Former FBI Agent On What Serial Killer Ed Kemper Was Really Like

John Douglas and Robert Ressler were the pioneers of psychological profiling. The two men were part of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit and interviewed serial killers to gain an insight into what made them do horrendous crimes. One of their subjects was Ed Kemper — also known as the Co-Ed Killer — who killed six young women in the 1970s, as well as his grandparents, his mother, and his mother's friend (via Biography).

Through his interviews, Douglas found out the root cause of Kemper's murder spree. "His mother broke him. She neutered him psychologically, through years of psychological abuse," Douglas said in an interview with the Daily Mail. Kemper was arrested in 1973 when he was only 22 years old, and he has been incarcerated since then. It was shortly after his arrest when Douglas came to interview Kemper for the first time. Standing at 6 feet and 9 inches, Kemper was an imposing figure, but Douglas wasn't scared of him. During the interview, the FBI agent found out that Kemper liked to talk and was quite eloquent. He discussed the abuse he went through as a child, and he also talked about the details of his crimes.

Ed Kemper was intelligent and affable

According to John Douglas, he was astonished by Ed Kemper's intelligence and attention to detail. Kemper's IQ is at 145, and he also retained small details about the crimes he committed. "His recall was amazing — the details, the weather the day of each crime, what the victim was wearing," Douglas stated (via the Daily Mail). However, Douglas was also aware that Kemper was trying to manipulate him by being friendly. "I realized you cannot rehabilitate someone like that. High intelligence, manipulative," Douglas said of Kemper's behavior.

Douglas and his colleague Robert Ressler conducted several lengthy interviews with Kemper. In Douglas' book titled "Mindhunter," Douglas revealed his true feelings toward the serial killer. "Here was a man who had coldly butchered intelligent young women in the prime of their lives. Yet I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that I liked Ed. he was friendly, open, sensitive, and had a good sense of humor. As much as you can say such a thing in this setting, I enjoyed being around him," he wrote.

Douglas and Ressler learned from Kemper

Ed Kemper was just one of the serial killers that John Douglas and Robert Ressler interviewed, but Douglas said that he learned a lot from Kemper and was able to complete the Macdonald Triad because of him. The Macdonald Triad is the concept that three childhood behaviors — bedwetting, minor acts of arson, and cruelty to animals — are linked to a person growing up to be a violent offender or a serial killer, according to Healthline. "Before Kemper, animal cruelty was not a sign specified by profilers and investigators — on forms, there was only bedwetting, fire setting, and a section marked other. This changed after Kemper," Douglas stated.

In 1992, Douglas, Ressler, Allen Burgess, and Ann Burgess released the "Crime Classification Manual." The classifications in the book were derived from years of interviews with 36 serial killers, including Kemper. When it was published, Douglas gave Kemper a copy of the book with an inscription that read, "Dear Ed. With your continued help we may be able to save a child from becoming a victim or a subject of a violent crime! Thank you and may God bless you!" (via Edmund Kemper Stories).