Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer (born on May 21, 1960 – Died on November 28, 1994) was an American serial killer.
After his arrest in July 1991, he was found guilty of 16 of the 17 confessed murders he committed between 1978 and 1991 against young men and adolescents, most of whom came from the Milwaukee gay scene. He almost always proceeded according to the same modus operandi: first, he lured his victim into his apartment under a pretext, where he drugged, sexually abused and strangled him. He then performed necrophilic acts on the corpse and photographed its dismemberment. In addition, Jeffrey Dahmer often picked up his victim’s skull and other body parts and in some cases practiced cannibalism, earning him the nickname The Milwaukee Cannibal (alternatively The Milwaukee Monster) in the media.
Although Dahmer was diagnosed with several mental disorders, a jury in Milwaukee found him sane and sentenced him to the maximum possible sentence of 15 consecutive life sentences with no prospect of release. In Ohio, where Dahmer had committed his first murder, he received another life sentence. In prison, he was beaten to death by a fellow prisoner at the age of 34.
Dahmer is one of the world’s best-known serial killers of the 20th century and is often mentioned in the same squad as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Richard Ramírez. Unlike many other serial killers, he expressed remorse for his actions, was cooperative in the police investigation, and also admitted to murders that would not have been uncovered without his confession. He repeatedly stressed that he was solely responsible for his actions and that neither his parents nor society or the law enforcement authorities, who had made a number of investigative errors in his case, were complicit.
Life of Jeffrey Dahmer
Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960, at Evangelical Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee as the elder of two sons of Joyce Annette (born Flint) and Lionel Herbert Dahmer. At that time, his father, whose ancestors came from Germany and Wales, was studying analytical chemistry at Marquette University. His mother, who had Norwegian and Irish roots, worked as a housewife and later earned a master’s degree in psychosocial counseling. According to Lionel Dahmer, his wife suffered from seizures during pregnancy and was therefore given morphine and barbiturates by her doctor.
He speculated that these drugs may have had a teratogenic effect. Dahmer’s mother denied these claims. They are only an attempt to blame her for her son’s crimes. After giving birth, she fell ill with postpartum depression and in the following years she also suffered from various mental and physical illnesses, some of which confined her to bed for long periods of time and whose treatment led to drug dependence. Lionel Dahmer concentrated mainly on his career and was often absent due to his job. As a result, both parents paid less and less attention to their son.
In September 1962, the family moved to Ames, Iowa, where Dahmer’s father began a doctoral position at Iowa State University. In March 1964, Dahmer had to undergo surgery at the age of just four due to a bilateral hernia. After this experience, the hitherto carefree and lively child developed into a quiet and closed boy. In the fall of 1966, Lionel Dahmer was awarded his Ph.D. and found employment as a chemist in the research department of a factory in Akron, Ohio.
The family then moved to nearby Doylestown, where Dahmer attended Hazel Harvey Elementary School from October 1966. He was reluctant to go to school, was considered unusually shy and hardly made contact with other children in the schoolyard. In his spare time, Dahmer still had a few playmates and looking back he said: “When I was a little kid I was just like anybody else”. (“As a small child, I was just like everyone else.”)
After the birth of his younger brother David on December 18, 1966, the Dahmers settled in 1968 in a large wooded house in Bath, Ohio. Dahmer transferred to Bath Elementary School, where he went to class with future Grammy Award winner Joe Henry. Reports that he was sexually abused by a neighbor boy at the age of eight, were later denied by both Lionel and Jeffrey Dahmer themselves. In 1970, his mother spent several weeks in a psychiatric hospital due to severe anxiety.
The Dahmers’ marriage, which had been difficult from the beginning, was heavily burdened by this and began to fall apart. Dahmer often had to witness how there were violent arguments between his parents, which had to be settled several times by the police. He blamed himself for his mother’s persistently poor health and the failure of the marriage of his parents, and responded to his frustration by hitting trees behind the house with branches and sticks.
From the age of ten, he withdrew more and more from his family and spent a lot of time alone in the forest. He seemed apathetic to those around him, his speech often monotonous and monosyllabic, and his gait and his entire posture stiff and cramped. To get him out of his isolation, his father tried to get him excited about various sports and sent him to join the Boy Scouts, but Dahmer’s interest in these activities never lasted long. The only thing he was constantly enthusiastic about since early childhood were the bones and intestines of dead animals.
He collected lifeless insects, birds, as well as small rodents and preserved them in jars with formaldehyde, which he kept in a shed behind his parents’ house. From the age of twelve, he began to pick up carcasses from the roadside near his parents’ property in order to dissect them. Unlike many other serial killers, however, he did not enjoy torturing animals or killing them himself, and he treated his pets lovingly.
The early life of Jeffrey Dahmer and high school
With the onset of puberty, Dahmer discovered his homosexuality. However, he concealed his sexual orientation, especially from his father, who would not have accepted it. At the age of 14, he developed the first violent sex fantasies in which he had control over a completely submissive or unconscious man. These fantasies increased in frequency and intensity over time and eventually also dealt with necrophilic acts on corpses and their dismemberment.
Dahmer described his situation at the time with the words: “[It] just got worse and worse. I didn’t know how to tell anyone about it”. (“[It] just got worse and worse. I didn’t know how to tell anyone about it.”) At the age of about 15, he planned to put his imagination into action for the first time. He lay in wait with a baseball bat to knock unconscious a jogger who regularly walked past the Dahmers’ house and then assaulted him. But the jogger didn’t get past that day, so he gave up his plan without accomplishing anything.
In 1974, he attended Revere High School in Richfield with comic book writer Derf Backderf. Although Jeffrey Dahmer was considered by contemporaries to be above-average intelligent and was said to have an IQ of 117 to 145, his grades were mixed. He was a member of the school band, played tennis on the school team, and worked for the school newspaper, but despite these activities, his classmates considered a loner and oddball who had no close friends and was bullied. For some time, he managed to attract the attention of his classmates by feigning spastic or epileptic seizures and pranks such as photobombing the group picture of the Honor Society, so that they founded a “Dahmer fan club” and “doing a Dahmer” became the epitome of silly, strange behavior at his school.
In 1976, his classmates first noticed that he smoked marijuana and regularly got drunk with hard liquor before, during, and after class. Asked about it by a classmate, Dahmer replied that alcohol was his “medicine”. He had already secretly started drinking at the age of 14 and had gained noticeable weight as a result, but his parents and teachers seemed to take little or no notice of his alcohol and drug use. With his polite and respectful manner, he maintained the appearance of normality among adults.
During a school trip to Washington, D.C., he managed to get a spontaneous tour of the office of the Vice President of the United States for himself and his classmates with just one phone call, during which he personally met not only Walter Mondale, but also the publicist Art Buchwald, who also happened to be present.
The marriage of the parents was finally broken in August 1977. Joyce Dahmer obtained a court ban on contact with her husband, whereupon Lionel Dahmer moved to a nearby motel. In the months that followed, Dahmer’s family life was marked by his parent’s ongoing divorce proceedings and the dispute over custody of his brother, who was still a minor. When he graduated from high school on June 4, 1978, most of his classmates had turned away from him because of his drinking. Shortly thereafter, his mother moved back to Wisconsin with his brother – without his father’s knowledge. From then on, Dahmer lived alone in his parents’ house. With the exception of a few telephone calls and rare visits, contact with his mother broke off and only resumed after his arrest in 1991.
The first murder
Dahmer committed his first murder shortly after his 18th birthday. On June 18, 1978, he hitchhiked Steven Hicks and invited him to his home for a few beers. When Hiccup tried to leave after some time, Dahmer knocked him unconscious with a dumbbell. He then strangled Hiccup with the dumbbell and masturbated while he passed on the corpse. At nightfall, he took the body to a crawl space under the house, where he dismembered it the next day with a hunting knife. He loaded the body parts packed in garbage bags into the back seat of his car and made his way to a nearby landfill around 3:00 a.m. to dispose of them.
Halfway through, he was stopped by a police patrol because he had driven over the center line. He had to get out and undergo a breathalyzer test. When the policeman shone the flashlight over the garbage bags in the back seat and asked about the smell emanating from them, Dehmer claimed that he could not sleep because of his parent’s divorce and therefore wanted to dispose of household waste. The policeman was satisfied with this explanation, left it at a ticket and let Dahmer continue. (Coincidentally, it was the same police officer who was sent to Milwaukee by the Bath Police Department after Dahmer’s arrest in the summer of 1991 to question him about Hicks’ murder, and who, during the course of interrogation, was shocked to discover that he could have prevented Dahmer’s series of murders that night).
Dahmer drove the body parts back to his parent’s house, where he first hid them in a drainpipe in the garden. Three years later, he retrieved the remaining bones and smashed them into small pieces, which he scattered widely on the forest property. Hicks was thought to have disappeared without a trace for 13 years. Dahmer later said of his first murder: “Nothing’s been normal since then. It taints your whole life. After it happened I thought that I’d just try to live as normally as possible and bury it, but things like that don’t stay buried”. (“Since then, nothing is normal. It overshadows your whole life. After it happened, I thought I would just try to live as normally as possible and forget about it. But something like this keeps catching up with you”).
Time in college, the Army, and Florida
His parents’ divorce became final in July 1978. Lionel Dahmer returned to his home after months of absence and persuaded his son to enroll in economics at Ohio State University in Columbus for the fall semester beginning in September. But instead of attending the lectures, Dahmer indulged in alcohol. To finance his addiction, he donated blood plasma at the university’s plasma center so often that his donations were eventually limited to one per week. According to his quarterly report, he had not qualified for any continuing course, and his father took him out of college. When Lionel Dahmer picked up his son’s personal belongings from campus, he discovered a whole stock of beer and wine bottles in his room and realized for the first time that Dahmer had a serious alcohol problem.
Hoping that his son would be put back on track through discipline, he sent him to the United States Army, where Dahmer enlisted for three years on January 12, 1979. After aborted training with the military police in Anniston, Alabama, Jeffrey Dahmer completed a six-week training course as a medic at the military hospital of Fort Sam Houston from May 11, 1979, where he acquired basic medical and pharmaceutical knowledge. He later used this knowledge of human anatomy and the effects of drugs in his actions, first sedating his victims with sleeping pills, sometimes carrying out medical experiments on them, cutting up their corpses and dissecting individual body parts.
From 13 July 1979, he was stationed in Baumholder in Rhineland-Palatinate. One of his roommates there later stated that he had been severely abused, tyrannized and raped during Dahmer’s joint service. However, his superiors did not follow up on his request for help at the time. Dahmer, on the other hand, did not leave a violent impression on other comrades but was regarded as a sexually inexperienced, introverted loner and coward, who only tended to outbursts of anger under the influence of alcohol and often got drunk for days to the point of senselessness.
Due to his excessive alcohol consumption, his lack of willingness to treat and several unsuccessful disciplinary measures, he was honorably discharged from the army prematurely. On March 24, 1981, he flew back to the United States, where he moved into a motel room in Miami Beach, Florida, and found work in a sandwich shop. Since he invested his wages almost exclusively in alcohol, he soon could no longer afford the motel. He spent the night on the beach for a while before he could finally bring himself to call his father and ask him for money. Lionel Dahmer then bought him a plane ticket, which brought him back to Ohio in September 1981.
Return to Ohio and Milwaukee
Back in his homeland, Dahmer moved in with his father, who had since remarried. On October 7, 1981, he was arrested for disorderly conduct after he visibly consumed alcohol and resisted the summoned police. He hung out in bars all night long and was often beaten out because he did not want to leave voluntarily. Lionel Dahmer then sent his son in the winter of 1981/82 to his grandmother Catherine Dahmer in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee. Dahmer had a very close relationship with his grandmother and his life initially ran smoothly again with her.
He helped in the household and garden, found employment at a blood bank, attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and tried to suppress his sexual urges and fantasies. However, this lifestyle, which he described as “virtuous”, did not last long. On August 8, 1982, he was arrested after exposing himself to a group of women and children at the Wisconsin State Fair, for which he was fined $50. A few weeks later, he lost his job due to poor performance and was dependent on government support for the following two years of unemployment.
One day, a strange man in a public library sent him a note offering him oral sex in the men’s toilet. Dahmer did not accept the offer, but later rated it as a key experience, after which he had decided to live out his homosexuality. Since neither the consumption of gay pornography nor the simulation of sexual acts on a stolen male mannequin satisfied him, he tried to steal the body of a young man from a cemetery in order to realize his sexual fantasies. However, he was unable to dig the coffin because the ground was frozen. From January 1985, he worked six nights a week as a chocolate mixer at the Ambrosia Chocolate Company in Milwaukee.
In his spare time, he went to the gay saunas of the city. With the men he met there, he retired to the private room, where he drugged them with sleeping pills and sexually abused them. He had the necessary supply of sleeping pills prescribed by various doctors under the pretext that he suffered from difficulty falling asleep due to his night shifts.
On several occasions, he satisfied himself in public and was reported on 8 September 1986 by two twelve-year-old boys who had involuntarily witnessed one of these incidents. In his subsequent arrest for lewd conduct, Dahmer claimed in his defense that he felt unobserved and merely urinated. The charge was then reduced to disorderly conduct and Dahmer was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence on March 10, 1987. In addition, the court ordered psychotherapy.
The therapist described him as a withdrawn, unapologetic, and uncooperative patient who sometimes turned his back on her in sessions and accused her of conspiring with the legal system. She diagnosed schizoid personality disorder with paranoid tendencies and noted that he was “definitely SPOOKY!”. In another court-ordered examination by a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin, Dahmer was found to have extraordinary eloquence and remarkable abstract thinking, but the other test results led the doctor to predict that he could develop into a sociopath with schizoid tendencies.
His activities in the gay saunas were put to an end in the summer of 1987 after one of the estimated 10 to 15 victims had to be treated for an overdose in hospital. Dahmer was banned from the house, but was not prosecuted. From then on, he shifted his activities to the gay bars and nightclubs of the city. On the weekends, he often took a cheap hotel room, where he took at least six male acquaintances, whom he drugged and sexually abused, but did not kill. On these occasions, he also spent a lot of time listening to the heartbeat and other organ sounds of his unconscious victims – a behavior he later practiced among his murder victims.
The Second to Fourth Murder
At the end of November 1987, Dahmer visited Club 219 in Milwaukee, where he got in touch with 25-year-old Steven Tuomi. At curfew, they took a taxi to the Ambassador Hotel, where they emptied a bottle of rum in Dahmer’s room and consensual sexual acts occurred. He had secretly provided Tuomi’s glass with sleeping pills, and after they had taken effect, he abused him. When Dahmer woke up the next morning, Tuomi’s body lay next to him with his chest smashed.
Jeffrey Dahmer could not remember what had happened, but since he himself had bruises and injuries on his arms and hands, he came to the conclusion that he must have killed Tuomi. He bought a large suitcase in which he transported the body from the hotel and by taxi to his grandmother’s house. For about a week, he hid the body in the basement before dismembering it and disposing of it with household waste. Tuomi’s remains have never been found.
After getting away with it for the second time, he gave up resistance to his fantasies and began to actively search for victims. “By that time my moral conscience was so shot, so totally corrupted, that [my fantasies were] my main focus of life”. (“At this point, my moral conscience was so corrupt, so totally corrupted, that [my fantasies] were at the center of my life.”) Dahmer met fourteen-year-old James Doxtater on January 17, 1988, at around 1:00 a.m. at a bus stop near Club 219.
According to Dahmer’s testimony, he estimated the Indian-born teenager at 18 years old and offered him 50 US dollars for one night. Doxtater, who was known to the police as Stricher, accepted the offer and accompanied Dahmer to his grandmother’s house. After sex, Dahmer drugged and strangled the teenager and spent days on the corpse. When the smell of decay became so strong that his grandmother noticed him, he pushed it onto the litter box and disposed of the corpse in the same way as his previous victim.
On March 27, 1988, Dahmer met 23-year-old Richard Guerrero at the Phoenix Bar in Milwaukee and lured him into his grandmother’s house with $50 for one night. She was asleep when he strangled Guerrero in his bedroom and acted out his sexual fantasies on the corpse. After breakfast with his grandmother, he took the lifeless body to the cellar, where he dismembered it and disposed of it with the household garbage, while Catherine Dahmer attended Sunday service. He prepared the skull and kept it for several months.
On the night of April 2-3, 1988, Dahmer brought home a man from Club 219, who woke up two days later in hospital. The last thing the man could remember was drinking Dahmer’s coffee and then losing consciousness. No residues of a narcotic were found in his blood and his body showed no traces indicating rape. The man nevertheless filed a complaint against Dahmer, as he lacked jewelry and money. In addition, he had discovered strange bruises on his neck and noticed that he was wearing his underwear with the inside out. During his police interrogation on April 5, 1988, Dahmer stated that he had only helped the man because he had drunk too much. The proceedings were subsequently discontinued. After his arrest in July 1991, he admitted to drugging and abusing the man. However, he did not kill him because his grandmother noticed his presence.
Catherine Dahmer was increasingly concerned about her grandson’s nocturnal activities and alcohol consumption. Dahmer’s family, therefore, advised him to look for their own apartment, whereupon he bought an apartment in the northern 24th century. Street in Milwaukee. On the afternoon of September 26, 1988, he approached a thirteen-year-old boy of Laotian origin on the street, who followed him into his apartment for $50 and posed bare-chested for Polaroid photos. When Dahmer touched the boy immorally, he fled the apartment and reported the incident to the police.
Dahmer was arrested and convicted by a Milwaukee court on January 30, 1989, for sexual assault 2. He was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in a reformatory followed by five years probation. The judge granted him daily leave for the duration of his detention so that he could continue to work in the chocolate factory. Dahmer spent the time leading up to his arrest at large. He moved out of the apartment on 24. He returned to his grandmother in West Allis, who took him back in despite his conviction.
The fifth murder and imprisonment in an open prison
On the evening of March 25, 1989, he met the 24-year-old half-American Anthony Sears in the gay bar La Cage. After midnight, they drove to West Allis, where they had sex in his bedroom. Dahmer then mixed Sears a drink with several sleeping pills, strangled him, and assaulted the body before dissecting it in the bathtub. He prepared the head and genitals and kept them in a small suitcase, which he stowed away in his locker in the chocolate factory.
On 23 May 1989, Dahmer began his prison sentence in an open prison. During a release in November 1989, he went to Club 219, where he got into a conversation with a strange man and got drunk until he lost consciousness. When Dahmer regained consciousness, he was tied up in the apartment of the stranger who had obviously raped him. The man let him go and Dahmer returned to the reformatory facility.
Two weeks later, he sent a letter to his judge expressing remorse for his actions and asking for his early release from prison. He had not written the letter himself but copied it from the submission of a fellow inmate, but the words had the desired effect: the judge ordered the end of detention for March 2, 1990. As a condition of probation, Dahmer had to attend regular group therapy sessions until December 1990 and meet with his probation officer at two-week intervals from the end of March 1990. While he revealed little about himself in group therapy and was noticed by increasing neglect of his personal hygiene, he was so cooperative with the probation officer that she refrained from actually prescribed home visits during the entire care period because of her high workload.
Continuation of the series of murders in Apartment 213
On 14 May 1990, Dahmer moved to Apartment 213 in the Oxford apartment complex on the northern 25th floor. Street in Milwaukee. In order to deter burglars and prevent the accidental discovery of his crimes, he installed a security system consisting of several door locks, an alarm device and a dummy camera. Raymond Smith was the first victim he took to his new apartment. The 32-year-old African-American was heterosexual, but moved as a prostitute in the gay scene.
Dahmer had met him at the 219 Tavern and offered him $50 for sex. Since Smith did not want to stay all night for this sum, Dahmer gave him several sleeping pills in the early morning of May 21, 1990. He then strangled him and masturbated while photographing the lifeless body in various poses. The following day, Dahmer missed his group therapy session because he was busy dismembering and disposing of the body.
Jeffrey Dahmer murdered the 27-year-old African-American Edward Smith, whom he had met in the Phoenix Bar, on June 24, 1990, in Apartment 213. A few days later, he visited the Phoenix Bar again, where he approached a fifteen-year-old acquaintance and lured him into his apartment with money for photos. Since he ran out of sleeping pills, he hit him on the neck from behind with a rubber mallet. The teenager reacted angrily and left the apartment, but knocked on Dahmer’s door again shortly afterward to ask him for money for the bus. They spent the rest of the night talking about the attack, and Dahmer later stated that he was no longer able to kill the teenager after getting to know him better.
Around 3:00 a.m. on the morning of September 3, 1990, Dahmer met 23-year-old African-American Ernest Miller outside an adult bookstore and offered him money for photos. In Dahmer’s apartment, Miller had himself photographed in erotic poses before consensual sex took place. After the effects of the sleeping pills had set in, Jeffrey Dahmer passed on him until he noticed that Miller regained consciousness.
Dahmer believed that he could no longer strangle him without resistance. He, therefore, opted for the “gentlest” alternative method that came to mind and reached for a knife with which he slit Miller’s throat. After the victim bled to death, he dismembered the body in the bathtub and captured the trial with his Polaroid camera. In the early morning hours of September 24, 1990, Dahmer murdered 22-year-old African-American David Thomas according to his usual pattern.
Escalation of killings
During the following five months, there was no further act, until Dahmer’s series of murders finally escalated in 1991 and he killed another eight victims at ever shorter intervals from February until his arrest in July. Looking back, Dahmer said that he had been completely carried away by his constraints. “It was an incessant and never-ending desire to be with someone at whatever cost. […] It just filled my thoughts all day long”.
(“It was an incessant, never-ending desire to be with someone, whatever the cost. I couldn’t think of anything else all day.”) Curtis Straughter was the first to fall victim to him at this stage. The nearly eighteen-year-old African-American had followed Dahmer in mid-February 1991 from a bus stop near Marquette University to Apartment 213, where he was incapacitated with sleeping pills. After Dahmer photographed him in various poses and strangled him with a leather strap, he documented the dismemberment of the body with his Polaroid camera. The 19-year-old African-American Errol Lindsey suffered the same fate on April 7, 1991.
At the instigation of his probation officer, Dahmer was sporadically in psychiatric treatment from May 1991 because he suffered from depression and had expressed suicidal intentions. According to the psychiatrist, he posed no danger to himself or others, so he only prescribed him an antidepressant. On May 24, 1991, Dahmer murdered the deaf African-American Tony Hughes, whose body was still lying in his bedroom days later, as he brought the next victim to his apartment.
On the afternoon of May 26, 1991, Dahmer approached 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone at Grand Avenue Mall and offered him money for photos. Sinthasomphone, whose juvenile criminal record had entries for prostitution, accepted the offer and posed in Dahmer’s apartment for Polaroid shots in underwear. After drugged and sexually abused the teenager with sleeping pills, Dahmer left his apartment around 1:30 a.m. on the morning of May 27, 1991, and went to a nearby bar.
On the way back, at an intersection, he spotted Sinthasomphone sitting naked and bleeding on a sidewalk, cared for by African-American residents. The teenager had come to himself during Dahmer’s absence, had left the apartment and wandered disoriented through the streets. Since he could not articulate himself comprehensibly, the women suspected that he was under the influence of drugs. Sinthasomphone balked when Dahmer tried to take him back to his apartment, so the women called the police.
When the patrol car arrived, Dahmer explained to the police that Sinthasomphone was his adult lover, who had only drunk too much and had run away in an argument. Although the women expressed serious doubts about Dahmer’s claims, the officers failed to check his police record, which would have revealed his criminal record and ongoing probation.
Instead, the police escorted the teenager back to Apartment 213, where Dahmer showed them the underwear photos to support his story. The officers then withdrew without noticing Hughes’ body in the next room. Shortly thereafter, Dahmer killed the teenager. (It later emerged that Sinthasomphone was the younger brother of the boy Dahmer sexually harassed in 1988. Dahmer testified that he would not have spoken to him if he had been aware of it).
He was looking for his next two victims in Chicago, where he met 20-year-old African-American Matt Turner at a bus stop on June 30, 1991, and Jeremiah Weinberger, a 23-year-old half-Puerto Rican in a gay bar a week later. Both accepted his invitation to Milwaukee, where he killed them in his apartment and photographed the dismemberment of their bodies.
In the days leading up to his arrest, Dahmer’s life became increasingly unhinged. On July 15, 1991, he killed 24-year-old African-American Oliver Lacy. After dismembering the body, he placed the severed head in his refrigerator. On 19 July 1991, his employer dismissed him for being absent too often. On the same day, he murdered his last victim, 25-year-old Joseph Bradehoft, and slept next to the corpse for days until maggots gathered in his bed. In his shower tray he cooled two corpses with ice, which is why he could only take a cold shower.
Nevertheless, the decomposition progressed faster than he could keep up with the disposal of the corpses. His neighbors had already complained several times about the foul smell that emanated from his apartment. Dahmer had claimed to the property management that the stench came from spoiled food; another time he had stated that the fish in his aquarium had died. Since the smell did not subside, the property management threatened him on 22 July 1991 with the forced eviction of his apartment by the end of the month.
In the afternoon of the same day, Dahmer went to Grand Avenue Mall, where, according to witnesses, he approached several men and offered them money for photos before 32-year-old Tracy Edwards accepted his offer and escorted him to Apartment 213 around 6:30 p.m. Dahmer could later only vaguely remember the following events in his apartment. According to Edwards, Dahmer underwent several character changes over the course of the evening.
At first, he seemed completely normal and friendly, they talked and drank alcohol. Suddenly, however, Dahmer became threatening, handcuffed him and pulled out a knife. To appease Dahmer, Edwards took off his shirt and let him listen to his heartbeat. While watching a video of The Exorcist III, Dahmer fell into a trance-like, absent-minded state. Edwards took advantage of Dahmer’s inattention and fled the apartment.
With Dahmer’s handcuffs on his wrist, Edwards stopped a passing police patrol around 11:30 p.m. and told the two detectives that a “freak” had threatened him with a knife. He asked the police to open the handcuff, but since the detectives’ key did not fit the model on his wrist, they escorted him back to the Oxford apartments. Jeffrey Dahmer willingly let the police into his apartment and let one of the officers in the bedroom look for the key to the handcuffs.
The detective discovered the knife under the bed and in an open drawer the Polaroid shots of the killed victims, whereupon the officers arrested Dahmer. As they continued to look around the apartment and discovered Lacy’s head in the fridge, they called for reinforcements. In addition to several police officers, the forensic investigators and the coroner came to the scene between 0:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. Shortly thereafter, Dahmer was taken to Milwaukee Police Headquarters.
Forensic evidence, interrogation of Jeffrey Dahmer and confession
That same night, investigators from the Milwaukee Criminal Investigation Department’s homicide department began questioning Dahmer. According to the protocol, the first interrogation lasted from 1:30 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. on the morning of July 23, 1991. Dahmer waived the presence of a lawyer, but initially refused to provide information about the finds in his apartment. In the meantime, his apartment was completely searched by forensics and crates of evidence were secured. In the refrigerator, investigators found two human hearts packed in plastic bags and a piece of arm muscle in addition to the severed head.
Moreover, in a freezer, they discovered three more heads, a torso and various packaged human organs. In the bedroom and in a hallway closet, the officers secured a total of seven skulls, as well as two complete skeletons, a pair of severed hands, a mummified scalp and the also mummified genitals of two men. A company specializing in hazardous substances removed a 200-liter plastic bin that Dahmer had set up in his bedroom and in which the torsos of three victims dissolved in an acid bath.
In addition to chemicals such as chloroform, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde, the forensics preserved a blood-soaked mattress and 74 Polaroids, which showed the bodies of the victims in various stages of dismemberment. The coroner in charge later explained that Dahmer’s apartment was more reminiscent of a museum than a crime scene.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, Dahmer realized that his silence would no longer help him, and so over the next six weeks and during the 60-hour interrogations he made a comprehensive confession of 178 pages. He admitted to having had protected oral and anal intercourse with the bodies of his victims and engaging in sexual acts on their intestines. Jefferey Dahmer described in detail how he had proceeded in dismembering the bodies and disposing of them with the garbage or decomposing them in acid and flushing them down the toilet.
He also confirmed investigators’ suspicions that he had practiced cannibalism on three victims and consumed pieces of heart, thigh muscle and biceps. After the coroner had found conspicuous cranial and brain injuries inflicted ante mortem in four cases during the autopsies on the victims, Dahmer confessed that he had tried to perform a kind of lobotomy on these victims. He had drilled holes in their skulls into which he injected hydrochloric acid or hot water, hoping to create a willless zombie to keep as a sex slave. One of the men had survived the procedure for two days in a severely dazed state, but ultimately it led to the death of the victim in all cases.
Jeffrey Dahmer agreed to help identify his victims in order to relieve their parents of the uncertainty (“[…] to relieve the minds of the parents”). Since he could not remember any victim’s name except in the case of Hicks and the DNA analysis procedure was not yet mature enough in the early 1990s, the remaining victims were identified mainly by the Polaroid photos and their dental status. Several victims had appeared to the police so that a comparison with already recorded fingerprints was possible.
In cases where there were no more mortal remains, investigators used Dahmer’s recollection to narrow down the period of the crime and search for missing persons cases that occurred at the same time. On the basis of the missing person photos, Dahmer then identified his victims. To test his credibility, investigators also presented him with photos of living individuals, but he did not claim any of them as his victim. On the grounds of his former home in Bath, which had since changed hands, investigators found over 50 bone fragments that could be attributed to Hicks.
The investigators were convinced of Dahmer’s credibility. Although he did not always share information immediately, but often only at the request of the officials, his information could usually be verified by the available evidence. However, some of his statements were also inconsistent (e.g. he made conflicting statements about whether sex had taken place between him and Hicks), but this was not further questioned by the investigators or later by the psychiatric experts and was therefore not discussed in court.
Identified victims of Jeffrey Dahmer
|Name||Age||Date of death||Crime scene|
|Steven Mark Hicks||18||June 18, 1978||Bath, Ohio|
|Steven Walter Tuomi||25||End Nov. 1987||Ambassador Hotel, Milwaukee|
|James Edward Doxtator||14||Jan. 17, 1988||West Allis, Wisconsin|
|Richard Guerrero||23||March 27, 1988|
|Anthony Lee Sears||24||March 26, 1989|
|Raymond Lamont Smith aka Ricky Lee Beeks||32||May 21, 1990||Oxford Apartments
924 North 25th Street
|Edward Warren Smith||27||June 24, 1990|
|Ernest Miller||23||Sep. 3, 1990|
|David Thomas||22||Sep. 24, 1990|
|Curtis Straughter||17||Feb. 18, 1991|
|Errol Lindsey||19||Apr. 7, 1991|
|Tony Anthony Hughes||31||May 24, 1991|
|Konerak Sinthasomphone||14||May 27, 1991|
|Matt Turner aka Donald Montrell||20||June 30, 1991|
|Jeremiah Benjamin Weinberger||23||approx. 7 July 1991|
|Oliver Lacy||24||July 15, 1991|
|Joseph Bradehoft||25||July 19, 1991|
The motive for the crime, victim profile and modus operandi
Since most of his victims came from the gay scene and/or were of African-American descent, it was speculated that Dahmer had acted out of homophobia. On the other hand, he repeatedly asserted that his actions were not motivated by hatred. He did not choose the men because of their ethnicity or sexual orientation, but because of their attractive appearance and because they were the easiest to lure into his apartment. His victims all matched the same physical profile: young (teenage to early 30s), tall, slender and muscular.
With the exception of Hiccup and Tuomi, whose murder was spontaneous and unplanned, Dahmer carefully selected his victims and prepared the deeds carefully. He murdered almost exclusively on weekends so that he would have enough time to remove the evidence, and used the anonymity of nightlife, the street or large shopping malls to remain undetected. As a rule, he only addressed men who were traveling alone and were therefore not immediately missing. Since he was attractive to many homosexual men, awakened the protective instinct of his victims with his boyish appearance and promised them money or sex, each of the men voluntarily went along, so that he never had to bring them into his apartment by force.
Dahmer preferred, according to his own statements, living, but absolutely passive and docile sexual partners, over whom he could exercise control and whose needs he did not have to take into account. Since he could not find a man who met these requirements and had erection difficulties with waking sexual partners, he anesthetized them in order to be able to satisfy their motionless bodies undisturbed and without time and performance pressure. After his arrest, he admitted: “I was always quite selfish. I trained myself to view people as objects of potential pleasure instead of human beings”. (“I was always quite selfish. I’ve gotten into the habit of seeing people as potential objects of pleasure rather than human beings.”)
When the men left him after sex, he felt empty and alone, and because no one wanted to enter into a long-term relationship with him, he resorted to killing his sexual partners so that they could not leave him. The killing was only a means to an end for him and gave him no pleasure. In order to eliminate his inhibitions and to be able to carry out the act of killing at all, he had to get drunk every time before.
Since he did not succeed in creating a willless sex slave who would have dispensed with the killing of further victims, and the necrophilic acts did not satisfy him permanently, he went in search of new victims. “It was a craving, a hunger, […] a compulsion, and I just kept doing it […] whenever the opportunity presented itself”. (“It was a desire, a hunger, […] a compulsion, and I just kept going […]whenever I had the opportunity.”)
He told investigators that he was not interested in torturing his victims, so he drugged them and chose the fastest and painless way to kill. His cannibalistic actions were initially motivated by curiosity and eventually also served to keep the victim with him forever through incorporation. Jeffrey Dahmer experienced the dismemberment of the corpses with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he felt power and sexual arousal, on the other hand, it was a necessary evil for him, since he had to destroy evidence and this also meant the loss of his victim. He described the process itself as disgusting work, to which he also always had to overcome himself with the help of alcohol.
He picked up the heads because for him they embodied the “true essence” of the victims and he wanted to build an altar with them that would give him power. He cited the film characters Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and the Gemini Killer in Exorcist III as role models. His fascination with the two characters went so far that he occasionally wore yellow contact lenses to look like them, and watched the movies to get himself in the mood for the victim hunt.
Review of unsolved murder cases
After Dahmer’s actions became internationally known, investigators in Milwaukee received numerous inquiries from other police authorities about the unsolved murder and missing persons cases from almost all states of the USA and Germany. These were cases in which the missing or murdered person matched Dahmer’s victim profile or the commission of the crime was similar to his approach.
One of the questions concerned the dismissed murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh. The boy had been kidnapped from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida, on July 27, 1981. Two weeks later, the severed head of the child was found, the rest of the body remained missing. The serial killer Ottis Toole retracted his confession of the crime and could not be charged for lack of further evidence. When Dahmer’s picture went through the media after his arrest, several witnesses came forward who believed they had seen him in the mall on the day of the kidnapping.
Despite these statements and the fact that Dahmer had been in Florida at the time of the crime, investigators could not find any solid evidence of his perpetration. Dahmer denied in several interrogations that he had anything to do with the kidnapping and murder of the boy. Since he openly confessed to other murders and contributed to the investigation of the crime, and Adam Walsh did not match his victim profile, investigators continued to assume that Toole was the boy’s murderer when the case files were closed in 2008.
The public prosecutor’s office in Bad Kreuznach and the State Office of Criminal Investigation Rhineland-Palatinate, in cooperation with the US authorities, investigated five unsolved murders of women that had occurred during Dahmer’s stationing in Rhineland-Palatinate. However, the investigators found no evidence of his perpetration and Dahmer asserted that he had not murdered in Germany.
Previous investigative errors and failures by the authorities
In the course of his series of murders, Dahmer came into contact with the police and other authorities several times. However, a series of investigative errors and official failures prevented his actions from being discovered earlier. He felt strengthened in the feeling of being “invincible”.
|June 25, 1978||Bath Police Department||During a traffic check, the policeman omitted a thorough search of Dahmer’s car, on the back seat of which was the dismembered body of his first murder victim.|
|September 1988||Milwaukee Police Department||During Dahmer’s six-day pre-trial detention for seduction of a minor, police searched his home, but overlooked the dissected skull of the fourth murder victim.|
|March 1990 to July 1991||Office for Probation Service||Dahmer’s probation officer omitted the actually prescribed apartment inspections during the entire care period. During this period, he killed 12 people in his apartment.|
|July 1990||Milwaukee Police Department||After the teenager attacked by Dahmer with a rubber hammer reported the incident, the police did not believe the accusations and refrained from further investigations. (A review of his police record would have revealed Dahmer’s ongoing probation for seduction of a minor).|
|Unknown||Milwaukee Police Department||One day, the smell of decay emanating from Dahmer’s apartment became so strong that the police were called, who questioned every tenant of the Oxford apartments. However, she could not locate the source of the stench – a torso that was lying in Dahmer’s bathtub at the time.|
|May 27, 1991||Milwaukee Police Department||The 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone managed to escape from Dahmer’s apartment. When residents alerted the police, Dahmer was able to make the officers believe that the teenager was his adult lover and that they had only argued. The officers then took Sinthasomphone back to Dahmer’s apartment. If they had inspected them more closely, they would have come across the body of his previous victim in the next room. The failure to check Dahmer’s criminal record, which was also carried out, would have shown that he was on probation at that time for seducing a minor. After the police left the apartment, Dahmer killed the teenager.|
|May 30, 1991||FBI, Milwaukee
|A witness to the May 27, 1991 incident recognized Konerak Sinthasomphone in a missing person photo at the Milwaukee Sentinel and called the FBI and the Milwaukee Police Department to point out her observation and possible connection. However, the trail was not pursued by either authority.|
On August 6, 1991, a court in Milwaukee set Dahmer’s bail at $5 million. At the same court hearing, Dahmer formally released the remains of his victims to the undertakers. (Under Wisconsin state law, he could have refused release because it was evidence. In the unlikely event of his acquittal, the remains would have become his property and should have been returned to him on demand).
After a psychologist examined him and declared him fit for trial, Jeffrey Dahmer was charged with fifteen counts of murder by a jury in Milwaukee on January 30, 1992. (The murder of Hicks was later dealt with in a separate trial, as the crime fell under the jurisdiction of the US state of Ohio. In the case of Tuomi, no charges were brought because the events of the night of the crime could no longer be reconstructed beyond doubt.) His defense was taken over by a team of four lawyers. Since he had made a comprehensive confession and pleaded guilty on January 13, 1992, the State of Wisconsin vs. Jeffrey L. Dahmer case was only about the question of his sanity trial.
Fearing retaliation, Dahmer was brought into the courthouse with handcuffs and shackles on every day of the trial under strict guard and elaborate security precautions. In addition to an explosives detection dog, a bulletproof glass wall was used, which shielded Dahmer from the audience in the courtroom. The cost of over $120,000 made the Dahmer trial the most expensive trial in Milwaukee’s court history. The trial was broadcast live on US television.
So that sensitive viewers could switch off the sound if the descriptions in court became too cruel, the transmission was delayed by a few seconds, so that a red signal point could be displayed in corresponding scenes. Due to the enormous media coverage, the twelve-member jury was isolated from the outside world for the duration of the trial in order to avoid influence (sequestration). The jury was also psychologically supervised in order to better process the acts described in court.
In addition to numerous media representatives and relatives of the victims, Dahmer’s father and stepmother were present in the auditorium, who heard the details of their son’s crimes for the first time during the trial. A total of 28 people were called to the witness stand. Among them were the two police officers from the Milwaukee Police Department, who had taken his confession and took turns reading it in court, and Tracy Edwards, the escaped victim. In addition, eight psychiatric experts had been appointed, who had examined Dahmer’s mental health for days in the run-up to the trial.
Psychiatric report of Jeffrey Dahmer
The three defense experts argued in court that Dahmer was mentally ill and therefore insane. They diagnosed compulsive necrophilia, which prevented him from controlling himself. In addition, he was diagnosed with borderline, antisocial, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorder as well as frotteurism, partialism and chronic alcoholism. One of the defense experts also described Dahmer as psychotic. He had an extremely primitive personality structure and bizarre delusions, referring to Dahmer’s attempt to create a zombie and the planned construction of a power-giving altar. His psychosis can be both schizophrenic and affective in nature.
The experts of the public prosecutor’s office were unanimous in their opinion that Dahmer was not mentally ill within the meaning of the law and therefore of sound mind. He did not suffer from delusions, because he was aware that the altar could not really have given him power. They confirmed the borderline diagnosis, but denied the existence of compulsive necrophilia, since he had preferred living sexual partners and a truly coercive murderer did not have to get drunk to carry out the killing act.
That he was able to control himself was shown by the period of nine years between his first and second murder, during which he did not kill, and the fact that he practiced only protected sexual intercourse with the corpses. Jeffrey Dahmer was not an impulsive, but a calculating murderer who had made great efforts to enable and conceal his actions. In addition, he was unique among sexually driven serial killers because he had not deliberately acted cruelly or sadistically as is otherwise typical of this type of serial killer. Instead, he drugged his victims to spare them unnecessary suffering.
One of the two experts of the court, however, classified Jeffrey Dahmer as a sadist. His aggressive, hostile tendencies had driven him to acts, his sex drive had been the outlet for his destructive rage. He has a serious personality disorder that requires treatment, but suffers neither from psychosis nor from necrophilia. Moreover, the expert did not believe that Dahmer killed the men to prevent them from leaving him, but because he was sexually attracted to them and wanted to eliminate what he hated most about himself – his homosexuality.
He doubted that Dahmer had drilled holes in the heads of his victims alive or eaten parts of them. He had only wanted to make his deeds appear even more gruesome than they already were. Despite everything, Dahmer was “not such a bad person”. The other court expert diagnosed borderline personality disorder, denied the existence of psychosis, and described Dahmer as “amiable, pleasant contemporary, polite, humorous, conventionally handsome, and charming manners”.
FBI case analyst Robert Ressler, who interrogated Dahmer for two days at the request of the defense, later stated that he felt nothing but compassion for the tormented and twisted person sitting in front of him. He categorized him as a “mixed offender” because he had characteristics of both the “organized” and the “disorganized” serial killer type. In Ressler’s opinion, Dahmer committed at least his later murders during psychotic episodes and thus in a state of incapacity. Since Ressler was not a psychiatrist, he was not admitted by the court as an expert.
In later reports, it is assumed that Dahmer also had Asperger’s syndrome with a high degree of probability, but this diagnosis was not made during his lifetime. According to another report written after his death, Dahmer scored 22 points on Robert D. Hare’s psychopathy checklist, from which it was concluded that he was probably not a psychopath, even though he had some psychopathic qualities. (According to Hare, at least 30 points are required for the diagnosis of psychopathy).
Pleas and verdict
The defense pleaded guilty but insane. Dahmer had recognized the injustice of his actions, but he had not been master of his actions due to his mental state. If this defense strategy had been successful, he would not have been sent to prison, but would have been sent indefinitely to a closed psychiatric institution, where he would have undergone therapy. The prosecution tried to convince the jury in their plea, however, that Dahmer had been very well able to control himself. He was a master of manipulation, cold-blooded and calculating, and fooled a lot of people.
On February 15, 1992, after five hours of deliberation, Dahmer was declared sane by the jury by ten votes to two on all counts. Before the sentence was handed down on 17 February 1992, the judge allowed the victims’ relatives to speak and finally gave the defendant the last word. Dahmer, who had remained silent during the trial, read a statement expressing remorse for the suffering he had caused and wishing to undo the deeds. He had faced the trial in order to leave no open questions and to show the world that his crimes had not been hate-motivated. His case will hopefully help people like him before they harm themselves or others.
Dahmer was sentenced to the maximum possible sentence of 15 consecutive life sentences with no prospect of release. Since he was also considered a repeat offender due to his criminal record, he received an additional ten years per murder, so his total sentence amounted to over 900 years in prison. A few weeks later, he was transferred to Akron, Ohio, where he pleaded guilty to Hicks’ murder on May 1, 1992, in a nearly hour-long trial in a criminal court, and was sentenced to another life sentence.
In court and in later interviews, Dahmer stated that he deserved the death penalty and wished for death himself. Ohio had reintroduced the death penalty in 1974, but the law at the time was considered unconstitutional, so he could only be sentenced to life imprisonment for his first murder in 1978. In Wisconsin, the death penalty had already been abolished in 1853. Dahmer’s case led to increased calls for its reintroduction in the early 1990s, and between 1991 and 1996, 22 bills were introduced, but all failed.
Period of imprisonment
After his conviction, Dahmer began his detention under the prisoner number 177252 at the Columbia Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison with about 600 inmates in Portage, Wisconsin. He spent the first year of his imprisonment in solitary confinement because his “celebrity” was feared for his safety. With his consent, Dahmer was finally transferred to the general prison wing, where he came into contact with other prisoners. Even in prison, he attracted attention with his morbid humor and played above all with his image, for example by inviting people to meet the “Anonymous Cannibals” on the bulletin board.
He received regular visits from his family and strangers around the world boxes of letters containing hate messages such as expressions of sympathy, autograph requests, pen pal offers, declarations of love from hybristophile followers, and cash gifts totaling $12,000.
During his incarceration, Dahmer cooperated with the FBI. Along with Edmund Kemper, Richard Speck and Jerome Brudos, he is one of the convicted serial killers who gave agents John E. Douglas and Robert Ressler insight into their thoughts and feelings in several interviews and thus supported the knowledge development of the Behavioral Science Unit (a predecessor of the Behavioral Analysis Unit) and the search for other serial killers.
In prison, Dahmer turned to Christianity and mused that his earlier turning away from God may have been the cause of his crimes, as he felt he was not accountable to anyone. After completing a correspondence course in the Bible, he was baptized in prison on May 10, 1994, and from then on received weekly visits from his pastor to study the Bible with him and strengthen his faith.
In the summer of 1994, after a prison service, Dahmer was attacked by a fellow prisoner with a razor blade but suffered no serious injuries. The risk of repetition was rated as low by the prison authorities and Dahmer insisted on being transferred back from the temporary solitary confinement to the general prison wing. He told his mother that he didn’t care if anything happened to him.
Death of Jeffrey Dahmer and reactions
Three weeks before his death, he was assigned to a work unit that performed janitorial work. On the morning of November 28, 1994, Dahmer and his fellow inmates, Jesse Anderson and Christopher Scarver, were assigned to clean the sanitary facilities next to the gym. When the prison guards left the three inmates unattended for a few minutes, Scarver beat Dahmer and then Anderson with the iron bar of a dumbbell.
Dahmer was still alive but unresponsive when he was found in a pool of blood by a prison guard at around 8:10 a.m. He was taken to the Divine Savior Hospital in Portage with severe skull and facial fractures, where he was pronounced dead at 9:11 a.m. Anderson died of his injuries two days later. Dahmer’s autopsy showed that he was beaten to death from the front, but his body did not show the expected defensive injuries.
Reactions to his death varied. Many victims’ relatives received the news with joy and relief. Others, on the other hand, were sad and upset. A sister of Edward Smith, who had visited Dahmer while in custody to learn from him the details of her brother’s death, said of Dahmer’s murder: “I couldn’t stop crying when I heard the news. […] He shouldn’t have been murdered like that”.
(“I couldn’t stop crying when I heard the news. […] He should not have been killed this way.”) The prosecutor who had charged Dahmer said: “This is the last sad chapter in a very sad life. […] I hope there will be no […] celebration as a folk hero for the man that killed Jeffrey Dahmer”. (“This is the last sad chapter of a very sad life. […] I hope that the man who murdered Jeffrey Dahmer […] will not be celebrated as a folk hero.”) Dahmer’s father found solace in the fact that his son had found God before his death and now no longer had to suffer. His mother reacted angrily and asked, “Now is everybody happy? Now that he’s bludgeoned to death, is that good enough for everyone?” (“Is everyone happy and satisfied now that he was beaten to death?”).
In December 1994, Dahmer’s family held a memorial service, attended by a sister of Edward Smith. After Dahmer’s death, his parents argued about the fate of his remains. Joyce Flint wanted to make her son’s brain available to science for research purposes, Lionel Dahmer wanted to respect his son’s last will and have his body completely cremated. In December 1995, a court ruled in favor of the father. Dahmer’s ashes were divided between his parents.
The African-American Scarver, who was already imprisoned for murder and immediately after the attack on his fellow inmates had declared that God had given him the order, was sentenced to two more life sentences for the murders of Dahmer and Anderson. As a motive revenge was not ruled out, because Dahmer had killed many African-American men and the white Anderson had tried to pin two African-Americans on the murder of his wife.
In 2015, Scarver finally stated that he killed Dahmer because he was disgusted by his actions and Dahmer showed no remorse in prison. He also claimed that the guards deliberately left her unattended so he could kill him. The official investigation into Dahmer’s death in 1994, however, had concluded that Scarver had acted alone. According to the prison administration, Dahmer had gotten along well with other inmates and it was therefore not uncommon for him to be left unattended at times.
After Dahmer’s crimes became known, protest marches and rallies took place in Milwaukee, which were mainly organized by the non-white population and directed against the Milwaukee Police Department. The protesters accused the police of bias and indifference toward African-Americans, homosexuals and other minorities and criticized in particular the behavior of the police in the case of Konerak Sinthasomphone. After bringing Sinthasomphone back into the care of the serial killer, they had made fun of the alleged quarrel of the homosexual “lovers” by radio.
African-American politicians also felt that the police would have acted differently and taken the women’s concerns seriously if the teenager and women had been white and Dahmer black. The officers were suspended at full pay for the duration of the police investigation into the incident and dismissed from the police service at the end of the investigation. In court, Dahmer regretted that the police had lost their jobs because of him; she was not to blame for the death of the teenager. Later, a court upheld the policemen’s lawsuit and they were reinstated. Sinthasomphone’s family received $850,000 from the City of Milwaukee as compensation for police failures.
Already during Dahmer’s lifetime, the relatives of his victims had sued him for compensation and were awarded 80 million US dollars, but since he had little financial resources, this sum was never repaid. After his death, eleven victims’ families sought compensation from his estate. The approximately 300 objects contained therein – including the refrigerator in which he had stored body parts of his victims, the drill and other tools – were first to be auctioned off and the proceeds divided among the families.
Other victims’ families, however, found this idea distasteful. Eventually, businessmen bought the estate for $407,225. The sum was divided among the relatives of the victims and all the estate was destroyed in June 1996. The Oxford Apartments had already been demolished in November 1992.
Catherine Dahmer died in December 1992. After a failed suicide attempt in March 1994, Joyce Flint succumbed to cancer in November 2000. While Lionel Dahmer kept his surname and agreed to several interviews, Dahmer’s younger brother David changed his family name and opted for a life of anonymity.
Media Coverage and public perception
Until Dahmer’s arrest in the summer of 1991, no one suspected that a serial killer was at work in Milwaukee. There had been no suspicious corpses and the increasing number of missing persons cases of young men had received little attention even from the local press. While the media often followed other famous series of murders, such as those of the BTK killer or the Son of Sam, for years until they were solved, and public interest was successively increased as a result, Dahmer’s crimes literally broke over Milwaukee and the rest of the USA overnight and suddenly caused an uproar in the media landscape.
Even before he was taken away in handcuffs on the night of 22-23 July 1991, the first local reporters and camera crews had positioned themselves in front of the Oxford Apartments and the Milwaukee Journal announced the headline “Body parts litter apartment” on its front page the next morning. The day after his arrest, Dahmer was the main topic in the US news broadcasts and the New York Times published at least a half-page editorial on the case for ten days in a row. An estimated 450 journalists from around the world traveled to Milwaukee, to cover the “Milwaukee Cannibal” or “Monster of Milwaukee”.
The media’s thirst for information went so far that reporters besieged the relatives of the victims and the investigation was repeatedly obstructed and endangered. For example, the New York Times published from a stolen police report the hitherto highly confidential information about Dahmer’s cannibalistic actions; Tracy Edwards, one of the key witnesses in Dahmer’s trial, was interviewed several times and was so influenced by journalists that he had to admit in cross-examination that he had exaggerated his experiences in the interviews, which damaged his credibility.
The tabloid press trumped itself with sensational, partly fictitious headlines such as “The Cannibal – Face of madman who killed 17 and ate them” or “Milwaukee Cannibal Killer Eats His Cellmate” and thus stirred up a few months after The Silence of the Lambs In the cinemas, the expectation of a second Hannibal Lecter.
At Dahmer’s first public appearance at a court hearing on July 25, 1991, observers were therefore almost disappointed that he seemed completely “normal” and that “evil” could not be seen in him. Rather, he made a vulnerable, almost fearful impression during the trial and refrained from wearing his glasses in the courtroom so as not to have to look anyone in the eye and to be able to distance himself better from what was happening.
Although Dahmer – unlike Ted Bundy, Richard Ramírez or Charles Manson – did not seem to enjoy the attention of journalists and photographers, the media fascination for him was no less great. The US magazine People Weekly dedicated a cover story to him in August 1991 and voted him one of the “100 most fascinating personalities of the 20th century”. Vanity Fair magazine published a multi-page article in November 1991 analyzing the imprisoned serial killer Dennis Nilsen, whose crimes were very similar. Dahmer became a “celebrity” – police asked him for autographs and his appearances in court created a movie premiere atmosphere.
He received over 200 interview requests and, after his conviction, finally agreed to a first, unpaid television interview for the tabloid news program Inside Edition, which was recorded in prison in January. His second and final television interview, which he gave alongside his parents, was broadcast in March 1994 and brought NBC record ratings to the news magazine Dateline. In both interviews, Dahmer emphasized that he bore sole responsibility for his actions and that no one was to blame.
The original sensational coverage was followed by biographical works such as Brian Masters’ The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer (1993) and Lionel Dahmer’s memoir My Son Is a Murderer (1995) by an attempt to fathom the causes of Dahmer’s crimes. Critics accused Masters that his work portrayed Dahmer in too empathetic a light, to which he replied that he preferred knowledge and understanding to ignorance. Lionel Dahmer was credited with his self-reflection on his role and possible failures as a father, but at the same time he himself admitted that he had found no explanation for his son’s actions.
Already during his lifetime, Jeffrey Dahmer aroused pity and sympathy in many people – including police officers, lawyers and psychiatrists who were involved in his case – which at the latest since the publication of Derf Backderf’s graphic novel Mein Freund Dahmer (2013) to the transfiguration and romanticization in numerous fan blogs and other social media. The reasons given for this are in particular his shyness and troubled youth, his unfulfilled desire for love and closeness to another person, the remorse he showed in court as well as his sincerity and sense of shame. For Backderf, Dahmer was a “tragic figure”, but his sympathy for his former school friend ended at the point where he began to kill.
Jeffrey Dahmer in popular culture
Dahmer has become a legend of popular culture. His person and crimes, especially his cannibalistic acts, are addressed in numerous artistic works.
In addition to several musical pieces such as 213 by Slayer, Jeffrey Dahmer by Soulfly or the 2002 concept album Dahmer by the death metal band Macabre, he inspired literary works such as Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie (1995), Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse (1996) and Edward Lee’s Dahmer Is Not Dead (2017).
His life has been filmed in Dahmer (2002) with Jeremy Renner in the lead role and in My Friend Dahmer (2017) with Ross Lynch in the lead role and also served as a template for fictional plots in television series such as South Park and American Horror Story or feature films such as Copykill (1995). In September 2022, Netflix released the miniseries Dahmer – Monster: The Story of Jeffrey Dahmer, starring Evan Peters.
- 1993: Inside Edition: Serial Killers (Nancy Glass interviewed by Jeffrey Dahmer)
- 1994: The Oprah Winfrey Show (Oprah Winfrey interviewed by Lionel Dahmer)
- 1994: Dateline NBC – Inside Evil: Jeffrey Dahmer (MSNBC, Stone Phillips interviewed with Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer and Joyce Flint)
- 1994: Hard Copy (Diane Dimond interviewed with Joyce Flint)
- 2004: Larry King Live (CNN, Larry King interviewed with Lionel and Shari Dahmer)
- 2012: Confessions of A Serial Killer (remake of the 1994 Stone Phillips interview with previously unreleased scenes)
- 1992: The Trial of Jeffrey Dahmer. Director: Elkan Allan
- 1992: Dahmer: Mystery of the Serial Killer. Director: Michael Husain
- Day One: Dahmer (1993). ABC News, Moderator: Forrest Sawyer
- To Kill and Kill Again (1993). Director: Patrick Fleming
- 1994: Everyman: Profile of a Serial Killer. Director: Nikki Stockley
- 1995: Jeffrey Dahmer oder der Schrein des Todes. Zdf
- 1996: Jeffrey Dahmer: The Monster Within. Director: Bill Harris
- Autopsy (2003) Docuseries, Episode 63: The Cannibal
- Born to Kill (2005) (Born to Kill?) Docuseries, Season 1, Episode 3: Jeffrey Dahmer
- 2013: Jeff (alternative title: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files). Director: Chris James Thompson
- 2017: How it really happened. The Strange Case of Jeffrey Dahmer. HLN
- 2017: Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks. Oxygen
- 2018: Dark Tourist. Netflix Docuseries, Season 1, Episode 3: United States
- 2022: Jeffrey Dahmer: Self-portrait of a serial killer. (Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes) Netflix documentary, miniseries, directed by Joe Berlinger
- 1993: The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer. Director: David R. Bowen, Carl Crew as Dahmer.
- 2002: Dahmer. Directed by David Jacobson, Jeremy Renner as Dahmer.
- 2006: Raising Jeffrey Dahmer. Director: Rich Ambler, Rusty Sneary as Dahmer.
- 2017: My Friend Dahmer. Directed by Marc Meyers, Ross Lynch as Dahmer.
- 2022: Dahmer – Monster: The Story of Jeffrey Dahmer. Miniseries. Directed by Ryan Murphy, Evan Peters as Dahmer.
|Alternative names||Dahmer, Jeffrey Lionel (full name); Milwaukee Cannibal, The Milwaukee Monster|
|Abstract||American serial killer|
|Birth date||May 21, 1960|
|Death date||November 28, 1994|
|Death place||Portage, Wisconsin|