22 Feb Jeffrey Dahmer
The Milwaukee Cannibal
In July of 1991, Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller, two police officers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, became the first to discover a monster living in their city. Tracy Edwards, a young man, ran to them for help after being handcuffed and assaulted by a local man, Jeffrey Dahmer. When they arrived at the apartment, they were struck by the rotten smell. Upon searching for evidence of the crime, they found a house that was crammed with body parts that had been preserved in horrifying ways – some were even found in the fridge. The Milwaukee Cannibal had been caught.
Over the next few weeks, police would discover that the unassuming Jeffrey Dahmer had murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991 – he would rape them, murder them, and do everything from necrophilia to cannibalism with their bodies. But who was this nasty neighbour?
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was the eldest son of Joyce (neé Flint) and Lionel Dahmer, born on May 21, 1960. His father was an analytical chemist and his mother was a housewife. Seven years later, his younger brother David came into the world, and shortly after, his family moved from West Allis, Wisconsin to Bath, Ohio.
According to many reports, Jeffrey was a withdrawn, almost mute child with little interest in hobbies or other children. Many teachers and other adults that encountered him thought of Jeffrey as the classic neglected child. Between the ages of 10 and 15, Dahmer’s only true interest was playing with dead animals, which he would dissect either in his bedroom or in the woods behind his family home. For the most part, he did this on animals that were already dead, separating him from other budding serial killers who practice their penchant for violence on small mammals in their youth. However, he did put a dog’s head on a stake once. Just for fun?
When he reached high school, Dahmer was even more of an enigma. He was fundamentally a loner and had few (if any) close friends, but he was known amongst his peers as something of a class clown, beginning with doing impressions of an interior decorator with cerebral palsy that worked for his mother. It was around this period that he began drinking, and he was a full-fledged alcoholic by the time he graduated from high school.
In 1977, Lionel and Joyce got divorced. Joyce left the family home, and oddly, so did Lionel, leaving a 17-year-old Jeffrey to fend for himself in the house. By that time, he had enrolled with Ohio State University but dropped out after a single semester. He had failed to attend pretty much all of his classes and was drunk for most of the time that he was there. While living alone in the Dahmer family home, Jeffrey committed his very first murder at the tender age of 18.
In June of 1978, Jeffrey picked up a hitchhiker named Stephen Hicks and invited him back to the house to drink beer – unbeknownst to Hicks, Dahmer fully intended to sexually assault him. When Hicks attempted to leave, Jeffrey hit him on the back of the head with a 10lb dumbbell. All Jeffrey would later say about his motive was, “The guy wanted to leave, and I didn’t want him to.” Dahmer dragged Hicks’ body into the crawl space of the house and left him there until the smell got too strong to bear. He chopped Hicks up, placed the pieces in bags, and buried them in the woods behind his house. Plagued with paranoia that neighbourhood kids would eventually discover the bags, he dug them up again and pulverized the bones. No piece of Stephen’s body has ever been found.
At this point, Lionel Dahmer attempted to put his son on some sort of path and forced him to enlist with the US Army. He ended up stationed in Germany. According to most accounts, Jeffrey Dahmer did pretty well in the Army for a while, but his alcoholism caught up with him, ending with his discharge in 1981. As part of this discharge, he was given a plane ticket that would take him anywhere in the country. Rather than return home to his father’s disappointment, Dahmer opted to run off to Miami Beach. Initially, he was admitted into a hospital, but he was kicked out of there for continuing his drinking. He slept on the beach for a while before inevitably returning to Ohio. The drinking didn’t stop, however, and he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct later that year.
In 1982, Dahmer decided to move in with his grandmother back in his hometown of West Allis, Wisconsin. He would live there for six years, and five of those would be relatively peaceful. It wasn’t going to last, though. Dahmer’s grandmother would later reveal how odd his behaviour was during this period – she found a fully dressed male mannequin in his closet and a .357 Magnum under his bed.
In September 1987, Jeffrey Dahmer went out to a bar in West Allis called Club 219 and picked up a 26-year-old man named Steven Tuomi. According to Dahmer, he had no memory of the actual crime, but he woke up next to Tuomi’s dead body the next morning. According to Dahmer, “his chest had been crushed in.” Desperate to conceal this crime, Dahmer bought a large suitcase and stuffed the body inside, later transporting it to his grandmother’s basement where he would commit acts of necrophilia on it before dismembering it and throwing it out with the household trash. Despite apparently committing this murder impulsively, Dahmer would set out on a path that would make him into the monster that everyone would come to know.
In 1988, he killed his next victim, a 14-year-old Native American boy named Jamie Doxtator. The young man was known to hang around gay bars, looking to get into a relationship. By this time, Dahmer had established the methods he would later use on 14 more young men – he would meet them in gay bars or bathhouses and lure them to his home by promising them money to pose for nude photographs, or occasionally just offering a place to watch porn and drink alcohol. He would drug them and strangle them to death before violating their corpses and doing increasingly bizarre things with their remains, often keeping body parts as souvenirs of his crimes. This is exactly what happened to Jamie Doxtator. Jeffrey lured him with the promise of cash for making a sex tape with him. He would not be the last.
Two months after killing Doxtator, in March 1988, Jeffrey claimed another victim: 25-year-old Richard Guerrero. They met at another gay bar, The Phoneix. Jeffrey again offered Richard money to make a sex tape and lured him back to his apartment. Dahmer decided to dissolve both Guerrero and Doxtator’s bodies in chemicals so that he could dispose of them – however, the stench of this process did not escape his elderly grandmother, who called Lionel to have a look at the basement.
What Lionel found was telltale black residue, left behind by dissolving flesh. Upon questioning Jeffrey about this, Jeffrey simply explained that he had taken up his old childhood hobby again and had been dissolving a squirrel’s body in chemicals. Lionel seemed satisfied with this answer, but Jeffrey’s grandmother still wasn’t happy with the whole affair and asked him to move out.
On September 26, 1988, only one day after moving out of his grandmother’s house and into a small apartment that was close to his job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory, he was arrested. He had drugged a 13-year-old boy from Milwaukee and fondled him. Dahmer was found guilty of sexual assault and enticing a child for immoral purposes on January 30, 1990, but he made bail in between his trial and sentencing. He wouldn’t be sentenced for another four months, during which time he committed another murder under everyone’s noses.
On March 25, 1990, he met 26-year-old Anthony Sears at a gay bar called La Cage. Unbelievably, Dahmer was able to take him back to his grandmother’s house – he didn’t want to return to his own apartment because he assumed that the authorities had him under surveillance. The two had consensual sex before Dahmer gave Sears a drugged drink, strangled him, and raped his corpse. Anthony Sears’ skull would become the first of seven in Dahmer’s macabre collection. And all while he was awaiting sentencing for his sexual assault charge.
On May 23, 1990, he was sentenced to one year in a work release camp and five years of probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender, though that would do nothing to stop him from doing what he was about to do. He was paroled from the work release camp 2 months early and lived for a short while in another apartment before moving to the place where he would commit the bulk of his murders.
In late 1990, Dahmer moved out of his grandmother’s house and took up residence in an apartment that would later be revealed as his house of horrors – Apartment 213 at 924 North 25th Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With no one keeping an eye on him, Dahmer found himself free to kill more frequently and fulfill his sick fantasies in more detail.
Very shortly after moving in, Dahmer met his next victim, 36-year-old Eddie Smith. According to Jeffrey, Smith was happy to return to his apartment to have sex. Unfortunately, he ended up exactly the way all of Dahmer’s other victims did – drugged, strangled, and dismembered. The same happened to 27-year-old Ricky Beeks in July of that year, and Ernest Miller (age 22) and David Thomas (age 23) that September.
In February 1991, Dahmer met an aspiring model, 19-year-old Curtis Straughter. Dahmer’s old trick of asking Straughter to pose for nude photos worked like a charm, and the boy joined the rapidly growing list of Dahmer’s victims. For some odd reason, Jeffrey opted to paint Straughter’s skull grey and keep it amongst his collection, where it would later be found by police. The killing spree continued well into 1991, with the murder of Errol Lindsey (age 19) in April and that of Tony Hughes (age 31) in May.
In the early hours of May 27, 1991, two young women who lived in the same neighbourhood as Jeffrey Dahmer found a young boy wandering in the street, naked, drugged, disoriented, and bleeding from his rectum. This boy’s name was Konerak Sinthasomphone, and he was only 14 years old. The women immediately called 911, but while they were waiting for the police, they were accosted by Jeffrey Dahmer, chasing Sinthasomphone and trying to get him back to his apartment.
The women would not let him, but the officers who attended the scene, John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish, believed Dahmer’s story that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend who had run out of the apartment after they argued while drinking. Even though the women who had found him insisted that the boy was just a child and didn’t even speak English, the officers turned Sinthasomphone over to Dahmer, sealing his death warrant. After the officers left, Dahmer murdered and dismembered the 14-year-old like he had so many victims before him.
If that weren’t horrifying enough, the officers would later recall that they noticed a strange, awful smell coming from Dahmer’s apartment, but they did nothing to investigate. Later, Dahmer would reveal that the smell was coming from the body of Tony Hughes, decomposing in the bedroom. If the officers had bothered to verify Sinthasomphone’s identity or run a background check on Dahmer, they would have discovered that not only was Dahmer a registered sex offender on probation but that one of the boys that Dahmer was convicted of molesting was Konerak Sinthasomphone’s older brother.
Dahmer’s close brush with the police in May 1991 did nothing to deter him from killing. On June 30 that year, he decided to take a bus to Chicago for Pride. While waiting in the bus depot to go back to Milwaukee, he met 20-year-old Matt Turner, who wanted to be a model much like Curtis Straughter. Somehow, Jeffrey talked Matt into returning to Milwaukee with him and even paid for their Greyhound tickets. The two spent the entire hour and a half from Chicago to Milwaukee together, and it didn’t seem that Turner had any idea what was about to happen to him. Once he’d gotten him all the way back to Apartment 213, Jeffrey did what he always did – he drugged Turner, strangled him to death, and violated his corpse. He cut Turner’s head off and placed his torso in a 57-gallon barrel to dissolve.
Despite the inherent riskiness of Dahmer’s luring of Matt Turner, he did it again less than a week later, on July 4, 1991. He returned to Chicago and went to a local gay bar, meeting 23-year-old Jeremiah Weinberger. Weinberger hung out with Jeffrey for a while and even asked his roommate’s opinion on their new friend – the man would later be quoted as saying that Jeffrey Dahmer “[seemed] all right.” Somehow, just like Matt Turner, Jeffrey convinced Weinberger to return to Milwaukee with him and paid for them both to take the Greyhound Bus back. When they returned to Dahmer’s apartment, the two had consensual sex, and remarkably, Jeremiah survived the night sleeping in Jeffrey’s apartment. It’s uncertain what kept Jeffrey from killing Weinberger immediately like he had all the others, but nonetheless, it would all change when Jeremiah decided that he wanted to leave. Unlike the murder of Stephen Hicks, when the mention of leaving threw Jeffrey into a rage, he kept his cool this time and offered to make Jeremiah a farewell drink before he left. Of course, this drink was laced with Dahmer’s signature drug cocktail, and Jeremiah Weinberger’s head was soon in Jeffrey’s freezer.
Jeffrey was far from finished – his next murder would occur a mere 8 days later, on July 12. He met 23-year-old Oliver Lacy at a gay bar and lured him home, drugged him, and strangled him to death. According to Jeffrey, this murder was the first in which he committed cannibalism – he sliced off Lacy’s right bicep, cooked it, and ate it. He placed his head in the fridge and put his heart in the freezer for later, where police would later find it.
On July 19, 1991, Dahmer was fired from his job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. Apparently upset, he went out walking in the rain. It was on this journey that he met his final victim, 25-year-old Joseph Bradehoft. Bradehoft was standing at a bus stop with a six-pack of beer when Jeffrey invited him back to Apartment 213 to party and wait out the rain. Bradehoft agreed, and Jeffrey killed him like he had all the others. Dahmer slept next to Bradehoft’s body for several days after killing him – he only decided to dispose of him when his body became infested with maggots. Jeffrey cleaned Bradehoft’s head and placed it into the freezer next to the heads of Turner and Weinberger.
On July 22, 1991, Dahmer would finally be revealed as the monster he truly was. He had lured another intended victim, Tracy Edwards, into Apartment 213. Shortly after they entered the apartment, Dahmer attacked Edwards and attempted to handcuff him, though he ultimately failed to cuff his wrists together and completely incapacitate him. Dahmer grabbed a large butcher knife and advanced on Edwards, forcing him back into the bedroom. The bedroom was Dahmer’s sanctum, and Edwards noticed photos of massacred bodies hanging up on the walls, as well as a large blue barrel that emanated a horrible stench.
Edwards knew that he was in the den of a madman and fought to escape; he punched Dahmer in the face and kicked him in the stomach before running for the apartment door and escaping. Running through the streets with a handcuff still dangling from his wrist, Edwards eventually came upon Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller, two officers that were on patrol that day. He told them the entire sordid story and led them back to Apartment 213.
According to reports, Dahmer was initially friendly with the officers – perhaps he assumed that he could talk his way out of this, just like he had with Konerak Sinthasomphone in 1991. However, these officers were more prudent than the ones Dahmer had previously encountered, and they followed Tracy Edward’s story that the knife that Dahmer had threatened him with was in the bedroom. The second that the officer saw the contents of Dahmer’s bedroom, he called out to his partner and had Jeffrey arrested. As one of them subdued Dahmer, the other made the strange (but very important) decision to open up the refrigerator. Inside, sitting there as though it were nothing more than groceries, was a human head.
In the coming days, the Milwaukee Police Department would discover what kind of depraved monster had been operating under their noses for years. Apartment 213 was thoroughly searched and inventoried, and its contents were, frankly, something out of Dante’s worst nightmares. Investigators found three more severed heads alongside the one in the refrigerator, as well as multiple body parts: hands, penises, and frozen cuts of meat that were clearly for consumption, including a frozen human heart. There were acid-filled barrels dissolving corpses – Dahmer later admitted that he would dissolve most of the remains before flushing the result down the toilet.
Not creepy enough for you? In his closet, Dahmer had constructed a sort of makeshift altar, complete with human skulls. It’s uncertain what exactly the altar was commemorating or what it was used for, but its very existence put Milwaukee into a frenzy.
A total of 7 skulls were found in the apartment, and it appeared that they were Dahmer’s favourite type of souvenir. He also appeared to be an avid photographer – there were photos of his victims in every stage of death and decomposition in the apartment, including the ones hung up on the walls of his bedroom like you or I might put up pictures from a vacation.
Dahmer, amidst the media frenzy that his apartment had spawned, was indicted on 17 counts of first-degree murder. These charges would eventually be reduced to 15 counts. He was also not charged with the attempted murder of Tracy Edwards. The trial began on January 30, 1992. Considering that the authorities had found his apartment stuffed to the rafters with human remains, Dahmer opted to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. The entire trial lasted two weeks.
The jury found Jeffrey Dahmer guilty on all 15 charges and sentenced him to a total of 15 life sentences, or 957 years in prison. This was the absolute maximum that was available in Wisconsin at the time, considering that the state had abolished the death penalty in 1853.
At sentencing, Dahmer told the court that he felt remorse for his crimes and wished that they could have put him to death. Later, in May 1992, he was extradited to Ohio to face the court for the murder of Stephen Hicks. He entered a plea of guilty.
Dahmer was incarcerated at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin. He was not a popular guy, and someone attempted to kill him in July 1994. Another inmate attempted to slit his throat with a razor blade while he was returning from a church service at the prison chapel (Jeffrey had declared himself a born-again Christian and was baptized while incarcerated). Dahmer escaped this attack with only superficial injuries, but he wouldn’t be so lucky the next time.
On November 28, 1994, Dahmer found himself doing janitorial work with two other inmates, Christopher Scarver and Jesse Anderson. They were on detail in the prison gym, and, mysteriously, they were not attended by any prison guards. Christopher Scarver seized this opportunity, and he beat Dahmer and Anderson so severely with a broomstick that both died – Dahmer expired while on the way to the hospital, and Anderson followed two days later.
Immediately after Jeffrey Dahmer’s death, Joyce Flint, his mother, released an indignant statement to the media.
“Now is everybody happy? Now that he’s bludgeoned to death, is that good enough for everyone?”
According to most contemporary reports, the response from the families of Dahmer’s victims was mixed – after all, he had only spent two years in prison before his death. However, it appears that most were satisfied with his untimely end. Milwaukee’s district attorney that prosecuted Dahmer urged the media to take caution against hailing Christopher Scarver as a folk hero, and that what he had done was still murder at the end of the day.
924 North 25th Street, the place where Dahmer had committed the bulk of his crimes, was demolished in 1992, shortly after the trial. The site remains a vacant lot to this day – there were originally plans to transform it into a memorial garden for Dahmer’s victims, but they never panned out.
As for the Dahmer family, Lionel published a book in 1994 titled, “A Father’s Story.” He donated part of the proceeds from the book’s publication to the victim’s families. Many of these families were compassionate towards Lionel and his second wife, Shari. Both refused to change their last name and stated that despite his crimes, they still love Jeffrey. Joyce Flint, Dahmer’s mother, died of cancer in 2000, and his younger brother David changed his last name – he now lives in anonymity, not wanting to be connected to the monster his big brother turned out to be.
After his death, Jeffrey’s estate was awarded to the families of 11 of the victims that had sued him for damages. In 1996, an announcement was made that the families planned to auction off Dahmer’s estate to raise up to $1 million, what they were originally asking in their lawsuit. However, not everyone was happy about this decision, and a group called Milwaukee Civic Pride was quickly established to raise funds to purchase Dahmer’s possessions with the intent of destroying them. The group eventually offered the families $407, 225 to purchase Dahmer’s estate – five of the eight families involved in the lawsuit agreed, and Dahmer’s possessions were destroyed, and their remains were buried in a landfill in Illinois.
In a bizarre twist, evidence potentially linking Jeffrey Dahmer to the abduction of 6-year-old Adam Walsh in 1981 surfaced in January of 2007. This murder occurred in Florida, shortly after Dahmer arrived there from his Army discharge. However, John Walsh, Adam’s father and the creator of America’s Most Wanted, believes that another serial killer by the name of Ottis Toole is responsible for Adam’s death. When authorities interviewed Dahmer about Adam in the early 90s, he denied his involvement and Florida police declared the Walsh case closed in 2008.
Dahmer’s monstrous crimes immediately spawned media portrayals – in 1992, a man named Hart Fisher published a comic book called Jeffrey Dahmer: An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer. Residents of both Milwaukee and Hart’s hometown, Champaign, Illinois were outraged, and the families of Dahmer’s victims immediately filed a lawsuit against Fisher and his publishing company, Boneyard Press, for “exploiting their loved ones’ names and likenesses for profit without compensation.” However, civil courts eventually ruled that, because the victims were dead at the time the comic was published, the “name or likeness” laws no longer applied to them. After this lawsuit, Fisher continued to publish comics about Jeffrey Dahmer and his victims, including The Further Adventures of Young Jeffy Dahmer, Jeffrey Dahmer vs. Jesus Christ, and the incredibly distasteful Dahmer’s Zombie Squad. Later, Hart would openly discuss the controversy created by these works and was confronted by the family members of several victims during appearances on The Jerry Springer Show and Sally Jesse Raphael.
Shortly after the fiasco with Hart Fisher, a film called Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life came out in 1993, with Carl Crew playing Dahmer. Other films quickly followed: Dahmer, a biographical film starring Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey and Bruce Davison as Lionel, was released in Dahmer’s hometown in 2002. In 2006, another film focusing on life in the Dahmer family was released – Raising Jeffrey Dahmer featured Rusty Sneary as Jeffrey and Scott Cordes as Lionel, and it revolved around Dahmer’s parents’ reactions after he was arrested.
And in 2017, a film adaptation of John Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer was released. Backderf went to both middle and high school with Dahmer, and the original comic splices his memories of Dahmer as a child with what he would later become.