Mindhunter Brought Edmund Kemper Back Into the Limelight
Ten murders, 5000 hours of audiobooks and numerous interviews.
Edmund Emil Kemper III was born on December 18th, 1948. He is an American serial killer who murdered ten people including members of his family. Nicknamed the ‘Coed Killer’ as many of his victims were female, college students. He was recently brought to my attention when watching Mindhunter on Netflix.
Kemper is known for his large size at 2.06m. He is also considered to be highly intelligent with an IQ of 145. Born in California, Kemper had a poor background. When his parents divorced he was forced to move with his abusive mother. He later returned to California, at the age of 15, to murder his paternal grandparents.
Kemper was sitting at the kitchen table with his grandmother when they started to argue. Enraged, Kemper retrieved his grandfather’s hunting rifle. He re-entered the kitchen and shot his grandmother in the head. He shot her twice again, before mutilating her with a kitchen knife.
When his grandfather returned from shopping, Kemper when outside and shot him on the drive. Unsure what to do next he phoned his mother, who turned him into the police. He was official diagnosis with paranoid schizophrenia. For these two murders, he was sent to a centre for insane juveniles. He was released at 21 when he was considered rehabilitated by psychiatrists.
During his release time, he went to live with his mother and attending a community college. He also worked many menial jobs to earn money. He later gained a job with the California Department of Transportation. When he had raised enough money he moved out. During the same year, he was hit by a car, whilst on his motorbike. When he was awarded compensation, part of this was a new car. Whilst driving this, he noticed the number of female hitchhikers.
A Murderer Again
Between May 1972 and April 1973, Kemper killed a total of eight people. He targeted young women who were hitchhiking. He would then take them to isolated areas and shoot, stab, smother or strangle them. Once dead he would take them back to his house and decapitate them. He would then perform sexual acts on both their body and head. Once finished he would completely dismember them.
During the eleven months of terror, he killed five college students, a high school student, his mother and her friend. In interviews, he stated that rowing with his mother was the trigger for him to go and look for victims. Both Kemper and his psychiatrists agreed, the young women were surrogates for his mother.
When arrested for the second time, Kemper stated that he understood how psychology tests functioned. He stated he manipulated his psychiatrists to release him. He also said that he learnt a great deal from the sex offenders he lived with, whilst detained.
Kemper was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder on May 73. Due to his detailed confession, the only defence left to his team was not guilty on reasons of insanity. Kemper tried to commit suicide twice in custody. His trial started on October 1973.
Three psychiatrists found that Kemper was legally insane. For an insanity plea to stand the defence has to prove that Kemper engaged in the acts when he had a complete defect of reason, from a disease of the mind. This did not convince the court, it appeared Kemper knew his acts of violence were wrong.
On November 1st, Kemper took the stand. During his testimony, he claimed he killed the victims because he wanted them for himself. He referred to them as possessions. Claiming this pointed to his criminal insanity. He stated he had a killer personality which took over and he almost blacked out.
A week later the jury deliberated for five hours, before declaring him sane and guilty on all accounts. After this verdict he asked for the death penalty, requesting death by torture. Instead, he received seven years to life for every murder to serve concurrently.
Since that moment, he has been imprisoned in the California Medical Facility. He has waived his right to parole several times and is said to be happy behind bars. Although he had an earlier altercation with serial killer Mulin, he remains in the general population and is considered a model prisoner.
He works within the prison scheduling inmate appointments with psychiatrists. He also enjoys making ceramic cups. He spends hours narrating books for blind readers. While in prison he has taken part in several interviews for documentaries.
John Douglas spent several hours interviewing Kemper. It is his insights that have contributed to the FBI’s understanding of serial killers. It is these interviews that are portrayed in Mindhunter. Douglas stated, that he is one of the brightest inmates he has interviewed. Kemper has a rare insight into a violent criminal.
In 2015 after suffering from a stoke he was declared medical disabled and retired from his positions within the prison. Although having denied early parole hearings, he pursued one in 2017. He was turned down, he will be eligible again in 2024.