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Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer
May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994
 


Serial killer Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer is infamous for the grisly way he dismembered and cannibalized his many victims.

 

 

Police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin arrested Dahmer on 22 July 1991 while investigating a man's claim that he had escaped from Dahmer's apartment. Tracy Edwards, a 32 year-old black man, claimed Dahmer had invited him home for drinks, then drugged, handcuffed and threatened him. Investigating officers found evidence of gruesome crimes in Dahmer's apartment, including a human head in the refrigerator and human meat in the freezer. Dahmer ended up confessing to 17 murders committed between 1978 and 1991 (12 of which occurred in 1990 and 1991). It was quite a story: Dahmer murdered men and boys, he used their corpses for sexual gratification, he boiled and painted skulls, he collected penises and he ate biceps. He entered a plea of "guilty but insane," but was found guilty and sane by a jury and sentenced to 957 years in jail, or the equivalent of 15 life terms. While in prison in Portage, Wisconsin he was beaten to death by another inmate in 1994.

The Dahmer killings have also been analyzed for a subtext of racial issues. Dahmer was white, but almost all of his victims were non-whites. One of his victims, a 14-year-old from Laos named Konerak Sinthasomphone, escaped from Dahmer's apartment in Milwaukee on 27 May 1991 and was found by two black teenagers, who called police on his behalf. Dahmer told the two investigating officers that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old lover; the incoherent ramblings of Sinthasomphone and the concerns of the teenagers were dismissed in favor of Dahmer's story. Sinthasomphone became Dahmer's 13th victim shortly afterward. The incident was seen as an example of how authorities can be influenced by racial biases. In what some consider an ironic twist, the inmate who killed Dahmer in prison was black.

Dahmer's case was in the news again in early 2007, when a Miami newspaper reported a link between Dahmer and the 1981 murder and decapitation of six year-old Adam Walsh in Broward County, Florida. Investigators from the Hollywood (Florida) Police Department, however, ruled out Dahmer as Walsh's killer.
 


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Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was an American serial killer and sex offender. Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys – most of whom were of African or Asian descent – between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1987 and 1991. His murders were particularly gruesome, involving rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism. On November 28, 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by fellow Columbia Correctional Institution inmate Christopher Scarver with a bar from a weight machine while on work detail in the prison gym.


Early life

Dahmer was born in West Allis, Wisconsin, to Lionel, an analytical chemist, and Joyce Dahmer. At age 8 his family moved to Bath, Ohio, where he attended Revere High School. Dahmer dissected dead animals as a child, and by his teenage years was an alcoholic loner.

Dahmer attended Ohio State University, but dropped out after two terms. Dahmer's father then forced him to enlist in the Army, where he was to serve for a six-year enlistment; he was discharged after two, due to his excessive drinking. When the Army discharged Dahmer in 1981, it provided him with a plane ticket to anywhere in the country. Dahmer told police he couldn't go home to face his father, so he headed to Miami Beach, Florida, because he was "tired of the cold." He spent most of his time there at a hospital but was kicked out shortly after for drinking.

In 1982, Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin, where he lived for six years. In August of that year, he was arrested for exposing himself at a state fair. In September 1986, he was charged again with public exposure after two boys accused him of masturbating in public. This time he was sentenced to a year in prison, of which he served 10 months. In the summer of 1988, Dahmer's grandmother asked him to move out due to his late nights and foul smells from the basement. He then found an apartment on Milwaukee's West side. On September 25, 1988, he was arrested for sexually fondling a 13-year-old boy in Milwaukee, for which he served 10 months of a one year sentence in a work release camp. He was required to register as a sex offender. He convinced the judge that he needed therapy, and he was released with a five-year probation on good behavior. Shortly thereafter, he began a string of murders that would end with his arrest in 1991.


Murders

In the early morning hours of May 30, 1991, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of the boy whom Dahmer had molested) was discovered on the street, wandering naked, heavily under the influence of drugs and bleeding from his rectum. Reports of the boy's injuries varied. Dahmer told police that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend, and that they had an argument while drinking. Against the teenager's protests, police turned him over to Dahmer. They later reported smelling a strange scent but did not investigate it. It was later found to be bodies in the back of his room. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir.

John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish, the two police officers who returned Sinthasomphone to Dahmer, were fired from the Milwaukee Police Department after their actions were widely publicized, including an audiotape of the officers making homophobic statements to their dispatcher and cracking jokes about having reunited the "lovers". The two officers appealed their termination and were reinstated with back pay. They were named officers of the year by the police union. Balcerzak would go on to be elected president of the Milwaukee Police Association in May 2005.

By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was murdering approximately one person each week. He killed Matt Turner, on June 30, Jeremiah Weinberger, on July 5, Oliver Lacy, on July 12, and finally Joseph Brandehoft, on July 18.


Arrest

On July 22, 1991, Dahmer lured another man, Tracy (Traci) Edwards, into his home. According to the would-be victim, Dahmer struggled with Edwards in order to handcuff him. Edwards escaped and alerted a police car, with the handcuffs still hanging from one hand. Edwards led police back to Dahmer's apartment, where Dahmer at first acted friendly to the officers, only to turn on them when he realized that they suspected something was wrong. As one officer subdued Dahmer, the other searched the house and uncovered multiple photographs of murdered victims and human remains, including three severed heads and penises. A further search of the apartment revealed more evidence, including photographs of victims and human remains in his refrigerator.

The story of Dahmer's arrest and the inventory in his apartment, which was apartment number 213, quickly gained notoriety: several corpses were stored in acid-filled vats, severed heads were found in his refrigerator, and implements for the construction of an altar of candles and human skulls were found in his closet. Accusations soon surfaced that Dahmer had practiced necrophilia, and cannibalism. In trial he confessed to attempting a form of trepanation in order to create so-called "zombies."


Trial

Jeffrey Dahmer was officially indicted on 17 murder charges, which were reduced to 15. The murder cases were already so notorious that the authorities never bothered to charge him in the attempted murder of Edwards. His trial began in January 1992. With evidence overwhelmingly against him, Dahmer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The court found Dahmer sane and guilty on 15 counts of murder and sentenced him to 15 life terms, totalling 957 years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, also saying that he wished for his own death.


Imprisonment and death

Dahmer served his time at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin, where he ultimately declared himself a born-again Christian. This conversion occurred after viewing evangelical material sent to him by his father. A local preacher, Roy Ratcliff, met with Dahmer and agreed to baptize him.

After attending a church service in the prison chapel, an inmate tried to slash Dahmer's throat with a razor blade. Dahmer escaped the incident with superficial wounds.

On November 28, 1994, Dahmer and another inmate named Jesse Anderson were beaten to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver with a bar from a weight machine while on work detail in the prison gym. Dahmer died from severe head trauma in the ambulance while en route to the hospital.


Aftermath

After the murders, the Oxford Apartments at 924 North 25th Street were demolished; the site is now a vacant lot. Plans to convert the site into a memorial garden failed to materialize.

Lionel Dahmer published a book in 1994, A Father's Story, and donated a portion of the proceeds from his book to the victims and their families. Most of the families showed support for Lionel Dahmer and his wife, Shari. He has retired and resides with his wife in Medina County, Ohio. He consults on the creation-evolution controversy occasionally, and his wife was a member of the board of the Medina County Ohio Horseman's Council. Both continue to carry the name Dahmer and say they love Jeffrey despite his crimes. Lionel Dahmer's first wife, Joyce (Flint), died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 64. She was later buried in Atlanta, Georgia. Dahmer's younger brother David changed his last name and lives in anonymity.

Dahmer's estate was awarded to the families of 11 of Dahmer's victims who had sued for damages. In 1996, Thomas Jacobson, the lawyer representing eight of the families, announced a planned auction of Dahmer's estate to raise up to $1 million, sparking controversy. A civic group, Milwaukee Civic Pride, was quickly established in an effort to raise the funds to purchase and destroy Dahmer's possessions. The group pledged $407,225 including a $100,000 gift by Milwaukee real estate developer Joseph Zilber for purchase of Dahmer's estate; five of the eight families represented by Jacobson agreed to the terms and Dahmer's possessions were destroyed.

In January 2007, evidence surfaced potentially linking Dahmer to Adam Walsh's 1981 abduction and murder in Florida. Freelance writer Arthur Jay Harris began to investigate the case in 2002, finding evidence that suggested Dahmer was in the same mall where Adam was killed and may have had access to a blue van. His findings were supported by New Times columnist Bob Norman, who checked out the Harris investigation and also came to believe that Dahmer was the chief suspect. Most recently, ABC's Primetime featured the theory in a half-hour segment, airing Harris' findings to a national audience. However, Adam's father, John Walsh, believes that another serial killer, Ottis Toole, committed the crime. When interviewed about Adam Walsh in the early 1990s, Dahmer repeatedly denied involvement in the crime.


Known victims

Name                           Age    Date of death
Stephen Hicks                 19    18 June 1978
Steven Tuomi                  26    15 Sept 1987
Jamie Doxtator                14    01 Jan 1988
Richard Guerrero             25    24 March 1988
Anthony Sears                 24    25 March 1989
Eddie Smith                     36    06 June 1990
Ricky Beeks                     27   15 July 1990
Ernest Miller                     22   09 September 1990
David Thomas                  23   09 September 1990
Curtis Straughter              19   02 February 1991
Errol Lindsey                    19   04 April 1991
Tony Hughes                    31   24 May 1991
Konerak Sinthasomphone  14   27 May 27 1991
Matt Turner                      20   30 June 30, 1991
Jeremiah Weinberger        23   05 July 5, 1991
Oliver Lacy                       23   12 July 1991
Joseph Bradehoft              25   18 July 1991
 

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 24 December, 2008