Two Milwaukee, Wisconsin, police officers making their rounds shortly before midnight on July 22, 1991, spotted a man running down the 2500 block of Kilbourn Avenue in the city's tenement district. His wrists in handcuffs, the young man frantically flagged down the squad car. Identifying himself as Tracy Edwards, he explained that he was fleeing from the apartment of Jeffrey L. Dahmer.
Dahmer, Jeffrey Lionel
A 31 year old factory worker who had threatened to kill him "and eat his heart out." Edward's had been held captive for five terrifying hours.
Edwards, who insisted that he was not a homosexual, told police that he managed to escape by gaining Dahmer's trust during a four-hour conversation. "He underestimated me," the 32-year-old man said. "God sent me there to take care of the situation."
Edwards led the officers to Dahmer's one room apartment at 924 North 25th Street. Inside they found an apartment littered with human remains. There were skulls in the freezer, torsos strewn about and photographs of dead men, who had been mutilated or completely dismembered. After inspecting the apartment, Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen hinted that the remains of the victims "were not inconsistent with cannibalism."
Jeffrey Dahmer, a shy social outcast who had been arrested by the Milwaukee authorities on at least three prior occasions for disorderly conduct, assault, and molestation suddenly became the focus of international attention as the gruesome crimes of this serial killer unfolded. Police identified the remains of eleven victims in Dahmer's apartment, but there was strong evidence that Dahmer may have committed as many as seventeen killings in Ohio, Wisconsin, and as far away as West Germany, where he had been assigned briefly while in the Army. "This guy is really an aberration even of the abnormal." commented a Milwaukee mental health professional. "His behavior goes one step beyond.......Each element of the case takes you one step further into the bizarre."
A chilling psychological profile of a painfully insecure, alcohol dependent loner quickly began to emerge. Dahmer spent much of his early years growing up in rural Bath Township, Ohio. As a youth he appeared to be deeply troubled by the deteriorating marriage of his parents. His mother, Joyce A. Flint, was considered mentally unstable by friends and acquaintances. After her divorce, Mrs. Flint went to live in Fresno, California where she now works as a case manager for the Central Valley AiDS Team.
In school Dahmer defied conventional behavior and was described by his high school prom date as a likely candidate for suicide. "We always saw him as the type to commit suicide, not harm somebody else." recalled Bridget Gelger. At his parents' urging Dahmer entered the military in 1978 and was stationed as a US Army medic in Baumholder, West Germany from July 1979 until his discharge in March 1981.
Recalling his association with Dahmer in West Germany, former barracks roommate David J Rodriguez remembered Dahmer's incredible drinking binges. "He'd drink until he passed out. Beginning Friday afternoon, he'd drink all days out, wake up, and start drinking again. He'd have his headphones on, and he'd be in his own little world."
Some weekends Dahmer simply disappeared. Where he went and what he did interested no one until he suddenly bust into the public eye as one of America's most horrendous killers. When news of the Milwaukee murders reached police in Germany, and investigation was launched to determine if Dahmer had been involved in nine unsolved homicides there.
Following his military discharge, Dahmer returned to Bath Township after a brief stopover in Miami, Florida. In October 1981, the Bath police charged him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he was found with an open bottle of alcohol at a local Ramada Inn. It was the first time Dahmer ran afoul of the law.
After visiting his grandmother, Catherine Dahmer, in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, Dahmer decided to take up permanent residence in Wisconsin. He found employment wit6h the Ambrosia Chocolate Company as a night laborer, but his work habits were suspect and he was reprimanded for sleeping in the lunchroom and frequent tardiness.
On March 10, 1987 Dahmer was convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior after publicly urinating in front of several children, and was sentenced to one-year probation. A year later an Illinois man complained to police that Dahmer had drugged him and stolen his money and jewelry. Lacking hard evidence the case was dropped.
More disturbing allegations were brought against Dahmer in the next two years, but courts and the state social service agencies seemed unresponsive and indifferent to the potential danger he posed to the community. On September 26, 1988, Dahmer lured a thirteen-year-old boy into his apartment by offering him $50 to pose for a photo. Dahmer drugged his coffee and sexually molested him. the boy, who ironically, turned out to be the brother of one of his future victims, Konerak Sinthasomphone, managed to escape. Dahmer was arrested and charged with second degree sexual assault and enticement of a child for immoral purposes. Summarizing the case before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William D. Gardner, Assistant District Attorney Gail Shelton said that in her judgment ".......it is absolutely crystal clear that the prognosis for treatment of Mr Dahmer within the community is extremely bleak....and is just plain not going to work." The prosecutor asked that Dahmer be given a five or six year prison sentence, but in Gardner's opinion Dahmer had a better opportunity to benefit from psychiatric treatment if he remained outside of prison, which did not offer a special program for sex offenders.
As a result on May 24 1989, Dahmer was ordered to serve a one-year sentence in the Franklin House of Corrections on a work release program that would allow him to continue to work at the Ambrosia Chocolate Company. Dahmer pleaded with the judge for leniency, blaming his troubles on alcohol. "I can't stress enough that I desperately want to change my conduct for the rest of my life." he implored.
On March 25 1989 24 year old Anthony Sears of Milwaukee disappeared. He was the first of the eleven victims to be positively identified. Dahmer typically found his victims in local gay bars, shopping malls, or the New Town section of Chicago, which is heavily frequented by homosexuals. Between June 30 and July 19 1991, Dahmer lured four young men to his apartment, on the pretext of watching videos or paying them to pose for photographs.
On each occasion, after successfully luring his victim to his apartment, Dahmer proceeded to drug, strange, and dismember him. Police believe that on at least one occasion he engaged in sex with a corpse. When tenants in the building complained of the stench coming from his apartment. Dahmer simply passed it off as rotting meat in the refrigerator, an explanation they accepted. "He even bought a bunch of Pine Sol once like he was really going to get rid of it this time. But it didn't help, " recalled Pamela Bass, who lived across the hall from Dahmer.
The most shocking aspect of the case revolved around the Milwaukee Police Department, which was accused of gross negligence for its failure to follow up on a report concerning Dahmer made on May 27 1991. two eighteen year old women reported that they observed a young Laotian boy running down an alley, naked and bleeding. When three police officers arrived on the scene, Dahmer was chasing the youth. Dahmer told the officers that the teenager was a "house guest" and that he had had too much to drink.
The officers dismissed the incident as a domestic disturbance between two homosexuals and released the youth to Dahmer. "Police officers do not routinely arrest someone for being intoxicated, especially when they can return him to someplace safe" state Milwaukee Police Association attorney Laurie Eggert. According to the police officers involved, the youth appeared to them to be eighteen or nineteen years of age and did not attempt to put up a struggle or voice an objection.
The boy , later identified as Konerak Sinthasomphone, was actually too drunk to speak; he was killed minutes after police left him in Dahmer's apartment. Public attention was soon focused on police chief Philip Arreola and the questionable methods employed by his force.
An inte4rnal investigation launched by Arreola and Mayor John O Norquist resulted in departmental charges being filed against Officers John A. Balcerzak who had been cited for nineteen "noteworthy" arrests during his career; Joseph P Gabrish 28 and Richard Porubcan, 25. All three were suspended on July 26. It marked the first time in the history of Milwaukee Police Department that there were suspensions issued before an investigation commenced. The police tape recordings that were made at the time showed a gross insensitivity on the part of the three officers who spoke with Dahmer and the boy. The men made jokes about the need to be deloused after leaving Sinthsomphone with Dahmer.
Chief Arreola delayed his decision on the fate of these three officers until September 6, when he fired Balcerzak and Gabrish, and ordered Porubcan to remain under "close supervision" for one year. "I have concluded the officers failed to properly perform their duties," Arrival said, but the two policemen who lost their jobs maintained that they acted in accordance with departmental procedures. "I wish there had been some other piece of evidence or information available to us," commented Joseph Gabrish. "We handled the call the way we felt it should have been handled."
Once Dahmer was arrested, the focus of the investigation widened. Dahmer, who admitted to as many as seventeen killings, directed police to his boyhood home in Bath township, outside of Akron, Ohio. there in the backyard, Summit Country police found pieces of bone scattered across the property.
Dahmer told the authorities that these were the remains of nineteen year old Steven Hicks a hitchhiker he had picked up and murdered just days after his high school graduation in 1978. After burying the body, Dahmer apparently had serious concerns about it eventually being unearthed so he dug up the remains smashed them with a sledgehammer, then reburied them throughout the 1.7 acre property. Hick's identity was confirmed by Summit County Coroner William Cos on September 13, 1991.
As Summit County police continued to dig up the yard in Bath Township Milwaukee police released a list of eleven victims found in Dahmer's apartment. In addition to Sinthasomphone, they included: Raymond Lamont Smith a 33 year old ex convict from Milwaukee who was last seen on May 29, 1990; 24 year old Ernest Miller, who had recently moved from Chicago to Milwaukee to escape "all the violence" there; Curtis Straughter, and 18 year old Milwaukeean; Errol Lindsey, 19 who disappeared from his Milwaukee home on April 7; Tony Hughes, a 31 year old deaf mute from Madison, Wisconsin who was murdered just two days before Konerak Sinthasomphone on May 24 1991.
The list went on, staggering even the jaded imaginations of police officers: Chicagoan Matt Turner, 20 who was last seen on June 30 at the halfway house where he lived; David C. Thomas 23, whose photograph was identified among Dahmer's possessions; 23 year old Jeremiah Weinberger, who was invited to come to Milwaukee from Chicago to pose for pictures and watch videos; Oliver Lacy 23 of Milwaukee whose battered remains were found in Dahmer's freezer; Joseph Braqdehoft, 25 of Milwaukee who had a wife and three children; 24 year old restaurant manager Anthony Sears; and Richard Guerrero, 22 who was reported missing on March 29 1989.
Guerrero and Sears were two of three men Dahmer claimed to have murdered while living at his grandmother's home in West Allis. Dahmer admitted to having murdered 28 year old Eddie Smith, also of Milwaukee , although the body was not located. Of the first eleven victims, eight were black, one was Asian, and two were while.
Dahmer was taken to the Milwaukee County Jail after initially being charged with four counts of first degree intentional homicide. Appearing before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Laureence C. Gram Jr on September 10 Dahmer and his attorney Gerald Boyle, entered a not guilty plea by reason of insanity. Boyle admitted that the defense could change the plea before the scheduled startup of the trial on January 27 1992.
Said Gram at the time: "I think there is a strong likelihood........this case may proceed on the Not Guilty by reason of mental defect or disease. But at this junction......we're not yet prepared to do that."
According to Wisconsin law, Dahmer would be sent to a mental hospital if he was found not guilty as a result of the insanity please. If that were to happen, he could petition the courts for this release every six months if he were able to demonstrate that he had regained control of his faculties and was no longer a menace to society. If he were to be found sane and guilty of murder, Dahmer would face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The Jeffrey Dahmer serial murder case had badly shaken the confidence of all Milwaukeeans. "They view it as a national trend in all big cities," said County Supervisor Daniel Cupertino at the time. "But they thought Milwaukee would never get that way. Milwaukee was a clean, safe city."
Dahmer was brought to trial in September 1991 and pleaded not guilty to fifteen murder charges. In each case, he had already confessed to the killing. He promised to plead insanity convicted of murder. Throughout the early 1992 trial Gerald Boyle, Dahmer's defense attorney stressed the gruesomeness of the crimes as his strategy was able to argue that only a madman could commit such heinous murders and thereby prove his client's innocence by reason of insanity.
The prosecution countered the argument, stating that only a sane man with a reasonable fear of being caught and punished would be so clever at avoiding detection for an extended period of time. Dahmer was found guilty. In February 1992 one of the worst serial killers in our time was sentenced to 15 life terms in prison.
Dahmer was a low profile prisoner who is said to have accepted Christianity behind bars, being baptized in the prison whirlpool. he had considerable enemies, however. In July 1994 an attempt was made on Dahmer's life by another prisoner who stabbed him, but his wounds were only superficial. The attempt was fatal. On November 28 1994 while cleaning the washroom at the prison facility in Portage Wisconsin, Dahmer was murdered by another inmate.