My school pal was serial killer who had sex with headless corpses & inspired my lifelong fight against death penalty

My school pal was serial killer who had sex with headless corpses & inspired my lifelong fight against death penalty

September 13, 2020

WHEN David Dozier met his new neighbour Edmund Kemper, they quickly formed a friendship.

Both 15, they met every morning at the bus stop in North Fork, California, and travelled to school together. In the winter, he would jump into Kemper’s grandfather’s pick-up to keep warm until the bus arrived.

But Kemper was no ordinary boy. Months after moving in with his grandparents in the small rural town, he shot and stabbed his grandmother then waited outside for his granddad to return to the ranch before shooting him dead as well.

The troubled teen then went on to murder EIGHT more people, including his mother and her best friend, before having sex with their naked bodies and severed heads.

Now serving several life sentences in jail, he escaped the death sentence because of a moratorium on capital punishment in the state of California.

Kemper’s case led David to become a lifelong abolitionist – opposing the US death penalty – and has now inspired his first novel, The California Killing Field.


The book follows crime reporter Garrett Covington as he investigates a secret construction project at California's San Quentin Prison and delves into the psyche of a convicted serial killer, while also attempting to free an innocent man on death row.

“The situation with my childhood neighbour started me thinking about the death penalty and I was intrigued with the way society tends to demonise murderers, especially serial killers to make them seem non-human," he tells Sun Online.

“But typically, there's a history of childhood abuse and neglect that precedes these acts of violence, as there was in Edmond’s case.

“His dad left when he was young and his mum was a violent alcoholic who used to lock him in the basement.

“He ran away to be with his dad, but his dad had already started a new family and didn't want to have anything to do with him.

“So he had a whole lot of psychological and physical abuse as a kid and if you do that to a child, don't expect Mother Teresa to come out the other end.”


Decapitated dolls and the family cat

As David suggests, Edmund Kemper’s childhood in Montana was far from happy.

His army veteran dad left home when he was nine and he was constantly derided by mum Clarnell, who shouted abuse, called him a “weirdo” and made him sleep in the locked basement, convinced he would hurt his two sisters.

At 10, he buried the family cat alive before digging it up, decapitating it and mounting its head on a spike.

Three years later he killed another family cat and his mum found the pet’s body parts in his wardrobe some time later.

He staged ritual killings of his sisters’ dolls, removing their heads and hands as well as playing his favourite games – “Gas Chamber” and “Electric Chair” – where little sister Allyn would flick an imaginary switch and he would writhe in agony as if being executed.

In a chilling precursor to his future crimes, when his older sister teased him about kissing a teacher he replied: "If I kiss her, I'd have to kill her first.”

At 14, Kemper ran away to his dad’s home in Van Nuys but he had remarried and he was sent to live with his grandparents in North Fork.

“It was a rural community so although he was my next door neighbour, he was about half a mile away,” says David.

“His grandfather would drive his pickup out to the county highway where we would catch the bus and during the winter, I would sit in the cab so I got to know, Edmund and his grandfather pretty well.”

He had the ability to tolerate pain, and would stick a pin or a needle into his palm and say 'It didn't hurt'.

Even so, David saw no flash of the serial killer Kemper would become.

“He had the ability to tolerate pain, and would stick a pin or a needle into his palm and say 'It didn't hurt'," David explains.

“But there were other kids that I knew growing up that did equally bizarre things, so I wouldn't have guessed it.”

Blasted grandmother in head at 15

In the summer of 1964, Kemper was sitting at the kitchen table with his grandmother Maude, 67, when they had an argument

The 15-year-old then walked outside, picked up the gun his grandfather had given him for hunting, then returned and shot Maude in the head and twice in the back, before stabbing her several times.

When his grandfather, also called Edmund Kemper, came back from grocery shopping he shot him in the driveway.

He then called his mother before contacting the local police and calmly waiting to be arrested.

He later told them he "just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma" and that he killed his granddad so he wouldn’t have to find out his wife was dead.

“When we found out that he murdered his grandparents, I was just stunned,” says David. “It made no sense to me.

“We all like to think serial killers have got some kind of characteristics that makes them stand out in the crowd, but that wasn't my take on the guy.

“He was basically a normal guy until he started killing people.”


Sex with naked corpses and severed heads

As he was only 15, deemed too young to be responsible for such a heinous act, the courts ruled that Kemper suffered from paranoid schizophrenia but psychiatrists at the Atascadero youth prison disagreed.

They found he was rational, with no “flights of fancy” and highly intelligent, with an above average IQ of 145.

On his 21st birthday, against psychiatrists’ advice, he was released and his youth record was expunged.

He went to live with his mother but the relationship continued to be toxic with constant rows and physical attacks and he moved in with a friend.

Seeing many young women hitchhiking in his area, Kemper began to fantasise about kidnapping and killing them and started storing plastic bags, knives, blankets and handcuffs.

He claims he picked up 150 young women and dropped them off unharmed before his homicidal sexual urges – which he dubbed "little zapples," – led him to kill.

Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa, both 18, were the unfortunate teenagers who became the first victims of his “little zapples.”

After picking them up on the highway, in May 1972, and agreeing to take the to Stanford University,Kemper drove them to a secluded woods near Alameda, California, where he handcuffed Pesce and locked Luchessa in the boot, before stabbed and strangling both.

He then took them back to his apartment where he took photographs of their naked corpses and had sex with them, dismembered them and performed a sexual act on their severed heads.

He disposed of their body parts in a ravine on Loma Prieta Mountain.



Body in the wardrobe

Four months later he picked up 15-year-old Aiko Koo, holding her at gunpoint before raping and killing her.

He went to a bar for drinks before taking the corpse back to his apartment and having sex with it.

After moving back to his mother’s, in January 1973, he picked up 18-year-old student Cindy Schall, shot her and hid her body on a wardrobe in his bedroom, having sex with her the following morning after Carnell left for work and then decapitating her in the bath.

He kept her head for several days, performing a sick sex act on it, before burying it his mother’s garden, later joking she had “always wanted people to look up to her.”

A month later, after another heated row with his mother, he picked up too more students – Rosalind Thorpe, 23, and Allison Liu, 20 – and they were shot, decapitated and driven to his mother’s house where he had sex with their headless bodies.



Mum's severed head used as a dartboard

Kemper’s killing spree finally came to an end when he murdered the true source of his anger – his mum.

After waiting for her to fall asleep, he hit her with a claw hammer, and slit her throat with a knife before decapitating her and using the severed head in a sex act.

He told police he "put [her head] on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour … threw darts at it," before cutting out her tongue and larynx and grinding them in the garbage disposal.

After hiding the body in a closet he invited his mother’s best friend, 59-year-old Sally Hallett, over and strangled her.

Then he wrote a note to police, saying: “No need for her to suffer any more at the hands of this horrible "murderous Butcher". It was quick—asleep—the way I wanted it. Not sloppy and incomplete, gents. Just a "lack of time". I got things to do!!!”

After driving 1,000 miles to Colorado, he called the police and told them what he had done before, once again, waiting to be arrested.

Despite a plea of insanity, Kemper was found sane and guilty on eight counts of murder in November 1973.

He asked for the death penalty, requesting "death by torture," but, because of the moratorium, he received seven years to life for each count, with these terms to be served concurrently.



'Human sacrifice as a publicity stunt'

The issue of capital punishment has come to the forefront in the US under Donald Trump, who pushed to overturn a 20 year stay on federal executions – where the government can override state laws to give a death sentence.

This summer triple killer Daniel Lewis Lee became the first of many scheduled to face lethal injection over the next few months.

For David Dozier, the baying for blood is a political issue.

“The substantial majority of Americans now say that life in prison with absolutely no possibility of parole is preferable to the death penalty, according to a Gallup poll,” he says.

“I think that there's been a significant shift among Americans, but the political parties are lagging.

“Scheduling the federal executions this summer is just nothing more than human sacrifices as a publicity stunt to appeal to Trump’s base.

“Unfortunately, much of the dialogue around the death penalty in the US often gets boiled down to bumper stickers.”

The problem, he says, is that US district attorneys -or prosecutors – are elected.

“They get most of their election funding from police unions and prison guard unions so they've got a a base that is very much in favour of the death penalty.

“So if they can get somebody that's an attractive death penalty candidate – for example a black man who committed multiple murders against white people, and especially children – that's the kind of case that gets lots of publicity and really appeals to the people that funded your campaign."

As a fervent abolitionist, who points out the US is the only developed Western nation which still has the death penalty, David wanted to get his message across in an accessible way – which is why he decided to write the novel.

“The death penalty is something that doesn't affect the lives of ordinary people,” he says.

“Last year, there were 30 executions in the United States out of 300 million people and there is a very small number of people who are family members or friends of a murder victim or murderer.

“There are a number of great non-fiction books and I thought that it would be easier to get people to pay attention to the issues if I told it as a story.

While David has been working on his book his former neighbour Edmund Kemper has been carving out his own literary career – recording audio books for the blind from his cell.

“I did send him a letter and asked him if he would be interested in doing a narration of my book but I never heard back from him,” says David.

“I hadn't had any contact with him since I was 15 years old but I don’t know if whether the letter got through to him.”

The California Killing Fields is available from David Dozier Books.

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