point. On May 7, 1972, he committed his first two murders as a serial killer. Over the following nine months, he killed four more women, coinciding with murders committed by fellow Californian serial killer Herbert Mullin. Many of his murders were committed after an argument with his mother. On April 19, 1973, he bludgeoned his mother to death in her sleep and spent hours mutilating her body, severing her head, using it for oral sex, tossing darts at it and throwing her vocal chords into the garbage disposer. When the murder didn't satisfy his homicidal needs, he invited over Sally Hallett, a friend of his mother, and killed her as well when she arrived.

Body removed, Kemper’s home

Victim's body removed from Kemper's home.

Kemper then took his car and drove away, all the while listening to the radio for reports about his murders. After four days on the road without hearing any such broadcasts, he stopped at a phone booth in Pueblo, Colorado, called his friends at the Santa Cruz PD and confessed to his eight murders. At first, they thought it was a poor joke, but, after a few phone calls, learned that he was telling the truth. He then sat down in the car and waited for them to come and arrest him. After unsuccessfully pleading insanity, he requested to be sentenced to death and executed by electrical chair, like he had fantasized about, but due to the state having temporarily suspended capital punishment, he was denied his childhood dream and sentenced to life in prison. While in prison, he was one of the first 36 convicted killers to be interviewed by the then recently founded Behavioral Science Unit. He was interviewed three times by Robert Ressler. During the third time, the guards didn't respond when he called for them and he found himself locked in the small room alone with Kemper, who started making death threats and taunting him. When the guard finally came, he claimed to have been kidding. John Douglas, who also interviewed him, later admitted to liking Kemper, who was friendly, open, and sensitive when they spoke. Kemper is still (January 2014) serving his sentence at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

Modus Operandi

Trophies of Kemper’s victims

Trophies taken by Kemper from his victims.

"If I killed them, you know, they couldn't reject me as a man. It was more or less making a doll out of a human being... and carrying out my fantasies with a doll, a living human doll."

Kemper targeted women, most of whom were co-eds aged in their teens to mid-twenties, most of whom attended the same college his mother worked at. All victims during his serial killer period, with the exception of his mother and Sally Hallett, were hitchhikers who were given rides by him when he cruised around. After taking them somewhere secluded, chatting them up on the way, he would kill them in various ways, including shooting, stabbing, and strangling, and then take their remains to his room, where he would perform bizarre experiments on, eviscerate, and engage in sexual activities with their bodies. He would also decapitate his victims' heads and have oral sex with them. One of the psychiatrists who interviewed him using a truth serum, Dr. Joel Fort, also believed that Kemper had cooked and eaten parts of his victims. He took Polaroid photos of their mutilated corpses as souvenirs. After he was done with the bodies, he would dispose of them, often by throwing them into a ravine or a gorge. The heads of some victims were buried in his mother's garden, with Kemper claiming he placed them there because his mother "always wanted people to look up to her". When he killed his grandparents, he shot them both with a .22 rifle.

Known Victims

Clarnell Strandberg

Clarnell Strandberg, Kemper's mother.

  • August 27, 1964: Edmund Sr. and Maude Kemper (his grandparents; both shot with a .22 rifle):
    • Edmund Emil Kemper, Sr., 72 (shot in the back of the head)
    • Maude Matilda Kemper, 66 (fatally shot once in the head and twice in the back post-mortem)
  • 1972:
    • May 7: Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa (both were manually strangled and fatally stabbed, then dismembered and decapitated post-mortem):
      • Mary Ann Pesce, 18 (also attempted to strangle with terrycloth and non-fatally slashed her throat)
      • Anita Mary Luchessa, 18
    • September 14: Aiko Koo, 15 (attempted to suffocate, then raped and fatally strangled with her scarf; engaged in necrophilia with her corpse, dissected, and removed her head and hands post-mortem)
  • 1973:
    • January 7: Cynthia Ann "Cindy" Schall, 19 (shot in the head with a .22 pistol; engaged in necrophilia with her corpse, dissected, and dismembered post-mortem)
    • February 5: Rosalind Thorpe and Allison Liu (both shot with a .22 pistol; engaged in necrophilia with their corpses and dismembered post-mortem):
      • Rosalind Heather Thorpe, 24
      • Allison Helen Liu, 23
    • April 19:
      • Clarnell Elizabeth Strandberg, 52 (his mother; bludgeoned with a claw hammer; mutilated and decapitated post-mortem, removed her vocal cords, and engaged in necrophilia with her corpse)
      • Sara Taylor "Sally" Hallett, 59 (manually strangled, then fatally strangled with Aiko's scarf and decapitated post-mortem)


On Criminal Minds

  • Season One:
    • "Charm and Harm" - Kemper was mentioned as an example of killers who save their most meaningful murders for last, referring to how he killed his mother.
  • Season Two:
  • Season Three:
    • "Doubt" - While he wasn't mentioned or referenced in the episode, he may have provided some inspiration for Nathan Tubbs, who was also a serial killer who abducted students from a campus by offering to drive them in his car, and was given a similar nickname by the press, the "The Campus Killer".
    • "Penelope" - Kemper was mentioned alongside Ted Bundy and Robert Anderson as examples of killers who appeared to gain sadistic satisfaction out of gaining the trust of their victims and out of lulling them into a false sense of security.
    • "Damaged" - While Kemper wasn't mentioned in the episode, there is a scene in which Hotch and Reid interview serial killer Chester Hardwick, which appears to have been based on Robert Ressler's third interview with Kemper. In both cases, the interviewers were threatened by the killer when guards didn't show up and stalled for time by talking to them. In Chester's case, however, he was seen making a physical attempt on their lives (even though he never actually touched Hotch or Reid), whereas Kemper claimed to Ressler later on that he was just kidding. Chester's physical appearance even seems to mimic Kemper's.
  • Season Four:
    • "Zoe's Reprise" - While Kemper wasn't mentioned or referenced in the episode, the quote feature at the top of this article appears to be very similar to the one Eric Olson gave to the BAU.
  • Season Six:
    • "The Stranger" - In the episode, Kemper was compared by Reid to the unsub in the sense that he also wasn't ready to confront the target of his rage and attacked other women instead (referring to how Kemper killed his mother). Like Kemper, the unsub was also dubbed "The Co-Ed Killer", active in California, and had a very close relationship with his father.
  • Season Seven:
    • "Proof" - Kemper was mentioned again by Reid, who (like in The Stranger) said the unsub was like Kemper in the sense that he also wasn't ready to confront the target of his rage and attacked other women instead.
  • Season Eight:
    • "Carbon Copy" - Though Kemper wasn't mentioned or referenced in the episode, his surname was used for fictional serial killer Jack Lee Kemper, who was only mentioned in passing.
  • Season Eleven:
    • "Tribute" - While Kemper wasn't mentioned or referenced in the episode, his mugshot was seen on the cover of the book America's Deadliest Killers, which was read by Michael Peterson.