Some serial killers murder quickly, while others incorporate torture and necrophilia into their operation. Perhaps one of the most depraved acts ever to be used is cannibalism. In this installment of True Crime Corner, we’ll look into the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer.
Jeffrey Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Lionel and Joyce Dahmer. His parents’ relationship was tumultuous and ended in divorce. They were too wrapped up in their failing marriage to pay much mind to their oldest son. In school he acted out in an effort to get the attention that he was missing at home. Like publicity, sometimes negative attention is better than no attention at all, and that’s the kind Dahmer brought on himself. From photobombing high school yearbook photos to fake epileptic fits on the floor, he was making a name for himself, and not in a good way.
His odd behavior progressed into more sinister acts. Animal abuse/torture is a common denominator of many serial killers, and Dahmer was no exception. He enjoyed killing, skinning, and gutting the poor creatures unfortunate enough to cross his path.
Any attempts at normalcy failed Dahmer. He was an Ohio State University dropout, and was released from the Army after serving only 2 of 6 years. He became further isolated and withdrawn into his own world. No longer satisfied with the killing of small prey, Dahmer graduated to human victims soon after his parents’ split, at the age of eighteen. Dahmer would lure young men back to his place, ply them with alcohol laced with sedatives before sex, and then kill them. Sometimes he struck his victims in the head before strangling them. On some victims he practiced necrophilia. Several people were dismembered after their deaths, with various body parts being kept around his apartment as trophies. He used acid to remove flesh from bone, and he attempted lobotomies on some victims by drilling holes in their heads and filling them with acid or water in an effort to make his own zombies.
Jeffrey Dahmer’s capture should have happened sooner than it did. One young man managed to escape, but the killer was in pursuit, determined not to lose his latest conquest. Witnesses to the strange scene called the police, but when they arrived, Dahmer convinced them that they were partners involved in a lover’s quarrel and nothing more. The young boy was unwittingly handed over to his captor. His remains would later be found in Dahmer’s home.
Dahmer’s criminal career came to an end when another young man escaped. The victim was wandering the streets, handcuffs still secured to one wrist. He stopped a patrol car and told them about his encounter with Dahmer. The police went to the killer’s apartment and his horrific crimes were uncovered.
His home was the stuff of nightmares. Body parts filled the refrigerator and freezer. Photos depicting corpses in various stages of dismemberment were also found. Dahmer explained that he was so fearful of being abandoned and alone that he ate parts of his victims. In his sick fantasy world, a piece of them would be with him forever, thereby justifying his cannibalism.
Jeffrey Dahmer confessed to murdering seventeen men and boys during a span of several years. He pled guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury wasn’t swayed. The killer was sentenced to fifteen consecutive life terms. Since he was found sane, he was sent to prison, and not a mental health facility. However, in the end, Dahmer did own up to his horrific crimes, blaming no one but himself, and accepting full responsibility. Whether or not he was sincere, he did express some remorse to his victim’s families.
Although Dahmer was destined to leave Columbia Correctional Institution in a body bag some day, that fate occurred sooner than was expected. He didn’t die of natural causes as an old man locked away for years, forgotten by the passage of time. Instead he was killed in a brutal fashion by another inmate. On November 28, 1994, Dahmer lost his life at age 34 to Christopher Scarver, another murderer who bludgeoned both Dahmer and another inmate to death with a metal bar during a work detail. Scarver would claim within the last two years that Dahmer would antagonize him with food, fashioning body parts from his meals. Scarver found Dahmer’s crimes disturbing, and for these reasons he killed the notorious Milwaukee Cannibal.
The weirdness surrounding Dahmer didn’t end with his death. In fact, his parents had one final disagreement when it came to their son’s brain, which was removed and preserved prior to the cremation. His mother wanted it donated to science for study, while his father preferred that it be incinerated with the rest of the body, per the younger Dahmer’s wishes. The court sided with Mr. Dahmer, and the brain was later destroyed, months after the body had been burned.
Jeffrey Dahmer lives on in popular culture. My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel by Derf Backderf, a former classmate of the killer. It’s written from the perspective of someone who befriended the odd kid in school. It’s the first graphic novel I have read, and it’s very well done. Be sure to check it out if you have an interest.
A Father’s Story, by Lionel Dahmer, is a father’s account of raising a boy who would become a monster. He suggests reasons why his son may have become a killer, as he struggles with the knowledge that his child became one of the most notorious serial killers in the country.
Published this year is Dahmer Detective: The Interrogation and Investigation that Shocked the World by Patrick Kennedy and Robyn Maharaj. Kennedy was a detective on the case, and this book recounts his conversations with Dahmer and his subsequent confession. I’ve leafed through my copy; it’s sure to be a disturbing yet gripping read for anyone interested in this particular true crime story.
If you would prefer to watch a film on the killer, Dahmer is a good choice. Jeremy Renner plays the Milwaukee Cannibal and Bruce Davison plays his father, Lionel Dahmer.
Everyone across the country heard about Jeffrey Dahmer and his crimes at the time it all unfolded. He wished for death over a life sentence, and received a violent ending to his existence. I guess no one told him to be careful about what he wished for.