A Genius IQ and an Obsession with Murder
With an IQ score of 140, Edmund Kemper was a bona fide genius who could have done anything with his life. Instead of turning towards science or the arts, Kemper’s mind sought darker paths, ones that lead to his fitting nickname, the Co-Ed Butcher.
There were many early signs that Edmund Kemper would have a troubled life, and that that life would bring grief to those around him. Even before his parents’ divorce, Kemper was remarkably cruel to animals. He once stabbed the family cat, and he confessed to burying small animals alive only to dig them up at the last minute in order to continue torturing him.
In 1964, Kemper was fifteen. He had run away to find his father, but his father had remarried. After just a short time, the elder Kemper sent his son home to his mother and grandparents. Things were tense, and they came to a head when after a fight with his grandmother, Kemper shot her fatally. A short while later, his grandfather returned home, and Kemper killed him as well. When asked what motivated these terrible crimes, Kemper only responded that he “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma.”
Kemper was committed to a state hospital where his formidable intelligence was discovered. He served less than five years there before being released back to his mother’s care, an act that was contested by several doctors.
Living with his mother, Clarnell Kemper, was stressful to both of them. He suffered her outbursts of anger with ill-grace. When she pushed him to a breaking point, he would drive along the freeways of California. After a while, it became clear to Kemper that he was looking for victims.
In 1972, Kemper committed his first murders as an adult. A pair of young college students were hitchhiking on the freeway, waiting for a lift to Stanford University. Instead of taking them to their destination, he took them to a quiet place off the road. He smothered and stabbed one student before stabbing the other. When both women were dead, he took the bodies back home to his apartment, where he photographed them, dismembered them, sexually assaulted them, and placed them in plastic bags. After that, he dumped the bodies.
Less than six months later, Kemper kidnapped a hitchhiking high school student at gunpoint. He strangled her, sexually assaulted the body, and dumped her much as he had the previous two victims.
In 1973, the pressure became too great for Kemper, and he killed again. This time, he took his victim’s head and buried it in his garden, facing his mother’s room. He later told police that this was a joke of sorts; his mother had always wanted people to look to her.
He killed again less than a year later. This time, his victims were two co-eds. He got away with these crimes largely because he drank at a bar called The Jury Room, a place that was popular with local law enforcement. He was friends with many officers who came in, who saw no problem with discussing the case with him. In this way, he was constantly one step ahead of the police, who never suspected Kemper for a moment.
Kemper’s career as a killer came to a climax one day when his mother came home from a party. She was reading a book when he entered her room. He beat her to death with a claw hammer before decapitating her and using her head as a dart board. He then called her best friend to come over, whereupon he strangled her to death.
A certain strange calmness marked Kemper’s actions. He drove away from the scene of the crime, but when he heard his latest two murders reported on the radio, he stopped at a phonebooth to turn himself in. In a strange twist, the police assumed he was joking and Kemper was asked to call back later.
In his trial, Kemper claimed he was innocent due to insanity. He then asked for the death penalty, but that was denied. He was given life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and today, he lives in the general prison population at California Medical Facility.