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Crime News Kemper on Kemper: Inside The Mind of a Serial Killer

5 Signs From Ed Kemper’s Childhood That He Would Turn Into A Serial Killer

From mutilating dolls to killing animals, Ed Kemper's childhood was twisted.

By Aly Vander Hayden & Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Some serial killers are so heinous that they become part of our collective culture, and Ed Kemper is one of them. Known as "The Co-Ed Killer," Kemper is believed to have been one of the handful of serial killers used to create the terrifying antagonist in "The Silence of the Lambs." Responsible for killing six young women in Northern California in the early '70s, Kemper also murdered his grandparents, mother and his mother's best friend. After abducting his victims, Kemper would often decapitate them and sexually violate their corpses.

psychopath and necrophile, Kemper was arrested in April of 1973, and he is currently serving a life sentence at the California Medical Facility state prison. Oxygen's upcoming special "Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer" dives back into the twisted mind of "The Co-Ed Killer" and re-examines what drove a shy and "friendly" young man to commit his first murder.

Before watching the special, take a look back on these five signs from Kemper's childhood that foreshadowed his future as a serial killer:

1. Mommy Issues

Kemper said that he targeted young female students because of how much he hated his mother, Clarnell Strandberg. Clarnell was an employee at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and he even murdered two co-eds from the campus.

Kemper said in his first public interview in 1984, “There’s a lot that leads into that happening, but that’s what happened. They represented not what my mother was, but what she liked, what she coveted, what was important to her, and I was destroying it.” 

2. Childhood Abuse

[Photo: Getty Images]

Kemper's mother was believed to be both physically and emotionally abusive to him as a child. As Psychology Today reported, Clarnell was an alcoholic who locked her son in the basement alone at night. At the age of 15, Kemper ran away to find his paternal father, who rejected him. He ended up living with his paternal grandparents, but he claimed that his grandmother was as abusive as his mother.

3. Disturbing Games

[Photo: Getty Images]

As a boy, Kemper began having violent fantasies about death and acted them out with his sisters. Some of his favorite childhood games were called “Electric Chair” and “Gas Chamber.” He would have his sisters strap him to a chair and “flip” an imaginary execution switch. Kemper would then writhe in the chair, pretending to die from electric shock or toxic gas inhalation.

He also began cutting off the heads, arms and legs of his sisters' dolls. Later in life, he would decapitate women for real. Were the dolls simply practice?

In a later interview, Kemper shared this sick view when seeing a pretty girl: "'One side of me says, I’d like to talk to her, date her. The other side says, 'I wonder how her head would look on a stick.'"

4. Cat Killer

[Photo: Getty Images]

Early on, many serial killers begin experimenting with animal cruelty. Kemper is no exception. According to FBI Special Agent John Douglass, Kemper buried the family cat alive, then dug it up, decapitated it and put its head on a stake. When Kemper was 13, he killed his own pet cat with a machete and hid its remains in his closet, which his mother later found.

Kemper knew he was developing violent behavior and said in a later interview, “When I was in school, I was called a chronic daydreamer and I saw a counselor twice during junior high and high school, and that was very routine. They didn't ask me a lot of questions about myself and that was probably the most violent fantasy time I was off into.”

5. Grandparents' Murder


Ed Kemper Co Ed Killer

[Photo: Getty Images]

At 15, Kemper's murderous rage against women ignite into a blaze of violence. In a 1974 interview with “Front Page Detective” magazine, Kemper said that while living with his grandparents, his domineering grandmother “emasculated” him and his grandfather.

Kemper said, “I couldn't please her... It was like being in jail... I became a walking time bomb and I finally blew."

During his time there, Kemper’s grandfather bought him a rifle, which he used to shoot birds. But, his grandmother didn’t want him harming animals and confiscated the gun. Livid after their argument, Kemper took the rifle and shot his grandmother three times in the head and back as she sat at the kitchen table.

When Edmund Kemper, Sr. came home from grocery shopping, Kemper shot him in the driveway. Kemper later explained he only shot his grandfather so he wouldn’t find out his wife had been murdered. Following the shooting, Kemper called his mother, who told him to wait for the authorities.

After being taken into custody, he allegedly told police, “I just wanted to see how it felt to shoot Grandma.”

Despite the heinous act, Kemper was sentenced to a state hospital and then released into his mother's care on his 21st birthday. His juvenile criminal record was later expunged.

To learn more about "The Co-Ed Killer," watch "Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer" on Saturday, October 20 at 8/7c.

[Photo: Getty Images]