Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was an American serial killer and sex offender. Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991.
Dahmer was born in West Allis, Wisconsin on May 21, 1960, the son of Joyce Annette and Lionel Herbert Dahmer, an analytical chemist. Seven years later, his brother David was born. Joyce Dahmer reportedly had a difficult pregnancy with her elder son. When Jeffrey was eight years old, he moved with his family to Bath, Ohio. Dahmer grew increasingly withdrawn and uncommunicative between the ages of 10 and 15, showing little interest in any hobbies or social interactions. He biked around his neighbourhood looking for dead animals, which he dissected at home (or in the woods near his home). In one instance, he put a dog's head on a stake.
Though fundamentally an outcast at Revere High School, Dahmer nonetheless became something of a cult figure among some students due to his impressions of his mother's interior decorator, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Dahmer began drinking in his teens and was an alcoholic by the time of his high school graduation. In 1977, Lionel and Joyce Dahmer divorced. Dahmer attended The Ohio State University, but dropped out after one quarter, having failed to attend most of his classes. He was drunk for the majority of the term.
Dahmer's father then forced him to enlist in the U.S. Army. Dahmer did well at first, but he was discharged after two years because of his alcoholism. When the U.S. Army discharged Dahmer in 1981, he was provided with a plane ticket to anywhere in the country. Dahmer later told police he could not 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 soon kicked out for drinking. After coming home, he continued to drink heavily, and he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct later in 1981.
In 1982, Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis, where he lived for six years. During this time, his behaviour grew increasingly strange. His grandmother once found a fully dressed male mannequin in his closet; Dahmer had stolen it from a store. On another occasion, she found a .357 Magnum under his bed. Terrible smells came from the basement; Dahmer told his father that he had brought home a dead squirrel and dissolved it with chemicals. He was arrested twice for indecent exposure, in 1982 and 1986; in his second offence, he masturbated in front of two boys.
In the summer of 1988, Dahmer's grandmother asked him to move out because of his late nights, his strange behaviour, and the foul smells from the basement. He then found an apartment on Milwaukee's West side, closer to his job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. On September 26, 1988, one day after moving into his apartment, he was arrested for drugging and sexually fondling a 13-year-old boy in Milwaukee. He was sentenced to five years probation and one year in a work release camp. He was required to register as a sex offender. Dahmer was paroled from the work release camp two months early, and he soon moved into a new apartment. Shortly thereafter, he began a string of murders that ended with his arrest in 1991.
Dahmer committed his first murder in the summer of 1978, at the age of 18. His father was away on business and his mother had moved out, taking his brother with her; Dahmer was left behind, alone. That June, Dahmer picked up a hitch-hiker named Stephen Hicks and offered to drink beer with him back at his father's house, planning to eventually have sex with him. When Hicks tried to leave, Dahmer bludgeoned Hicks to death with a 10lb. dumbbell, striking the back of his head, later saying he had committed the crime because "the guy wanted to leave and didn't want him to."
Dahmer buried the body in the backyard. Nine years passed before he killed again; in September 1987, Dahmer picked up 26-year-old Steven Tuomi at a bar and killed him on impulse; he later said he had no memory of committing the crime. After the Tuomi murder, Dahmer continued to kill sporadically: two more murders in 1988, and another in early 1989, usually picking up his victims in gay bars and having sex with them before killing them. He kept the skull of one of his victims, Anthony Sears, until he was caught. In May 1990, he moved out of his grandmother's house for the last time and into an apartment that later became infamous: Apartment 213, 924 North 25th Street, Milwaukee. Dahmer picked up the pace of his killing: four more murders before the end of 1990, two more in February and April 1991, and another in May 1991.
In the early morning hours of May 27, 1991, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of the boy whom Dahmer had molested in 1988) was discovered on the street, wandering naked, heavily under the influence of drugs and bleeding from his rectum. Two young women from the neighbourhood found the dazed boy and called 911. Dahmer chased his victim down and tried to take him away, but the women stopped him. Dahmer told John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish, police officers dispatched to the scene, that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend, and that they had an argument while drinking. Against the protests of the two women who had called 911, who recognized him from the neighbourhood and insisted that he was a child and could not speak English, the officers turned him over to Dahmer.
The officers later reported smelling a strange scent while inside Dahmer's apartment, but did not investigate it. The smell was the body of Tony Hughes, Dahmer's previous victim, decomposing in the bedroom. The officers did not make any attempt to verify Sinthasomphone's age or identity, nor locate someone who could communicate with him, and failed to run a background check that would have revealed Dahmer being a convicted child molester still under probation. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir.
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 19. Dahmer got the idea that he could turn his victims into "zombies" — completely submissive, eternally youthful sexual partners – and attempted to do so by drilling holes into their skulls and injecting hydrochloric acid or boiling water into the frontal lobe area of their brains with a large syringe, usually while the victim was still alive. Other residents of the Oxford Apartments complex noticed terrible smells coming from Apartment 213, as well as the thumps of falling objects and the occasional buzzing of a power saw. Unlike many serial killers, Dahmer killed victims from a variety of racial backgrounds.
As one officer subdued Dahmer, the other opened the refrigerator and found a human head. Further searching of the apartment revealed three more severed heads, multiple photographs of murdered victims and human remains, severed hands and penises, and photographs of dismembered victims and human remains in his refrigerator. The story of Dahmer's arrest and the inventory in his apartment quickly gained notoriety: several corpses were stored in acid-filled vats, 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. Seven skulls were found in the apartment. A human heart was found in the freezer.
Dahmer was indicted on 17 murder charges, later reduced to 15. Dahmer was not charged in the attempted murder of Edwards. His trial began on January 30, 1992. With evidence overwhelmingly against him, Dahmer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial lasted two weeks.
The court found Dahmer sane and guilty on 15 counts of murder and sentenced him to 15 life terms, totaling 957 years in prison, which was the maximum penalty available as Wisconsin abolished capital punishment in 1853. At his sentencing hearing, Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, and said that he wished for his own death. In May of that year, Dahmer was extradited to Ohio, where he entered a plea of guilty for the murder of his first victim, Stephen Hicks.
Dahmer was attacked twice in prison, the first time in July 1994. An inmate attempted to slash Dahmer's throat with a razor blade while Dahmer was returning to his cell from a church service in the prison chapel. Dahmer escaped the incident with superficial wounds. While doing janitorial work in the prison gym, Dahmer and another inmate, Jesse Anderson, were severely beaten by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver with a 20-inch (51cm) metal bar that Scarver had removed from a piece of exercise equipment in the prison weight room. Dahmer died of severe head trauma while on his way to the hospital in an ambulance. Anderson died two days later from his wounds.
In 1994, Lionel Dahmer published a book, "A Father's Story", and donated a portion of the proceeds from his book to the victims' families. Most of the families showed support for Lionel Dahmer and his wife, Shari. He has retired from his career as an analytical chemist and resides with his wife in Medina County, Ohio. Lionel Dahmer is an advocate for creationism, 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. Jeffrey's mother and Lionel Dahmer's first wife, Joyce (Flint), died of cancer in 2000. Jeffrey's younger brother, David, changed his last name and lives in anonymity.
In 2005 Willem H. J. Martens and George B. Palermo suggested that Dahmer suffered from antisocial personality disorder and have theorized that loneliness plays a significant role in the development and continuation of violent, antisocial attitudes and behaviour.
In January 2007, evidence surfaced potentially linking Dahmer to Adam Walsh's 1981 abduction and murder in Florida. However, Adam's father, John Walsh, believed that another serial killer, Ottis Toole, committed the crime. When interviewed about Adam Walsh in the early 1990's, Dahmer repeatedly denied involvement in the crime, even stating; "I've told you everything -- how I killed them, how I cooked them, who I ate. Why wouldn't I tell you if I did someone else?" In 2008, Florida police declared the Walsh case closed, naming Toole, who died in prison in 1996, as the killer.
"My consuming lust was to experience their bodies. I viewed them as objects, as strangers. It is hard for me to believe a human being could have done what I've done." - Jeffrey Dahmer
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