Ed Kemper was a large man. He spent most of his life in very small spaces.
He was, unlike many killers, more than willing to openly discuss both his crimes and his feelings about them. Unlike most, he did not pretend to innocence or argue his liability. He also spoke freely about the urges he felt, and their origins.
“When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things: one part of me wants to take her home, be real nice and treat her right; the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick.”
He was fifteen when he killed his grandparents. He said that he had killed his grandmother “to see what it felt like”; also, he was angry at them because they had taken away his rifle. Most killers will try to justify a crime, by giving reasons they think anyone might have done it. Kemper quite openly admitted that curiosity about killing, and simple anger, were his main reasons for the killing. He then killed his grandfather, as well, most likely to prevent retribution or further punishment. It was also a way for him to leave the living situation, as he disliked living with them.
“…my grandmother who thought she had more balls than any man and was constantly emasculating me and my grandfather to prove it. I couldn’t please her. It was like being in jail. I became a walking time bomb and I finally blew. “
He was imprisoned for these killings until he was 21. During his confinement, he was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and tested with a fairly high IQ. He was an intelligent person- but his mind was a bit broken. Whether the diagnosis of PS was accurate or not (diagnostics at that time did not recognize sociopathy or ASPD as proper diagnoses) could be questioned. (He is currently being treated for paranoid schizophrenia.)
He went to live with his mother when he was released.
This was probably a bad idea.
“I can’t get away from her. She knows all my buttons and I dance like a puppet.”
His history with his mother was dark. She most likely suffered from borderline personality disorder. Many sociopaths and killers have had parents who have suffered from this disorder. The instability, rages, and unpredictable behavior it causes tend to make childhood very difficult for their children. Whether or not Kemper was born with a tendency to murder, his upbringing with this mother could only have exacerbated it, and brought it to the surface.
She previously had made him stay in the low-ceilinged basement because she believed he might rape or attack his sisters. Whether or not she was correct about this is lost to history- it is possible that Kemper was in fact menacing and perhaps violent or overtly sexual in his interactions with them. Given his personality, her fears may have been justified- he describes torturing cats and other animals openly during his youth, which might make anyone squeamish. Their relationship was obviously troubled, either way, and her abuse of him, combined with his own dark personality, made a very dangerous combination.
Three years after he was released, he began to kill women.
“Alive, they were distant, not sharing with me. I was trying to establish a relationship, and there was no relationship… When they were being killed, there wasn’t anything going on in my mind except that they were going to be mine… That was the only way they could be mine.”
He was an opportunist, picking up hitchhikers and strangling or shooting them. He found their dead bodies fascinating and spent time with their remains, dismembering them, saving parts, and having sex with the corpses. He kept many trophies and body parts in his room at home, including heads and hands. He sliced bits of meat from their legs, to cook and eat later in macaroni casserole (he was apparently not a gourmet.) For a while, he carried teeth, and hair from his victims to remember them. He buried the head of one of his victims just outside his window, facing him so that he could speak with her at night.
“They were like spirit wives… I still had their spirits. I still have them.”
Eventually, he killed his mother as well. Her borderline disorder caused her to be contentious and violently emotional, and to engage in long rages during which the two would argue repetitively.
“My mother and I started right in on horrendous battles, just horrible battles, violent and vicious. I’ve never seen such a vicious verbal battle with anyone. It would go to fists with a man, but this was my mother, and I couldn’t stand the thought of my mother and I doing these things. She insisted on it, and just over stupid things. I remember one roof-raiser was over whether I should have my teeth cleaned”
Kemper waited until his mother slept, then bashed her head with a claw hammer until she was dead. He decapitated her, removing her vocal cords along the way. He threw her larynx into the garbage disposal. He had sex with her head. He set it up afterwards, propped across the room, and used it as a dartboard. He played with her body for hours. When he grew tired of her, he called her friend and invited her over for dinner. When the woman arrived, he attacked her, clubbed her then strangled her. He also decapitated her, placing her body in his bed. He then rested in his mother’s bed for a while.
“her head…I put it on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour… threw darts at it… smashed her face in…It was so hard. I cut off her head, and I humiliated her, of course. She was dead, because of the way she raised her son.”
However after these two killings he fled. Unlike most killers Kemper was very direct about his circumstances. He knew that unlike his previous killings, he would be caught for these. He had killed his mother in a fit of temper, not with premeditated lust, so he had not been cautious. He called the police, some of whom were personal friends of his, and turned himself in.
“I can’t get it out of my mind. It got heavier and heavier, and harder and harder, and I drank more and more, and I came close to blowing it every time I’d drink too much. I don’t mean doing something crazy, but almost giving myself away. The farther along I went, you’ll have to agree, the sloppier I got and the more careless I got, both in picking girls up, taking chances, and not following my set rules, and also in disposal of the evidence.”
He spoke freely about his work. His confession, like the writings of Sagawa, are detailed and complex. He discussed his motivations and his emotions during the killings and did not shy from describing his own fears and inadequacies.
“I had fantasies about mass murder, whole groups of select women I could get together in one place, get them dead and then make mad passionate love to their dead corpses. Taking life away from them, a living human being, and then having possession of everything that used to be theirs. All that would be mine. Everything.”
Kemper again was unusual in that he requested the death penalty and was denied. Many serial killers attempt to draw out the judicial process and avoid the death penalty, but Kemper was disappointed that he was denied execution.
Ed Kemper is currently among the general population in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California, and has another parole hearing in 2012.
“You haven’t asked the questions I expected a reporter to ask. Oh, what is it like to have sex with a dead body? What does it feel like to sit on your living room couch and look over and see two decapitated girls’ heads on the arm of the couch? The first time, it makes you sick to your stomach.”