The Truth About Ed Kemper's First Murders

Edmund "Ed" Kemper was known as the co-ed killer for killing several young female college students in and around Santa Cruz, California, in the early 1970s. Yet four of his other known victims were not co-eds at all. In fact, around the time he preyed on college students, whom he often decapitated, having sex with the corpses and keeping the head as mementos, he also killed his mother in a similar fashion. 

Specifically, he killed his mother with a claw hammer, cut off her head and hands, put her vocal cords in the garbage disposal, and used her severed head for dart practice, according to an interview with Kemper posted on YouTube. After mutilating his mother, he killed her friend by strangling her, per Psychology Today. Kemper then called police to tell them of his crimes. He was 24-years-old. 

But Kemper had committed murder before all of that. He even spent five years in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital for convicts after killing his paternal grandparents when he was 15-years-old. 

Ed Kemper killed his grandparents after they took away his gun

It was because of his troubled relationship with his mother that he ended up living with his grandparents on their farm in North Fork, CA. According to Psychology Today, his mother, Clarnell, was an alcoholic who often forced Kemper to stay alone in the basement at night. At 14 he ran away to try to live with his father, but his dad rejected him and the unwanted child was sent to live with his grandparents, Ed Kemper Sr. and his wife, Maude.

According to what Ed Kemper said in an interview posted on YouTube, ten months after he moved in with his grandparents, he killed them. Per Psychology Today, Kemper found a similar disdain for his grandmother as he had for his mother, both of whom Kemper claimed were abusive. 

In former FBI agent Robert Ressler's book, "Whoever Fights Monsters," he wrote that Kemper was angry after his grandparents took back a gun they'd given him because he was using it to kill small animals and birds on the farm. Yet Kemper was still able to get his hands on a gun. 

Ed Kemper was deemed 'a very well-adjusted young man' by a psychiatrist

According to Biography, one August afternoon in 1964 a 15-year-old Kemper stood outside and open window and took aim at his grandmother as she sat working at her writing desk. He shot her in the back of the head once, then twice more in the back. Next he dragged Maude's limp body into a bedroom where he stabbed her multiple times with a butcher knife. 

Not wanting his grandfather to be upset with him for killing his wife, he waited for Ed Kemper Sr. to get home, then shot him in the head in the driveway when his back was turned. He then phoned his mom who told him to call the police and tell them what he had done. After his arrest, he said he shot his grandma "to see what it felt like," according to Biography. 

Kemper was tried as a juvenile and sentenced to the Atascadero Stage Hospital until his release on his 21st birthday in December 1969. He was sent back to live with his mother. 

According to the Ed Kemper Stories, a psychiatrist wrote in Kemper's probation report "If I were to see this patient without having any history ... I would think that we're dealing with a very well-adjusted young man who had initiative, intelligence, and who was free of any psychiatric illnesses."

Four years later, in November of 1973, he would be convicted of eight more murders and sentenced to life in prison, per The New York Times. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Kemper, still alive and now 72, will be up for parole again in 2024.