"The Coed Butcher" Edmund Kemper

At 10 years old Edmund Kemper was made to live in a dark, musty basement by his abusive alcoholic stepmother. Therefore, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he was found to be mentally disturbed. By the time he was 13 he had severed the heads off of his sister’s dolls and killed the family cat with a knife.

Kemper was born in Burbank, California, December of 1948 and was the middle child. For a time was shuttled back and forth between his divorced parent’s and grandparent’s homes. He was constantly being belittled, chastised and abused by his mother which led to having a continuing dream about killing her. It was a dream later to become a reality. In the end Kemper’s body count would tally 6 coeds, his mother and her close friend.

Kemper loathed living on his grandparents’ farm in North Fork, CA. For amusement, the 15 year old would shoot small animals and birds with a rifle. When his grandparent’s discovered what he was doing they took it away from him. He didn’t like that. On August 27th, 1964, he shot them both following an argument just “…to see what it felt like.”

Kemper was remanded to the California Youth Authority who subjected him to a variety of tests. Kemper was found to have a high IQ, but was also diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. He was sent to Atascadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

In 1969, the 21 year old Kemper was released with the advice never to associate with his mother again. It was a decision others would soon pay dearly for with their lives. Because apparently, the advice went in one ear and out the other. She was found to be working at the University of California at Santa Cruz and that’s where he went.

The Victims

While in Santa Cruz he briefly attended community college and found employment with the California Highway Department in 1971. He also unsuccessfully tried to become a state trooper. At 6’ 9” and about 300 lbs, “Big Ed” couldn’t pass the physical requirements. Since he couldn’t be one, he became friends with several who were.

From one he obtained a state trooper trainee badge and a pair of handcuffs. Another officer loaned him a gun and some say he owned a car which could have been easily mistaken for a police vehicle. It was obvious these state troopers knew nothing of Kemper’s past.

While Kemper was still employed by the highway department, he was in a motorcycle accident and injured an arm to the point he was no longer able to hold a steady job. With little else to keep him occupied Kemper began noticing how many young female hitchhikers were in the area and began picking them up. At first he just gave them rides to wherever they wanted to go. But, eventually his tortured mind began to give rise to murderous desires.

On May 7th, 1972 two Fresno State College students, Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa accepted a ride. It was to be their last. The two were reported missing but nothing was known about their whereabouts until August 15th, when Pesce’s decapitated head was discovered in some woods. Luchessa’s remains were never found. Kemper later explained after he had killed the girls he took their corpses back to his apartment and then cut off their heads and hands.

At the time Kemper was on a murder spree his crimes were sharing the spotlight with 2 other serial killers in the same area, John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins. Santa Cruz soon earned the title “Murder Capital of the World” and Kemper became known as the “Coed Butcher.”

In January of 1973, Kemper picked up another hitchhiker, Cindy Schall and shot her. Her body was cut up into pieces and disposed of in the ocean. Several parts were later discovered washed up on shore.

Kemper’s car had a campus parking sticker his mother had gotten in order for him to pick her up from work. He could pick and choose from many young women attending the University. On February 5th, 1973 he chose Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu to be his next victims. He shot and killed them and in keeping with his modus operandi he dismembered their bodies, removed the bullets and discarded their body parts in varying locations. Some were later discovered by hikers.

Kemper’s killing days came to an end in April of 1973. He attacked his mother as she slept following a violent argument. He bashed her head in with a hammer, cut her throat and then hid the body. Shortly afterwards he invited a friend of his mother’s over and killed her as well, stuffing the body in a closet. The reason for her death was never ascertained

He headed for Pueblo, Colorado the next day. Upon arriving in Pueblo he called the Santa Cruz police and confessed his crimes. His friends on the force were stunned to discover the man they called “Big Ed” was the infamous “Coed Butcher.”

Kemper was charged and found guilty for eight counts of first-degree murder. He will be eligible for parole in 2012.

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Comments 16 comments

joanwz profile image

joanwz 5 years ago from Katy, Texas

Eligible for Parole in 2012? That's scary. Maybe the parole board will keep him behind bars.

JY3502 profile image

JY3502 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

I don't know...he said he saw your comment on this page and he wants to meet you. :)

SpanStar profile image

SpanStar 5 years ago

This is a well written article so my argument isn't the article but the idea that we should understand or accept the notion for destructive behavior

"At 10 years old Edmund Kemper was made to live in a dark, musty basement by his abusive alcoholic stepmother. Therefore, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he was found to be mentally disturbed."

Yes we can be effected by the conditions around us but that in and of itself doesn't mean we can't rise above it. Sure kids tease, hit, hurt when we're growing up but that shouldn't be what defines the kind of person we could be.

Children have lost both their parents to murder, car accident or whatever and now their how live has changed but they don't think about grabbing guns and killing people. It does surprise me that he's found mentally disturbed.

H A Kap profile image

H A Kap 5 years ago from Ohio

Although prison is not appropriate for a great number of people, this guy should stay there for everyone's protection. There is nothing in prison that would get him the help he needs. Rehabilitation in the prison system is a joke. He needs to count his days and have him stay away from everyone else.

JY3502 profile image

JY3502 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

SpanStar, the article never attributed his killing to the fact he was mentally disturbed. That would be an assumed opinion, which I don't write except in editorials. The man was determined to be criminally insane, which is also fact, not opinion. No one can be exactly certain why serial killers do what they do except them. And in later interviews he described himself as having murderous desires.

The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 5 years ago

I really don't think it was meant to sound like he was saying it was accepted, just that there is and understanding why he did this. Serial killers can kill numerously, because they don't consider themselve as a person, so it seperates them from the morals of killing. He wasn't treated as a human, so its understandable how he can kill.

JY3502 profile image

JY3502 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

The Scary Truth,OK...just making things clear. Thanks for your observations.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

What a terrible thing for the women! I really hope he NEVER gets paroled. Why let him loose, assuming he's "rehabilitated"? Chances are he will only commit more violent crimes and more innocent people will suffer.

The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 5 years ago

But in all seriousness and everyone will tell you I don't like the prison system, but killing that many, and spending that much time in prison, He is not fit to enter society. Parole him maybe to a minimum security.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

EIGHT grisly murders and he wasn't sentenced to life in prison with NO chance of parole? Am I the only one who finds this disturbing, and a HUGE error in the justice system?

SpanStar profile image

SpanStar 5 years ago


Isn't the legal premiss for one's action based on their mental state?

Does not the law in America assertains what judgement should apply with regards for their mental state at the time which is to say if someone killed in a fit of rage that's not the same as if someone planned out the killing?

JY3502 profile image

JY3502 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

Finally,JamaGenee and SpanStar have hit on the moral of this hub!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I think Kemper's obvious insanity should not take precedence over "pre-meditated", thereby allowing the heinous crimes to be considered "done in a temporary fit of rage". This man is clearly a danger to society and will be for the rest of his life. I hope the parole board has the good sense to deny him, or enough people object to his being paroled, so this doesn't end up being another "Oops" case where someone else gets butchered while he's free, however briefly.

The Scary Truth profile image

The Scary Truth 5 years ago

SpanStar makes a point buuuuuut, What about drug addicts we detain them all the time, when its only an action of their mental state. Medical society has deem addiction as a medical disorder and disease, but we jail people all the time for the disease. We are all addicted to something, which way it manifests itself is another story.

JY3502 profile image

JY3502 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina Author

Food for thought!

profile image

jaokguy 4 years ago

This guy has killed 8 people and he's up for parole in 2012...that just says EVERYTHING we need to understand about this country's ignorant, inept, wimpy, hypocritical, sexist, and severely lacking in common sense "justice system". This country is embarrassing.

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