Serial Killer, having killed an estimated 16 men and boys. Jeffrey Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960 in West Allis, Wisconsin, the first son of Joyce Annette (née Flint) and Lionel Herbert Dahmer. Dahmer’s mother worked as a teletype machine instructor, whereas his father was a student at Marquette University, working towards a degree in chemistry. His father was of German ancestry, and his mother was of Welsh ancestry.
His parents divorced when he was 18, shortly after his first, undetected (later confirmed) killing in June 1978 of a hitchhiker, Steven Hicks. His father sent him to college, at Ohio State University, but he flunked out in the first semester, as he was drunk most of the time. His father then sent him into the Army in 1978, where he was stationed in Germany, but was barred from reenlisting due to alcoholism. He eventually moved to Milwaukee, and in 1989, one of his sexual victims complained to police and he was arrested for child molestation (at this point, he had already killed four men). In a bizarre twist, he convinced the judge that he only needed psychological help, and he was released with a 5 year probation on good behavior. He moved to Cleveland in 1989. In June 1990, he began a killing spree that continued until he was caught on July 22, 1991, when one of his intended victims escaped and went to the police. Upon investigation, Dahmer had selected mainly gay and black men for his victims, often taking photos of them, and having sex with their dead bodies. To dispose of the bodies, he cut them up and buried them, but kept parts of their bodies as trophies, and ate some of them. When police arrested him, he had 4 victim’s heads in the refrigerator. Dahmer was tried on fifteen counts of murder and sentenced to 957 years in jail (consecutive life terms). He was sentenced to the Columbia Correctional Institute in Portage, Wisconsin, where another inmate, Christopher Scarver, who was in prison on a first-degree murder charge, killed him. Dahmer’s father, Lionel Dahmer, later wrote a book about his son, “A Father’s Story,” which chronicled their efforts to raise a good child only to discover he had grown up to be a monster.
Although Dahmer was doted upon as an infant and toddler by both parents, his mother was known to be tense, greedy for attention and argumentative with both her husband and her neighbors. As her son entered first grade, Joyce Dahmer began to spend an increasing amount of her time in bed recovering from weakness. Lionel’s university studies kept him away from home much of the time; when he was home, Joyce demanded constant attention. She reportedly would work herself into a state of anxiety over trivial matters simply to achieve appeasement from her husband. On one occasion, Joyce Dahmer attempted suicide from an overdose of the Equanil pills to which she had become addicted. As a result, neither parent had much time to care for Jeffrey.
Dahmer himself recalled his early years of family life as being of “extreme tension” which he noted between his parents, whom he observed to be constantly arguing with each other. At school, he was both quiet and timid; on his first grade report card, one teacher described Dahmer as a reserved child whom she sensed to feel neglected, and he was regarded as a “quiet kid” by many of his peers. Although largely reserved and uncommunicative in grade school, Dahmer did have a small number of friends.
From an early age, Dahmer manifested an interest in animals. Friends later recalled Dahmer initially collected large insects, dragonflies and butterflies which he placed inside jars. Later, Dahmer—occasionally accompanied by one or more of his few friends—would collect animal carcasses from the roadside; these animals Dahmer would dismember either at home or in an expanse of woodland behind the family home. According to one friend, Dahmer would dismember these animals and store the parts in jars in the family’s wooden toolshed, always explaining that he was curious as to how each animal “fitted together.” In one instance, he is known to have impaled a dog’s head upon a stake behind his house.
Dahmer’s fascination with dead animals might have begun when, at the age of four, he noted his father removing animal bones from beneath the family home. According to Lionel Dahmer, his son was “oddly thrilled” by the sound the bones made.
The Dahmer family relocated to Doylestown, Ohio, in October 1966. At the time, Joyce Dahmer was pregnant with her second child. When she gave birth to a baby boy on December 18, 1966, Jeffrey was allowed to choose the name of the baby. He chose the name David for his younger brother. The same year, Lionel Dahmer achieved his degree and subsequently obtained employment as an analytical chemist in the city of Akron.
In 1968, the family relocated to Bath, Ohio. Two years later, over a family meal of chicken, Dahmer asked his father what would happen if the bones of the chicken were to be placed in bleach. Lionel Dahmer was by this stage concerned as to his elder son’s placid and lethargic attitude and his solitary existence; he was delighted at the initiative displayed by his son towards what he believed to be scientific curiosity; therefore, he willingly demonstrated how to bleach and, later, preserve animal bones. The knowledge regarding cleansing and preserving of these bones Dahmer would later utilize upon many of the animal remains which he continued to avidly collect and of which his father, being a chemist, taught his son safe usage.
From his freshman year at Revere High School, Dahmer was seen by his peers as an outcast with few friends. Many of Dahmer’s classmates later recollected being disturbed by the fact that he was known to drink both beer and spirits, which he smuggled into school inside the lining of his army fatigue jacket and which he is also known to have surreptitiously concealed inside his locker. This alcohol abuse was known to occur before, during and after school and was first noted when Dahmer was 14. On one occasion, a classmate observed Dahmer consuming a cup of gin and asked him why he was drinking liquor in class, to which Dahmer casually replied, “It’s my medicine.”
Nonetheless, in his freshman year at Revere High School, Dahmer, although largely uncommunicative, was observed by staff to be a polite student who was known to be highly intelligent. He initially achieved only average grades, which staff attributed to his apathy. He was also known to have been a keen tennis player and to have briefly played in the high school band.
When he reached puberty, Dahmer discovered he was a homosexual. He did not divulge his sexuality to his parents, although in his early teens, he did engage in a brief relationship with another youth, although the pair never had intercourse. By his own later admission, as he began to fantasize sexually, issues of dominance and control over a completely subservient partner were prevalent in his thoughts. These thoughts gradually became intertwined with dissection. On one occasion when he was approximately 16 years old, Dahmer conceived a fantasy of rendering a particular male jogger he found attractive unconscious and then making sexual use of his unconscious body. To render the man unconscious, Dahmer concealed himself in bushes on the route he had noted the jogger took, baseball bat in hand, and lay in wait for the jogger. On this particular day, the jogger did not pass him and, although Dahmer never attempted to implement this plan again, he later stated this was his first attempt to attack another individual.
Despite being regarded as a loner and an oddball amongst his peers at Revere High School, Dahmer nonetheless became something of a cult figure among some students due to the pranks he was known to stage regularly — some of which were done to amuse his classmates, others apparently to simply attract attention. These pranks became known as “Doing a Dahmer” and included bleating, simulating epileptic seizures or cerebral palsy and knocking over items both at school and at local stores.
By 1977, Dahmer’s academic performance had declined, due to his alcohol abuse and his general apathy toward academic and social interactions. His grades plummeted. His parents hired a private tutor for their son, but the tutor only had limited success. The same year, Dahmer’s parents attended counseling sessions to try and resolve personal differences and thus save their marriage. The counseling was ultimately unsuccessful, and Dahmer’s parents decided to divorce. Although initially on amicable grounds, both of Dahmer’s parents began to frequently quarrel in the presence of their sons and, in early 1978, Lionel Dahmer moved out of the house.
In May 1978, Dahmer graduated from high school. A few weeks before his graduation, one of his teachers observed Dahmer sitting close to the school parking lot, drinking several cans of beer. When the teacher threatened to report the matter, Dahmer informed him he was experiencing “a lot of problems” at home and that the school’s guidance counselor was aware of them. Shortly after this incident, Joyce was awarded custody of her younger son and vacated the family residence, moving in with family members of hers; Dahmer, having just turned 18, was legally an adult and therefore not subject to court custodial considerations.
Dahmer committed his first murder in the summer of 1978, at the age of 18, just three weeks after his graduation. At the time, he was living alone in the family home: due to his parents’ recent divorce, Dahmer’s father temporarily lived in a nearby motel and his mother had relocated to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin with his younger brother. On June 18, Dahmer picked up an 18-year-old hitchhiker named Steven Mark Hicks. Dahmer lured the youth to his house on the pretext of the pair drinking alcohol together. Hicks, who had been hitchhiking to a rock concert in Lockwood Corners, agreed to accompany Dahmer to his house. According to Dahmer, after several hours’ drinking and listening to music, Hicks “wanted to leave and didn’t want him to”. In response, Dahmer bludgeoned him with a 10 lb. dumbbell. Dahmer later stated he struck Hicks twice from behind with the dumbbell as he (Hicks) sat upon a chair. When Hicks fell unconscious, Dahmer strangled him to death with the bar of the dumbbell, then stripped the clothes from Hicks’ body before masturbating as he stood above the corpse.
The following day, Dahmer dissected Hicks’s body in his crawl space; he later buried the remains in a shallow grave in his backyard before, several weeks later, unearthing the remains and paring the flesh from the bones. The flesh he dissolved in acid before flushing the solution down the toilet; the bones he crushed with a sledgehammer and scattered in woodland behind the family home.
Six weeks after the murder of Hicks, Dahmer’s father and his fiancée returned to his home where they discovered Jeffrey living alone at the house. That August, Dahmer enrolled at Ohio State University, hoping to major in business. Dahmer’s sole term at Ohio State University was completely unproductive, largely because of his persistent alcohol abuse throughout the majority of the term. On one occasion, Lionel Dahmer paid a surprise visit to his son, only to find his room strewn with empty liquor bottles. Despite his father having paid in advance for the second term, Dahmer dropped out of university after just three months.
In January 1979, upon his father’s urging, Dahmer enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he trained as a medical specialist at Fort Sam Houston before, on July 13, 1979, being deployed to Baumholder in West Germany where he served as a combat medic. According to published reports, in Dahmer’s first year of service, he was an “average or slightly above average” soldier although one soldier stated in 2010 that while stationed at Baumholder, Dahmer had repeatedly raped him over a 17-month period. This soldier stated that he reported the abuse to his commander, but was not believed.
Due to Dahmer’s alcohol abuse, his performance deteriorated and in March 1981 he was deemed unsuitable for military service and later formally discharged from the army, albeit honorably.
On March 24, 1981, Dahmer was sent to Fort Jackson for debriefing and provided with a plane ticket to travel anywhere in the country. Dahmer later told police he felt he could not return home to face his father, so he opted to travel to Miami Beach, Florida, both because he was “tired of the cold” and in an attempt to live by his own means. In Florida, Dahmer found employment at a sandwich shop and rented a room in a nearby motel. Almost all of Dahmer’s earnings were spent on alcohol and after several months, he was evicted from the motel and initially spent his evenings on the beach as he continued to work at the sandwich shop before, in September 1981, phoning his father and asking to return to Ohio.
In November 1987, Dahmer—at the time residing with his grandmother in West Allis—encountered a 25-year-old Ontonagon native named Steven Tuomi at a bar and persuaded him to return to the Ambassador Hotel, where Dahmer had rented a room for the evening. According to Dahmer, he had no intention of murdering Tuomi, but simply intended to drug him and have intercourse with him as he lay unconscious. The following morning, however, he awoke to find Tuomi lying beneath him on the bed, his chest “crushed in” and blood seeping from his mouth, with bruises on Dahmer’s own fists and one forearm. Dahmer stated he had absolutely no memory of having killed Tuomi and later informed investigators that he simply “could not believe this had happened.” To dispose of Tuomi’s body, he purchased a large suitcase in which he transported the body to his grandmother’s residence. There, the following morning, he severed the head, arms and legs from the torso, then filleted the bones from the body before cutting the flesh into pieces small enough to handle. He then placed the flesh inside plastic garbage bags. The bones he wrapped inside a sheet and pounded into splinters with a sledgehammer. The entire dismemberment process took Dahmer approximately two hours to complete and all of Tuomi’s remains—excluding the severed head—were disposed of in the trash.
For a total of two weeks following Tuomi’s murder, Dahmer retained the victim’s head wrapped in a blanket. After two weeks, Dahmer boiled the head in a mixture of Soilex and bleach in an effort to retain the skull, which he then used as stimulus for masturbation. Eventually, the skull was rendered too brittle by this bleaching process, and was also pulverized and disposed of.
Following the murder of Tuomi, Dahmer began to actively seek victims, most of whom he encountered in or close to gay bars and whom he would typically lure to his grandmother’s home, where they would be drugged before or shortly after engaging in sexual activity with him. Once unconscious from the sleeping pills, the victim would be killed by strangulation.
Two months after the murder of Steven Tuomi, Dahmer encountered a 14-year-old Native American male prostitute named James Doxtator; the youth was lured to Dahmer’s home with an offer of $50 to pose for nude pictures. At Dahmer’s West Allis residence, the pair engaged in sexual activity before Doxtator was drugged and strangled on the floor of the cellar. Dahmer left the body in the cellar for one week before dismembering it in much the same manner as he had with Tuomi. All of Doxtator’s remains (excluding the skull) were placed in the trash; the skull was boiled and initially retained before being pulverized. On March 24, 1988, Dahmer met a 22-year-old bisexual named Richard Guerrero outside a gay bar called The Phoenix. Guerrero was also lured to Dahmer’s grandmother’s residence, although the incentive on this occasion was $50 to simply spend the night with him; he was drugged with sleeping pills and strangled with a leather strap, with Dahmer then performing oral sex upon the corpse. Guerrero’s body was dismembered within 24 hours of his murder, with the remains again disposed of in the trash and the skull again retained before being pulverized several months later.
On April 23, Dahmer lured another young man to his house; however, after giving the victim a drugged coffee, both he and the victim heard Dahmer’s grandmother call, “Is that you, Jeff?” Although Dahmer replied in a manner that led his grandmother to believe he was alone, his grandmother did observe the fact Dahmer was not alone. Because of this, Dahmer opted not to kill this particular victim, instead waiting until he had become unconscious before taking him to the County General Hospital.
In September 1988, Dahmer’s grandmother asked him to move out of her house both because of his habit of bringing young men to her house late at night and because of the foul smells she had noted emanating from both the basement and the garage. Dahmer found a one-bedroom apartment on North Twenty-fifth Street and moved into his new residence on September 25. The following day, Dahmer was arrested for drugging and sexually fondling a 13-year-old boy whom he had lured to his home on the pretext of posing nude for photographs. In January 1989, Dahmer was convicted of second-degree sexual assault and of enticing a child for immoral purposes. Sentencing for the assault was suspended until May, 1989. On March 20, Dahmer commenced a ten-day Easter absence from work, during which he moved back into his grandmother’s home.
Two months after his conviction and two months prior to his sentencing for the sexual assault, Dahmer killed for the fifth time. The victim was a mixed-race 24-year-old aspiring model named Anthony Sears, whom Dahmer met at a gay bar on March 25, 1989. According to Dahmer, on this particular occasion, he was not planning on looking for a victim; however, shortly before closing time that evening, Sears “just started talking to me.” Dahmer lured Sears to his grandmother’s home, where the pair engaged in oral sex before Dahmer drugged and strangled Sears. The following morning, Dahmer placed the corpse in his grandmother’s bathtub, where he decapitated the body before attempting to flay the corpse. He then stripped the flesh from the body and pulverized the bones, which were again disposed of in the trash. According to Dahmer, he found Sears “exceptionally attractive” and Sears was the first victim from whom he permanently retained any body parts: he preserved Sears’ head and genitalia in acetone and stored them in his work locker. When he moved to a new address the following year, he took the remains there.
On May 23, 1989, Dahmer was sentenced to five years’ probation and one year in the House of Correction, with work release permitted in order that he be able to keep his job; he was also required to register as a sex offender.
Two months before his scheduled release from the work camp, Dahmer was paroled from this regime. (His five years’ probation imposed in 1989 began at this point.) Upon his release, Dahmer initially moved back with his grandmother in West Allis before, in May 1990, moving into the Oxford Apartments, located on North 25th Street in Milwaukee. Although located in a high crime area, the apartment was close to his workplace, was furnished and, at $300 a month inclusive of all bills excluding electricity, was economical.
On May 14, 1990, Dahmer moved out of his grandmother’s house and into Apartment 213, 924 North 25th Street, taking Anthony Sears’ skull, scalp and painted genitals with him. Within one week of his moving into his new apartment, Dahmer had killed his sixth victim, Raymond Smith. Smith was a male prostitute whom Dahmer lured to Apartment 213 with the promise of $50 for sex. At Dahmer’s apartment, he gave Smith a drink laced with seven sleeping pills and manually strangled him. The following day, Dahmer purchased a Polaroid camera with which he took several pictures of Smith’s body in suggestive positions before dismembering him in the bathroom. The legs, arms and pelvis he boiled in a steel kettle with Soilex, which enabled him to then rinse the bones in his sink; the remainder of Smith’s skeleton—excluding the skull—he dissolved in a container he filled with acid. He spray-painted Smith’s skull and placed it alongside the skull of Anthony Sears.
Approximately one week after the murder of Raymond Smith, on or about May 27, Dahmer lured another young man to his apartment. On this occasion, however, Dahmer himself accidentally consumed the drink laden with sedatives intended for consumption by his guest. When he awoke, he discovered he had been robbed of $300 and a watch. Naturally, Dahmer never reported this incident to the police, although he did divulge to his probation officer on May 29 that he had been robbed.
In June 1990, Dahmer lured a 27-year-old acquaintance named Edward Smith to his apartment. He drugged and strangled Smith. On this occasion, rather than immediately acidifying the skeleton or repeating previous processes of bleaching (which had rendered previous victims’ skulls brittle), Dahmer placed the skeleton of Smith in his freezer for several months in the hope it would not retain moisture. Freezing the skeleton did not remove moisture, and the skeleton would be acidified several months later. The skull was destroyed unintentionally when placed in the oven to dry—a process which caused the skull to explode. (Dahmer himself was to later inform police he had felt “rotten” about Smith’s murder as he had not been able to retain any parts of his body.)
Less than three months after the murder of Smith, Dahmer encountered a 22-year-old Chicago native named Ernest Miller on the corner of North 27th Street. Miller agreed to accompany Dahmer to his apartment for $50 and further agreed to allow him to listen to his heart and stomach. When Dahmer attempted to perform oral sex upon Miller, he was informed: “That’ll cost you extra,” whereupon Dahmer gave his intended victim a drink laced with two sleeping pills.
On this occasion, however, he had had only two sleeping pills to give his victim; therefore, he killed Miller by slashing his carotid artery with the same knife he used to dissect his victims. He then posed the nude body for various suggestive Polaroid photographs before placing the body in his bathtub for dismemberment. The severed head Dahmer repeatedly kissed and talked to as he dismembered the remainder of the body. Miller’s heart, biceps and portions of flesh from the legs were wrapped in plastic bags and placed in the fridge for later consumption. The remaining flesh and organs Dahmer boiled into a “jelly-like substance” using Soilex, which again enabled him to rinse the flesh off the skeleton, which he intended to retain. To preserve the skeleton, he placed the bones in a light bleach solution for 24 hours before allowing them to dry upon a cloth for one week; the severed head was initially placed in the fridge before also being stripped of flesh, then painted and coated with enamel.
Three weeks after the murder of Ernest Miller, on September 24, Dahmer encountered a 22-year-old father-of-one named David Thomas at the Grand Avenue Mall and persuaded him to return to his apartment for a few drinks, with additional money on offer if he would pose for photographs. In his statement to police after his arrest, Dahmer stated that after giving Thomas a drink laden with sedatives, he did not feel attracted to him, but was afraid to allow him to awake in case he would be angry over having been drugged. Therefore, he strangled him and dismembered the body—intentionally retaining no body parts whatsoever. Nonetheless, he did photograph the dismemberment process and retain these photographs, which would aid in Thomas’s subsequent identification.
Following the murder of David Thomas, Dahmer did not kill for almost five months, although on a minimum of five occasions between October 1990 and February 1991, he did unsuccessfully attempt to lure men to his apartment. He is also known to have regularly complained of feelings of both anxiety and depression to his probation officer throughout 1990; with frequent references to his sexuality, his solitary lifestyle and financial difficulties. On several occasions, he is also known to have referred to harboring suicidal thoughts.
In February, 1991, Dahmer observed a 17-year-old named Curtis Straughter standing at a bus stop near Marquette University. According to Dahmer, Straughter was lured to his apartment with an offer of money for posing for nude photos, with the added incentive of sexual intercourse. At Dahmer’s apartment, the youth was drugged and strangled with a leather strap, then dismembered, with Dahmer retaining his skull, hands and genitals and photographing each stage of the dismemberment process. Less than two months later, on April 7, Dahmer encountered a 19-year-old named Errol Lindsey walking to get a key cut. Lindsey was a heterosexual; he was lured to Dahmer’s apartment, where he was drugged and endured muriatic acid being poured into his skull through a cavity which Dahmer had drilled. According to Dahmer, Lindsey awoke after this experiment (which Dahmer had conceived in the hope of inducing a permanent, unresistant, submissive state), saying: “I have a headache. What time is it?” In response to this, Dahmer again drugged Lindsey, then strangled him. Lindsey’s body was decapitated and the skull retained; his body was flayed and the skin placed in a solution of cold water and salt for several weeks in the hope of being permanently retained. Reluctantly, Dahmer disposed of Lindsey’s skin when he noted it had become too frayed and brittle.
By 1991, fellow residents of the Oxford Apartments had complained of the smells emanating from Apartment 213, in addition to the sounds of falling objects and the occasional sound of a chainsaw. The manager of the Oxford Apartments, Sopa Princewill, did contact Dahmer in response to these complaints on several occasions, to which Dahmer initially excused the odors from his apartment as being caused by his freezer breaking, causing the contents to become “spoiled.” On another occasion, he informed the manager that the reason for resurgence of the odor was that several of Dahmer’s tropical fish had recently died.
On the afternoon of May 26, 1991, Dahmer encountered a 14-year-old named Konerak Sinthasomphone on Wisconsin Avenue; he approached the youth with an offer of money to accompany him to his apartment to pose for Polaroid pictures. According to Dahmer, Sinthasomphone—the younger brother of the boy whom he had molested in 1988—was initially reluctant to the proposal, before changing his mind and accompanying Dahmer to his apartment, where the youth posed for two pictures in his underwear before being drugged into unconsciousness and fellated. On this occasion, Dahmer drilled a single hole into Sinthasomphone’s skull, through which he injected muriatic acid into the frontal lobe.
Prior to his falling unconscious, Sinthasomphone was led into Dahmer’s bedroom, where the nude body of 31-year-old Tony Hughes, whom Dahmer had killed three days earlier, lay naked on the floor. According to Dahmer, he “believed he [Sinthasomphone] saw this body,” yet did not react to seeing the bloated corpse—likely because of the effects of the sleeping pills he had ingested and the muriatic acid Dahmer had injected into his skull. Sinthasomphone soon became unconscious, whereupon Dahmer drank several beers while lying alongside Sinthasomphone before leaving his apartment to drink at a bar, then purchase more alcohol.
In the early morning hours of May 27, Dahmer returned towards his apartment to discover Sinthasomphone sitting naked on the corner of 25th and State, talking in Laotian, with three hysterical young women standing near him. Dahmer approached the trio and explained to the women that Sinthasomphone (whom he referred to by an alias) was his lover and attempted to lead him to his apartment by the arm. The three women dissuaded Dahmer, explaining they had phoned 911. Upon the arrival of two officers named John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish, Dahmer’s demeanor relaxed: he informed the officers that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend; that he had drunk too much following a quarrel and that he frequently behaved in this manner when intoxicated. The three women were exasperated and when one of the trio attempted to indicate to one of the officers that Sinthasomphone was bleeding from his buttocks and that he had seemingly struggled against Dahmer’s attempts to walk him to his apartment, the officer harshly informed her to “butt out,” “shut the hell up” and to not interfere, adding the incident was “domestic.”
Against the protests of the three women, the officers simply covered Sinthasomphone with a towel and walked him to Dahmer’s apartment where, in an effort to verify his claim that he and Sinthasomphone were lovers, Dahmer showed the officers the two semi-nude Polaroid pictures he had taken of the youth the previous evening. The officers later reported having noted a strange scent reminiscent of excrement inside the apartment (this odor emanated from the decomposing body of Hughes). Dahmer stated that to investigate this, one officer simply “peeked his head around the bedroom but really didn’t take a good look.” The officers then left, with a departing remark that Dahmer “take good care” of Sinthasomphone.
Had a background check upon Dahmer been conducted, it would have revealed that he was a convicted child molester under probation.
Upon the departure of the two police officers from his apartment, Dahmer again injected muriatic acid into Sinthasomphone’s brain; on this second occasion, the injection proved fatal. The following day, May 28, Dahmer took a day’s leave from work to devote himself to the dismemberment of the bodies of Sinthasomphone and Hughes, whom he had killed three days prior to Sinthasomphone and whose body had been lying in his bedroom as police brought Sinthasomphone back to his apartment. Both victims’ skulls were retained.
By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was murdering approximately one person each week: On June 30, Dahmer traveled to Chicago, where he encountered a 20-year-old named Matt Turner at a bus station. Turner accepted Dahmer’s offer to travel to Milwaukee for a professional photo shoot. At Dahmer’s apartment, Turner was drugged, strangled and dismembered, with his head and internal organs placed in separate plastic bags in the freezer. He was not reported missing. Five days later, on July 5, Dahmer lured 23-year-old Jeremiah Weinberger from a Chicago bar to his apartment on the promise of spending the weekend with him. Weinberger was drugged and twice had boiling water injected into his skull, sending Weinberger into a coma from which he died two days later.
On July 15, Dahmer encountered 23-year-old Oliver Lacy at the corner of 27th and Kilbourn. Lacy agreed to Dahmer’s ruse of posing nude for photographs and accompanied him to his apartment, where the pair engaged in tentative sexual activity before Lacy was drugged. On this occasion, Dahmer intended to prolong the time he spent with Lacy while alive: after unsuccessfully attempting to render Lacy unconscious with chloroform, he phoned his workplace to request a day’s absence; this was granted, although the next day, he was suspended. After strangling Lacy, Dahmer had sex with the corpse before dismembering him. Lacy’s head and heart were placed in the refrigerator; his skeleton in the freezer.
Four days after the murder of Lacy, on July 19, Dahmer received word he was fired. Upon receipt of this news, Dahmer lured 25-year-old Joseph Bradehoft to his apartment. Bradehoft was strangled and left lying on Dahmer’s bed, covered with a sheet, for two days. On July 21, Dahmer removed these sheets to find the head covered in maggots, whereupon he decapitated the body, cleaned the head and placed it in the refrigerator. Bradehoft’s torso was later acidified, along with those of two other victims killed within the previous month.
On July 22, 1991, Dahmer approached three men with an offer of $100 to accompany him to his apartment, drink beer and simply keep him company. One of the trio, 32-year-old Tracy Edwards, agreed to accompany him to his apartment. Upon entering Dahmer’s apartment, Edwards noted a foul odor and several boxes of muriatic acid on the floor, which Dahmer claimed to use for cleaning bricks. After some minor conversation, Edwards responded to Dahmer’s request to turn his head and view his tropical fish, whereupon Dahmer placed a handcuff upon his wrist. When Edwards asked, “What’s happening?” Dahmer unsuccessfully attempted to cuff his wrists together, then informed Edwards to accompany him to the bedroom to pose for nude pictures. Inside the bedroom, Edwards noted nude male posters on the wall and that a videotape of The Exorcist III was playing; he also noted a blue 57-gallon drum in the corner, from which a strong odor emanated.
Dahmer then brandished a knife and informed Edwards he intended to take nude pictures of him. In an attempt to appease Dahmer, Edwards unbuttoned his shirt, saying he would allow him to do so if he would remove the handcuffs and put the knife away. In response to this promise, Dahmer simply turned his attentions towards the TV; Edwards observed Dahmer rocking back and forth and chanting before turning his attentions back to him: he placed his head on Edwards’ chest, listened to his heartbeat and, with the knife pressed against his intended victim, informed Edwards he intended to eat his heart.
In continuous attempts to prevent Dahmer from attacking him, Edwards repeated assertions he was Dahmer’s friend and that he was not going to run away. (Edwards had decided he was going to either jump from a window or run through the unlocked front door upon the next available opportunity.) When Edwards next stated he needed to use the bathroom, he asked if they could sit with a beer in the living room, where there was air conditioning, to which Dahmer consented and the pair walked to the living room when Edwards exited the bathroom. Inside the living room, Edwards waited until he observed Dahmer to momentarily lapse from concentration before again requesting to use the bathroom. When Edwards rose from the couch, he noted Dahmer was not holding the handcuffs, whereupon Edwards punched him in the face, knocking Dahmer off balance, and ran through the front door.
At 11:30 p.m. on July 22, two Milwaukee police officers were flagged down by Tracy Edwards at the corner of North 25th Street. The officers noted Edwards had a handcuff attached to his wrist, whereupon Edwards explained to the officers that a “freak” had placed the handcuffs upon him and asked if the police could remove them. When the officers’ own handcuff keys failed to fit the brand of handcuffs, Edwards agreed to accompany the officers to the apartment where, Edwards stated, he had spent the previous five hours before escaping.
When the officers and Edwards arrived at Apartment 213, Dahmer invited the trio inside and acknowledged he had indeed placed the handcuffs upon Edwards, although he offered no explanation as to why he had done so. At this point, Edwards divulged to the officers that Dahmer had also brandished a large knife upon him and that this had happened in the bedroom. Dahmer made no comment to this revelation; indicating to one of the officers, Rolf Mueller, that the key to the handcuffs was in his bedside dresser in the bedroom. As Mueller entered the bedroom, Dahmer attempted to pass Mueller to himself retrieve the key, whereupon the second officer present, Robert Rauth, informed him to “back off.”
In the bedroom, Mueller noted there was indeed a large knife beneath the bed; he also saw an open drawer which, upon closer inspection, contained scores of Polaroid pictures—many of which were of human bodies in various stages of dismemberment. Mueller noted the decor indicated they had been taken in the very apartment in which they were standing. He walked into the living room to show them to his partner, uttering the words, “These are for real.”
When Dahmer saw that Mueller was holding several of his Polaroids, he fought with the officers in an effort to resist arrest. The officers quickly overpowered him, cuffed his hands behind his back and called a second squad car for backup. At this point, Mueller opened the refrigerator to reveal the freshly severed head of a black male placed upon the bottom shelf. As Dahmer lay pinned on the floor beneath Rauth, he turned his head towards the officers and muttered the words: “For what I did I should be dead.”
A more detailed search of the apartment, conducted by the Criminal Investigation Bureau, revealed a total of four severed heads in Dahmer’s kitchen. A total of seven skulls—some painted; some bleached—were found in Dahmer’s bedroom and inside a closet. In addition, investigators discovered collected blood drippings upon a tray at the bottom of Dahmer’s refrigerator, plus two human hearts and a portion of arm muscle each wrapped inside plastic bags upon the shelves. In Dahmer’s freezer, investigators discovered an entire torso, plus a bag of human organs and flesh stuck to the ice at the bottom. Elsewhere in Apartment 213, investigators discovered two entire skeletons, a pair of severed hands, two severed and preserved penises, a mummified scalp and, in the 57-gallon drum, three further dismembered torsos dissolving in the acid solution. A total of 74 Polaroid pictures detailing the dismemberment of Dahmer’s victims would also be found.
In reference to the recovery of body parts and artifacts at 924 North 25th Street, the chief medical examiner later stated: “It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene.”
Beginning in the early hours of July 23, 1991, Dahmer was questioned by Detective Patrick Kennedy as to the murders he had committed and the evidence found at his apartment. Over the following two weeks, Detective Kennedy and, later, Detective Patrick Murphy would conduct numerous interviews with Dahmer which, when combined, would total over 60 hours.
Dahmer waived his right to have a lawyer present throughout his interrogations, adding he wished to confess all as he had “created this horror and it only makes sense I do everything to put an end to it.” He readily admitted to having murdered 16 young men in Wisconsin since 1987, with one further victim—Steven Hicks—killed in Ohio back in 1978.
Most of the victims had been rendered unconscious prior to their murder, although some had died as a result of having acid or boiling water injected into their brain. (As he had no memory of the murder of Tuomi, he was unsure whether he was unconscious when beaten to death.) He readily admitted to performing necrophilia with several of his victims’ bodies, this included performing sexual acts with their viscera as he dismembered their bodies in his bathtub. The bones he wished to dispose of would be pulverized or acidified, with Soilex and bleach solutions used to aid in the preservation of the skeletons and skulls he wished to keep. In addition, he confessed to having consumed the hearts, livers, biceps and portions of thighs of several victims killed within the previous year.
Describing the increase in his rate of killing in the two months prior to his arrest, he stated he had been “completely swept along” with his compulsion to kill, adding: “It was an incessant and never-ending desire to be with someone at whatever cost. Someone good looking, really nice looking. It just filled my thoughts all day long.”
When asked as to why he had preserved a total of seven skulls and the entire skeletons of two victims, Dahmer stated he had been in the process of constructing a private altar of victims’ skulls which he had intended to adorn upon the black table located in his living room and upon which he had photographed the bodies of many of his victims. This display of skulls was to be adorned at each side with the complete skeletons of Ernest Miller and Oliver Lacy. The four severed heads found in his kitchen were to be removed of all flesh and used in this altar, as was the skull of at least one future victim. Incense sticks were to be placed at each end of the black table, above which Dahmer intended to place a large blue lamp with extending blue globe lights. The entire construction was to be placed before a window covered with a black, opaque shower curtain, in front of which Dahmer intended to sit in a black leather chair.
When asked in a November 18, 1991 interview who the altar was dedicated to, Dahmer replied: “Myself … It was a place where I could feel at home.” He further described his intended altar as a “place for meditation,” from where he believed he could draw a sense of power, adding: “If this [his arrest] had happened six months later, that’s what they would have found.”
On July 25, 1991, Dahmer was charged with four counts of murder. By August 22, he would be charged with a further 11 murders committed in the state of Wisconsin. On September 14, investigators in Ohio, having uncovered hundreds of bone fragments in woodland behind the address in which Dahmer had confessed to killing his first victim, formally identified two molars and a vertebra with X-ray records of Steven Mark Hicks. Three days later, Dahmer would be charged by authorities in Ohio with the murder of Steven Hicks.
Dahmer was not charged with the attempted murder of Tracy Edwards, nor with the murder of Steven Tuomi. He was not charged with Tuomi’s murder because the Milwaukee County District Attorney only brought charges where murder could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and Dahmer had no memory of actually committing this particular murder, for which no physical evidence of the crime existed. At a scheduled preliminary hearing on January 13, 1992, Dahmer pleaded guilty but insane to 15 counts of murder.
The trial of Jeffrey Dahmer began on January 30, 1992. He was tried in Milwaukee for the 15 counts of murder before Judge Laurence Gram. By pleading guilty on January 13 to the charges brought against him, Dahmer had waived his rights to an initial trial to establish guilt (as defined in Wisconsin law). The issue debated by opposing counsels at Dahmer’s trial was to determine whether he suffered from either a mental or a personality disorder: the prosecution claiming that any disorders did not deprive Dahmer of the ability to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to deprive him of the ability to resist his impulses; the defense arguing that Dahmer suffered from a mental disease and was driven by obsessions and impulses he was unable to control.
Defense experts argued that Dahmer was insane due to his necrophilic drive; his compulsion to have sexual encounters with corpses. Defense expert Dr. Fred Berlin testified that Dahmer was unable to conform his conduct at the time that he committed the crimes because he was suffering from paraphilia or, more specifically, necrophilia. Dr. Judith Becker, a professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, was the second expert witness for the defense; Becker also diagnosed Dahmer with necrophilia. The final defense expert to testify, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carl Wahlstrom, diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder.
The prosecution rejected the defense’s argument that Dahmer suffered from necrophilia. Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick testified that Dahmer did not suffer from primary necrophilia because he preferred live sexual partners as evidenced by his efforts to create unresistant, submissive sexual partners devoid of rational thought and to whose needs he did not have to cater. Resnick diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder. Another prosecution expert to testify, Dr. Fred Fosdel, testified to his belief that Dahmer was without mental disease or defect at the time he committed the murders. He described Dahmer as a calculating and cunning individual, although he did state his belief that Dahmer was not a sadist. Dr. Fosdel diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder.
The final witness to appear for the prosecution, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz, began his testimony on February 12. Dietz testified that he did not believe Dahmer to be suffering from any mental disease or defect at the time that he committed the crimes, stating: “Dahmer went to great lengths to be alone with his victim and to have no witnesses.” He explained that there was ample evidence that Dahmer prepared in advance for each murder, therefore, his crimes were not impulsive. He also felt that Dahmer’s habit of becoming intoxicated prior to committing each of the murders was significant, stating: “If he had a compulsion to kill, he would not have to drink alcohol. He had to drink alcohol to overcome his inhibition, to do the crime which he would rather not do.” Dietz diagnosed Dahmer with substance use disorder, paraphilia, and personality disorder not otherwise specified, with borderline and schizotypal features.
Two court appointed mental health professionals—testifying independently of either prosecution or defense—were forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Palermo and clinical psychologist Dr. Samuel Friedman. Palermo stated that the murders were the result of a “pent-up aggression within himself [Dahmer]. He killed those men because he wanted to kill the source of his homosexual attraction to them. In killing them, he killed what he hated in himself.” Palermo diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder. Friedman, who also diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder, testified that it was a longing for companionship that caused Dahmer to kill. He stated, “Mr. Dahmer is not psychotic.” He spoke kindly of Dahmer, describing him as “Amiable, pleasant to be with, courteous, with a sense of humor, conventionally handsome and charming in manner. He was, and still is, a bright young man.”
The trial lasted two weeks. On February 14, both counsels delivered their closing arguments to the jury. Each counsel was allowed to speak for two hours. Defense attorney Gerald Boyle argued first. Repeatedly harking to the testimony of the mental health professionals—almost all of whom had agreed Dahmer was suffering from a mental disease—Boyle argued that Dahmer’s compulsive killings had been a result of “a sickness he discovered, not chose.” Boyle portrayed Dahmer as a desperately lonely and profoundly sick individual “so out of control he could not conform his conduct any more.”
Following the defense counsel’s 75-minute closing argument, Michael McCann delivered his closing argument for the prosecution, describing Dahmer as a sane man, in full control of his actions, who simply strove to avoid detection. McCann argued that the act of murder was committed in hostility, anger, resentment, frustration, or hatred, and that the 15 victims for whose murder he was tried “died merely to afford Dahmer a period of sexual pleasure.” McCann further argued that by pleading guilty but insane to the charges, Dahmer was seeking to escape responsibility for his crimes.
On February 15, court reconvened to hear the verdict: Dahmer was ruled to be sane and not suffering from a mental disorder at the time of each of the 15 murders for which he was tried, although in each count, two of the 12 jurors signified their dissent. On the first two counts, Dahmer was sentenced to life imprisonment plus ten years, with the remaining 13 counts carrying a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment plus 70 years. The death penalty was not an option for Judge Gram to consider at the penalty phase as the State of Wisconsin had abolished capital punishment in 1853.
Upon hearing his son’s sentencing, Dahmer’s father, Lionel, and stepmother, Shari, requested to be allowed a 10-minute private meeting with their son before he was transferred to the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage to begin his sentence. This request was granted and the trio exchanged hugs and well-wishes before Dahmer was escorted away to begin his sentence. Three months after his conviction for 15 murders in Milwaukee, Dahmer was extradited to Ohio to be tried for the murder of his first victim, Steven Hicks. Dahmer again pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to a 16th term of life imprisonment on May 1, 1992.
Upon sentencing, Dahmer was transferred to the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin. For the first year of his incarceration, Dahmer was placed in solitary confinement due to concerns for his physical safety should he come into contact with fellow inmates. With Dahmer’s consent, after one year in solitary confinement, he was transferred to a less secure unit within the Columbia Correctional Institution, where he was assigned a two-hour daily work detail cleaning the toilet block.
Shortly after completing his lengthy confessions in 1991, Dahmer had requested to Detective Patrick Murphy that he be given a copy of the Bible. This request was granted and Dahmer gradually devoted himself to religion and became a born-again Christian. In May, 1994, Dahmer was baptized by Roy Ratcliff, a minister in the Church of Christ and a graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, in the prison whirlpool. Following his baptism, Ratcliff visited Dahmer on a weekly basis up until November 1994. Dahmer and Ratcliff regularly discussed the prospect of death and Dahmer questioned whether he was sinning against God by continuing to live.
In July 1994, a fellow inmate, Osvaldo Durruthy, attempted to slash Dahmer’s throat with a razor embedded in a toothbrush as Dahmer returned to his cell from Roy Ratcliff’s weekly church service conducted in the prison chapel. Dahmer received superficial wounds and was not seriously hurt in this incident.
According to Dahmer’s family, he had long been ready to die, and accepted any punishment which he may endure in prison. In addition to his father and stepmother retaining regular contact, Dahmer’s mother, Joyce, retained regular contact with her son (although prior to his arrest, the two had not seen each other since Christmas 1983). Joyce Dahmer related that in her weekly phone calls, whenever she expressed concerns for her son’s physical well-being, Dahmer would respond with comments to the effect of: “It doesn’t matter, Mom. I don’t care if something happens to me.”
On the morning of November 28, 1994, Dahmer left his cell to conduct his assigned work detail. Accompanying him were two fellow inmates: Jesse Anderson and Christopher Scarver. The trio were left unsupervised in the showers of the prison gym for approximately 20 minutes. At approximately 8:10 a.m. Dahmer was discovered on the floor of the bathrooms of the gym suffering from extreme head and facial wounds; he had been severely bludgeoned about the head and face with a 20-inch (51 cm) metal bar. His head had also been repeatedly struck against the wall in the assault. Although Dahmer was still alive and was rushed to a nearby hospital, he was pronounced dead one hour later. Jesse Anderson had also been savagely attacked with the same instrument and himself died two days later from his wounds. Their assailant, 25-year-old Christopher Scarver—serving a life sentence for a murder committed in 1990—informed authorities he had first attacked Dahmer with the metal bar as he (Dahmer) was cleaning a staff locker room. According to Scarver, Dahmer did not yell or make any noise as he was attacked. Scarver then attacked Anderson as he (Anderson) cleaned an inmate locker room. Scarver was adamant he had not planned the attacks in advance.
Upon learning of his death, Dahmer’s mother, Joyce Flint, responded angrily to the media: “Now is everybody happy? Now that he’s bludgeoned to death, is that good enough for everyone?” The response of the families of Dahmer’s victims was mixed, although it appears most were pleased with his death. The district attorney who prosecuted Dahmer cautioned against turning Scarver into a folk hero, noting that Dahmer’s death was still murder. On May 15, 1995, Christopher Scarver was sentenced to two additional terms of life imprisonment for the murders of Dahmer and Anderson. Dahmer had stated in his will he wished for no services to be conducted and that he wished to be cremated. In September 1995, Dahmer’s body was cremated, and his ashes divided between his parents.
- May, 21, 1960
- West Allis, Wisconsin
- November, 28, 1994
- Portage, Wisconsin
Cause of Death
- Cremated. After a court battle, his parents, who are divorced, each received half of his remains.