Ed Kemper’s Mommy Issues

If ever there was a cautionary tale of parenting gone wrong it, is the story of Edmund Kemper and his mom. Due to his high IQ, he was a maniacal hunter and had excellent insight as to the motivation for his crimes. Known as the “Co-Ed killer” , Kemper was responsible for 10 murders between the years of 1964 and 1973. His first victim’s were his paternal grandparents whom he murdered in cold blood simply because he wanted to see how it felt. After several years of stalking and killing random co-eds , Ed Kemper finally turned himself in to police, only after killing his mother. Interviews with Kemper have revealed what we have come to expect… Mommy issues.

Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper gave birth to Edmund on December 18,1948. At birth, Kemper was 13 lbs and continued to be much larger than his peers throughout his life. At his full height, Kemper measured 6 feet 9 inches and appeared menacing. Apparently, Clarnell felt this way as well. She began locking him in the basement for the night at the age of ten , as she did not trust him to be alone with his sisters. Abusive???? Maybe, but early behaviors indicated that Edmund could not be trusted.


Beginning in early childhood, the dark fantasies began to take over his life. He enjoyed playing with his sister’s dolls , removing their hands and heads. The underlying themes to his play involved danger. According to Kemper his favorite game was “gas chamber”. He also enjoyed peeping into the windows of his second grade teacher.

Kemper took pleasure in terrorizing his family from an early age. He reportedly buried the family cat while it was still alive. When the cat was dead, he dug up the body and cut off its head. Little Edmund placed it on a sharp stick and displayed it for all to see. Three years later, Kemper killed another family cat when he thought it was showing more affection to his sister.

Having killed his grandparents at the age of fifteen, Edmund was placed in Atascadero State Hospital. Doctors there diagnosed him as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The structure of the hospital provided a much-needed security for Ed. He was even intrusted to become an assistant to the doctors at the facility. During this time, Kemper had access to the files and notes which provided him the ability to mask his insanity. Kemper spent six years at the hospital then he was released.

It was strongly recommended that Kemper not return to the care of his mother. However, that is just what happened. They continued their tumultuous relationship, often fighting so loud that the neighbors could hear. Even after moving away, Kemper claims he could not escape his mother’s criticism as she would frequently call and visit.

Kemper’s frustration resulted in further retreat to his fantasies. He perfected the art of picking up hitchhiker and remaining innocuous right up until the moment he attacked and killed them. Kemper’s double life of “good guy” by day and monster by night was still not enough to quell his inner contempt for humanity. Eventually, he had to face is mother.

On April 20, 1973 Clarnell arrived home from a night out and went into her room. Edmund entered her room and was met with a cold remark. He left the room and waited for her to fall asleep. He then attacked her with a claw hammer. He also slit her throat with a knife and proceed to decapitate her. Perhaps the most disgusting act perpetrated was committing a sex act with his mother’s head. He placed her head on a shelf and yelled at it for one hour while throwing darts as if it were a dart board.

When this did not satisfy his rage, Edmund removed her tongue and larynx and ground them in the garbage disposal. He mashed it into mush. He then decided to invite his mom’s best friend, Sally Hallett, for dinner and a movie. When she arrived, Kemper strangled her and stuffed her body into the closet with the remainder of his mother. He left the scene in Hallett’s car.

Waiting for the news to break on the radio proved too much for Kemper and he decided to call the police and confess. The police were not responsive and asked him to call back later. He waited in his car for the police to arrive. He was arrested and convicted of eight counts of first degree murder.


During the subsequent imprisonment, Edmund Kemper has been forthright in discussing his past misdeeds. He appears to be a calm, self aware and even likable. Because of his high I.Q. and willingness to talk, he is perhaps the most documented serial killer in U.S. history. It is important to recognize that Kemper is simply telling his own side of the story. When discussing the murders of the co-ed hitchhikers, he often paints a picture of compassion stating he killed some of them so that they would not have to witness what he was going to do to their friend.

It’s clear that the life of Edmund Kemper was doomed to failure. Kemper blamed his problems on a terrible relationship with his critical, alcoholic mother. Although I agree that the mother -child relationship can be a contributing factor to mental illness, it is safe to say that Ed Kemper’s particular problems are a combination of abuse and genetics. Perhaps, if his mom had sought help for him sooner. (Like before he killed his grand parents) he might have been rehabilitated. Instead she paid the ultimate price.

One thought on “Ed Kemper’s Mommy Issues”

  1. It appears that You minimize the extent of Clarnell’s abusiveness towards her son. She appears to have been a Man Hater and scapegoated her Son for this reason. Kemper’s father describes the marriage as a “suicide mission”. Edmund’s diagnoses as a Paranoid Schizophrenic would probably apply to his Alcoholic Mother as well. Edmund’s criminal insanity reflects the tragic intersection of Familial Abuse, Violence, and Mental Illness which seems to be the common thread with serial killers. A study of Clarnell’s Family History would probably shed some light on this disturbing phenomenon. You don’t need to be a perfect mother, or father, to raise a healthy child, just be fair, consistent, and loving, and they will forgive an occasional mistake.


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