I remember when I was younger, in the early 1990’s, hearing about the arrest of a serial killer in Milwaukee. It was and is still big news. My extended family lives in the Milwaukee area, and my uncle and great uncle would actually go to the same bar for lunch that at night was a hunting ground for Jeffrey Dahmer. During the day the bar was offering regular lunch service, at night it became a pick up bar for the homosexual community.
Because I was only 12/13 at the time, I didn’t fully understand the terms, serial killer, cannibal, or homosexual. But I learned rather quickly what all of those were, and what kind of a monster that Jeffrey Dahmer actually was. Let’s take a deeper dive into Jeffrey this week and learn more about him and his victims, and crimes.
Jeffrey was born in Milwaukee, WI, May 1960. His parents, Joyce and Lionel, would have a second son after Jeffrey. It was noted that Jeffrey showed signs of abandonment in his early years due to his father being in school and his mother being a hypochondriac and staying in bed most of the time. Jeffrey himself said that he wasn’t sure of the ‘solidity of his family’ during that time. His parents would often argue when they were together.
As a young child Jeffrey enjoyed collecting animals, large bugs at first and then it progressed to dismembering dead animals he found in the wooded areas behind his home. He was fascinated with the bones, and wanted to see how they all fit together. He would collect these items into large jars and store them in the family shed in the back of the home.
In 1966, the Dahmer family would move to Ohio, where Lionel started worked as an analytical chemist. Jeffrey’s brother, David, was born in Ohio.
By the age of 14, Jeffrey was drinking beer and hard alcohol during the daytime, even at school, he called it his “medicine”. He earned average grades, but was a polite and highly intelligent student. Jeffrey was a keen tennis player, and even played in the school band.
Reaching puberty, Jeffrey discovered he was gay, and had a brief relationship with another boy, although they never had intercourse. It was during this time that he began to develop fantasies of completely controlling and dominating a completely submissive male partner. His fantasies began to grow darker.
In 1977 his grades began to decline. His parents hired a tutor, with little success. Around this same time, his parents chose to amicably divorce.
In May 1978, Jeffrey graduated from school, and his parents divorce was final in July of 1978. Joyce and David, moved to Chippewa Falls, WI to live with relatives, Jeffrey and his father remained in Ohio.
Jeffrey committed his first murder in 1978. Three weeks after graduation. At this time he was living alone in the family home, his mother and brother were in Wisconsin, his father was living at a local motel.
Steven Mark Hicks, 19, was a hitchhiker. He was making his way to a rock concert, when Jeffrey lured him to the house on the promise of having a few beers. A bare chested Steven attracted Jeffrey, but when Steven began talking about girls, Jeffrey knew his advances would be rebuffed. After a few hours of drinking and talking, Steven was ready to leave, but Jeffrey wasn’t ready for him to go. So Jeffrey went behind him and hit him in the head twice with a ten pound dumbbell, when Steven was unconscious, Jeffrey then strangled him. Jeffrey stripped him naked, masturbated over his body, and then the next day took his body down to the basement where he dissected it. He buried the remains in the backyard. Several weeks later Jeffrey unearthed them, and pared the flesh from the bones, dissolved it in acid and flushed it down the toilet. The bones he smashed with a hammer before scattering in the woods.
A brief time passed, and Jeffrey enrolled in college, and then the Army. Due to his heavy drinking, he failed college and was honorably discharged from the Army. Returning back to Ohio, to live with his father and stepmother, Jeffrey was given chores to do until he found work. He still continued to drink heavily, and eventually he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. Lionel suggested Jeffrey go live with his grandmother in West Allis, WI.
Jeffrey lived with his Grandmother for a few years, he abided by her rules, and when he was laid off of work he lived off of whatever money she gave him. Eventually he got work on the night shift at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory in Milwaukee.
Jeffrey started his crimes while living with his grandmother.
- November 1987 – Steven Tuomi (25) went to the Ambassador Hotel with Jeffrey. Jeffrey claimed that he didn’t intend to kill Steven, he simply wanted to drug him and explore his body. In the morning Jeffrey woke to find Steven lying beneath him, his chest caved in and black and blue. There was some blood at the corner of his mouth. He didn’t remember killing Steven.
- Jeffrey began to actively look for victims now. January 1988 – James Doxtator (14) was lured to Jeffrey’s grandmother’s house to pose for nude photos for $50. They engaged in sexual activity. His body remained in the cellar for 1 week before dismembering it and disposing of it in the trash. He bleached the skull and used it for oral sex until it became to brittle.
- March 1988 – Richard Guerrero (22) met Jeffrey at a gay club and went home with him to have sex for $50. After he strangled and murdered him, he performed oral sex on the corpse. He dismembered the corpse, and disposed of it in the trash, keeping the skull for a few weeks until also destroying it.
- Since he kept bringing men home to his grandmother’s house and there was a smell coming from the basement and garage, she asked him to move out in September of 1988. Shortly after moving out he was arrested a couple of times and found himself back with his grandmother. March 1989 – Anthony Sears (24) went home with Jeffrey, where they had oral sex and then Jeffrey strangled Anthony. He dismembered the body but kept his head and genitals in acetone. He would keep this trophy until the end.
- In May of 1990 he moved into his own apartment on North 25th Street in Milwaukee. Raymond Smith (32) was a male prostitute and he went to Jeffrey’s apartment for sex with a $50 payment promise. After drugging him, Jeffrey strangled Raymond. The next day Polaroids were taken of Raymond in suggestive positions. He was later dismembered and his body was boiled in Soilex and then disposed of. He kept his skull.
- June 1990 – Edward Smith (27) went to Jeffrey’s apartment, and was drugged and strangled. This time, Jeffrey kept his body in his freezer to see if freezing the body would help lessen the brittleness of the bones. Unfortunately it did not work, and Jeffrey was unable to keep the skull of this victim.
- By September of 1990 – Ernest Miller (22) met Jeffrey outside a bookstore. He agreed to go back to his place to let Jeffrey listen to his heart and stomach. Giving him a drink with only two sleeping pills in it, Jeffrey had to kill Ernest by slashing is carotid artery. He took suggestive photos of the body and then dismembered in the bathtub. He wrapped his heart, biceps and portions of his flesh in bags and stored them in the freezer for later consumption. To preserve the skeleton, he soaked the bones in a light bleach solution for 24 hours, and then let them dry out for over a week. The skull he painted and coated in enamel.
- September 1990 – Three weeks later, David Thomas (22) went to Jeffrey’s apartment for drinks and a promise of money for photographs. After drugging him, Jeffrey wasn’t attracted to him, but killed him anyways. He kept Polaroids of his dismemberment, but didn’t retain any portion of his body.
- February 1991 – Curtis Straughter (17) was at a bus stop when Jeffrey lured him home to pose for nude photographs, and more for sexual intercourse. This time, Jeffrey drugged him, cuffed his hands behind his back, and strangled him. He photographed the dismemberment process, keep his hands, skull, and genitals.
- April 1991 – Errol Lindsey (19) was walking and Jeffrey lured him to the apartment. He drugged Errol and then drilled a hole into his head and poured in hydrochloric acid. He came up with this plan hoping that it would create a permanent, submissive state. When waking up from the drugging, Errol said he had a headache and asked what time it was. Jeffrey drugged him again and then strangled him. He decapitated the body and retained the head.
By 1991 the residents of the apartment building complained to the manager about smells and noises coming from the apartment, unit 213. The manager spoke to Jeffrey about this and was told it was his freezer that broke and things spoiled. Another time he said it was tropical fish that died and said he would take care of it right away.
- May 1991 – Konerak Sinthasomphone (14), ironically Konerak was the younger brother of the boy that Jeffrey had molested in 1988. He offered the boy money to pose for photographs. He reluctantly accepted and Jeffrey drugged him before performing oral sex on him. Jeffrey drilled a hole into the frontal lobe and poured hydrochloric acid into his skull.
- Before the boy became unconscious, he led him into the bedroom where another body rested, Tony Hughes (31) had been dead for three days lay on the floor. While the boy slept in his bed, Jeffrey lay next to him, but continued to drink. He left the apartment to drink at a bar and then buy more alcohol.
- In the early morning hours, Jeffrey returned home to find Konerak sitting outside naked. Three women were standing there clearly distressed by the boy. Jeffrey approached them and said this was his friend, and used an alias of John Hmong. He tried to take him back into the apartment but the women said that they called 911. The police arrived.
- Jeffrey was call when talking to police, he said that “John” was his 19 year old boyfriend who had drank too much after a quarrel. This happened whenever he drank too much and the night before he had drank Jack Daniels. The women tried to point out that Konerak was resisting returning with Jeffrey, and that he was bleeding on his genitals and from his rectum. The police told her to “Butt out!” and to “Shut the hell up” and to not interfere.
- The police covered Konerak with a towel and escorted him back to Jeffrey’s apartment. Police saw the pictures taken the night before, one of the officers claimed he didn’t smell anything at the apartment. The other said he had noticed a slight smell of excrement. Most likely from the decomposing body in the other room. They looked around the apartment to see if they could locate the smell, but missed the body entirely. They left by stating to take good care of Konerak. The police wrote this incident up as a domestic dispute.
- After the police left, Jeffrey injected more acid into Konerak, but it proved fatal. He took the next day off work to dismember both bodies and kept the skulls from each of them.
- June 1991 – Matt Turner (20) was picked up in a Chicago bus station. He accepted the invite to go to Milwaukee for a professional photo shoot. When arriving at his apartment, Matt was drugged, strangled and dismembered. His head and organs were placed in bags into the freezer.
- July 1991 – Jeremiah Weinberger (23) was from Chicago and he agreed to go to Milwaukee to spend the weekend with Jeffrey. Jeremiah was drugged and Jeffrey twice poured boiling water into his skull. This put him into a coma and he died two days later.
- July 1991 – Ten days after Jeremiah died, Oliver Lacy (24) agreed to pose nude for photographs and went to his apartment. They engaged in tentative sexual activity, and then Oliver was drugged. Jeffrey wanted to spend more time with Oliver as he was still unconscious, so he called into his work to ask for the day off which was granted; however he was suspended the next day.
- After strangling Oliver Lacy, Jeffrey had sex with the corpse, and then dismembered the body. He kept his head and heart in the fridge and put the skeleton in the freezer.
- Four days later Jeffrey was fired from the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. After receiving this news, Jeffrey went out and met Joseph Bradehoft (25). He was shortly strangled and left on the bed for two days. When removing the sheet that covered him, Jeffrey saw that the head was covered in maggots. He immediately decapitated the body, cleaned the head and put it in the refrigerator. He acidified Joseph, Oliver, and Jeremiah.
- July 22, 1991 – Tracy Edwards (32) was out with two other friends and they were drinking. Jeffrey approached the trio and offered them $100 to pose for nude photos, drink beer, and spend time with him. Tracy was the only one who agreed. Tracy noticed unusual things in the apartment, boxes of hydrochloric acid, and the overwhelming smell.
- After some minor conversation Jeffrey put a handcuff on Tracy’s wrist. Not comfortable with this he asked to have it removed. Jeffrey asked him to follow him to the bedroom to pose for nude photos. Entering the bedroom, he noticed Exorcist III was playing on a video tape, posters of naked men on the walls, and a 57 gallon drum in the corner, emitting a foul odor.
- Jeffrey brandished a knife and said that Tracy was going to have nude pictures taken. Trying to appease him, he agreed if he removed the handcuff and put the knife away. Jeffrey placed his head on Tracy’s chest and listened to his heart beat. He then said “I am going to eat your heart.”
- In an attempt to appease Jeffrey, Tracy repeatedly told him he was his friend and wouldn’t run away. He asked to use the bathroom and then to sit with a beer in the living room where it was air conditioned. Tracy had already planned to escape through the unlocked front door or the window as soon as possible. When Jeffrey was distracted Tracy asked to use the bathroom again, and this time, he punched Jeffrey and momentarily knocked him off balance. Tracy then ran out the door.
- Flagging down police Tracy approached them with one hand in a handcuff, and informed them of what happened. He asked if they could remove the handcuff but their keys were not the same brand. Tracy agreed to accompany them to the apartment where he spent the last five hours before escaping.
- The trio arrived at the door to apartment 213. Jeffrey invited them into the house and admitted that he had put the cuff on Tracy. He didn’t provide a reason why. He said the key was in this bedside table, and offered to get it. Tracy informed police there was a large knife in the bedroom and one of the officers told Jeffrey to “back off”.
- Officer Mueller, did enter the room and found the knife under the bed. He also found a drawer open with dozens of Polaroid pictures. Pictures of Dahmer’s victims in various stages of dismemberment. Noticing these pictures were taken in this very same apartment, he collected a few to show his partner saying, “These are for real.”
- Seeing his Polaroids in their hands, Jeffrey fought with them to resist arrest. Officers overpowered him, and handcuffed him. They also called another unit for backup. At this point the two officers opened the fridge and noticed the remains in his fridge. Dahmer said, “For what I’ve done I should be dead.”
Milwaukee’s Criminal Investigation Bureau did a full search of the apartment. The Chief Medical Examiner stated that “It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene.” What investigators found included:
- A total of 4 severed heads in the kitchen.
- A total of 7 skulls, some painted, some bleached in the bedroom and a closet.
- Collected blood drippings on a tray at the bottom of the refrigerator
- 2 human hearts, and a portion of arm muscle each wrapped in plastic bags on the shelves.
- An entire torso in the freezer, plus a bag of human organs and flesh stuck to the ice at the bottom.
- 2 Entire skeletons, a pair of severed hands, two severed and preserved penises, a mummified scalp
- In the 57 gallon drum, they found three dismembered torsos dissolving in acid.
- There were a total of 74 Polaroid pictures detailing the dismemberment of his victims.
Starting July 23, 1991, and the following two weeks, Jeffrey confessed his crimes to police. The interviews totaled over 60 hours. He waived his right to an attorney during his interrogation.
He admitted that he committed 16 murders in Wisconsin, and 1 in Ohio. He also admitted that he committed necrophilia with their remains, even with their viscera. He confessed to eating portions of their internal organs and flesh. “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.”
He was eventually charged with 15 counts of first degree murder. The one murder in Ohio would have to be tried separately, and the murder of Steven Tuomi could not be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Jeffrey Dahmer plead guilty but insane to his crimes. Jeffrey was found sane, and guilty of his crimes. He stated to the court: “I know my time in prison will be terrible, but I deserve whatever I get because of what I have done. Thank you, your honor, and I am prepared for your sentence, which I know will be the maximum. I ask for no consideration.”
The judge sentenced him to life imprisonment plus ten years for the first two counts, the remaining 13 counts carrying a mandatory sentence of life plus 70 years. The death penalty was not an option as Wisconsin had abolished capital punishment in 1853.
Lionel Dahmer and his wife Shari were in the court during the sentencing. He requested a ten minute meeting with his son, which was granted. They hugged and said their well wishes before Jeffrey was transferred to Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, WI.
Three months after his conviction in Milwaukee, Jeffrey was extradited to Ohio for the murder of Steven Hicks. He again pleaded guilty and was sentenced to another life sentence in May of 1992.
November 28, 1994 Jeffrey left his cell to do his assigned work detail, he was working in the showers with two other inmates, Jesse Anderson and Christopher Scarver. They had been unsupervised for 20 minutes and when guards saw him again, Jeffrey was laying on the floor, with his head severely bludgeoned, he was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead one hour later. According to his will he wanted no services held and to be cremated. His ashes were divided between his parents.
Joyce Flint, Jeffrey’s mother, died in 2000 from cancer. His brother David, changed his last name and now lives in anonymity. Lionel Dahmer is retired and living with his second wife. They refuse to change their names and state that they still loved Jeffrey in spite of his crimes. Lionel wrote a book, A Father’s Story, and donated a portion of the proceeds to the victim’s families.
While I remember the case because of the aftermath, I also recall the families of these victims, only seeming to care after their family member was identified as a victim after Jeffrey’s arrest. Most of the families had not filed a missing person’s report with police, but were furious in court when confronting Jeffrey. While I am not stating that what Jeffrey did was acceptable nor right, what these family members were doing in memory of their “loved” one was not right either. If they were not important to you during their life, they shouldn’t be important to you after their death.
The apartment building where Jeffrey Dahmer lived has since been torn down.
My heart does go out to Jeffrey’s father and stepmother, who seemed to truly love their son, despite what he did with his life. I hope they have been able to move on from this tragedy.
To the victim’s and the families that did lose a loved one, I also hope that time has helped them cope and they have found peace.
Be strong, make good choices, stay safe