1982 Milwaukee county sheriff's department mugshot of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
1982 Milwaukee county sheriff's department mugshot of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Serial killer’s disturbing zombie fantasy

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men between the late '70s and early '90s, killing them in the most horrendous ways.

His killing spree involved rape, dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism.

Few crimes in modern history are seen as disgusting and evil as Dahmers'. Police discovered mutilated bodies, refrigerated skulls, a shrine and a barrel with headless torsos, along with gruesome photos of the bodies as they were being dismembered.

It was February 15, 1992, when Dahmer was sentenced to more than 900 years behind bars. He's been dead for 25 years but the murders of the 17 men are still so difficult to forget. It's no surprise he earned the nicknames 'Milwaukee Cannibal' and 'Milwaukee Monster'.

Accused serial killer Jeffrey L. Dahmer walks into the Milwaukee County Court on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 1991. Dahmer was charged with eight additional counts of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide. Picture: Eugene Garcia
Accused serial killer Jeffrey L. Dahmer walks into the Milwaukee County Court on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 1991. Dahmer was charged with eight additional counts of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide. Picture: Eugene Garcia

 

Early life

Dahmer was said to have had a relatively normal childhood in Ohio, but family members claim he was withdrawn and difficult to communicate with. In high school he had very little social interaction or hobbies and was a heavy drinker. The only hobby anybody knew about was his love of examining animal carcasses. From his mid-teens, his drinking intensified and he was only 18 when he committed his first murder.

Dahmer picked up Steven Hicks, who was hitchhiking, and offered to take him to his home for beer. But, when Hicks tried to leave, he was hit over the head with a dumbbell and died instantly. Dahmer then dissected his body and scattered it, in several pieces, around the back yard. Years later, he told police he killed Hicks because he didn't want him to leave. It would be nine years before Dahmer committed his next murder.

The second victim

In 1979 Dahmer joined the army, working as a combat medic in Germany. But his alcoholism was a continuing problem and he was discharged in 1981, moving in with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin. By 1985 he was a regular at the local gay bathhouse where he'd drug men and rape them while they were unconscious. He was arrested for indecent exposure in 1982 and 1986 but he never faced charges for the rapes.

He picked up his second victim, Steven Tuomi, at a bar in September 1987. He confessed, years later, that when he woke up, he was shocked to see Tuomi's beaten dead body. He claimed to have no memory of killing him.

He killed two more men in 1988, another man in 1989 and four men in 1990. His modus operandi involved luring men from bars or paying prostitutes to go home with him, where he'd drug his victims before raping and strangling them.

It was around this time Dahmer's evil ways went into the most disturbing territory: Taking photos of dismembered bodies, having sex with the dead bodies and also preserving victims' skulls and genitalia for display. He also confessed to keeping body parts for consumption.

In 1989 Dahmer was arrested for drugging and sexually molesting a 13 year old boy. This led to him being registered as a sex offender and sentenced to five years probation, as well as one year at a work release camp.

On his release, in May 1990, he moved into a Milwaukee apartment. But, even though he had regular appointments with his probation officer he was largely free to continue his killing spree - he murdered four people that year and eight more in 1991.

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer shown during his preliminary trial in 1991.
Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer shown during his preliminary trial in 1991.

 

Macabre killings

The summer of 1991 was an horrific turning point for Dahmer as he killed one person each week during that period. It was also a time when he became fascinated with the notion of turning his victims into 'zombies'.

What this involved was incredibly grotesque: he drilled holes into their skulls and injected their brain with boiling water and hydrochloric acid. His main aim was to lobotomise his young victims. It wasn't long before his neighbours started to complain about the dreadful smells and odd noises coming from Dahmer's apartment.

Dahmer's youngest victim was 14 year old Konerak Sinthasomphone who was drugged but managed to escape when Dahmer had gone out for a short time. The teenager ran into the street, desperately asking people to help him. Passers-by contacted the police but, when they arrived, Dahmer had also turned up and managed to convince them that the young man was his "drunk boyfriend" and everything was fine.

If police had run a background check on Dahmer, revealing his sex offender status, the teenager would have survived - Dahmer's apartment would have been searched and his killing rampage would have ended.

A lucky escape

On July 22, 1991, Dahmer invited Tracy Edwards into his home, promising to give him money. He was handcuffed and forced into the bedroom with a knife at his throat, but Edwards managed to break free and run outside, where he flagged down a passing police car. When police entered Dahmer's apartment, they discovered photographs of several dead bodies and dismembered limbs; finally Dahmer was arrested.

What police officers found when they investigated further was worse than anything they could imagine - there was a severed head in the fridge, three more severed heads in the bedroom, numerous photos of victims and a variety of body parts in the freezer, including a human heart.

In all, police found seven skulls, along with a bizarre shrine with candles and skulls in his wardrobe. Police found more than a hundred photographs of Dahmer's victims; horrific photos taken at different stages of dismemberment. The photos were said to be so revolting that even highly experienced police officers felt faint when viewing them.

When he was taken into custody, Dahmer began his confession, giving police all the gruesome details of his crimes.

"It's hard for me to believe that a human being could have done what I've done, but I know that I did it," Dahmer said.

Dahmer was bludgeoned to death by an inmate as they cleaned one of the prison showers, unshackled and unattended.
Dahmer was bludgeoned to death by an inmate as they cleaned one of the prison showers, unshackled and unattended.

 

Murder charges

When Dahmer went on trial on January 30, 1992, he faced 15 murder charges, pleading insanity as his defence, due to his disturbing impulses. The evidence against him was overwhelming and, after the two-week trial, he was declared guilty on 15 counts of murder.

He was sentenced to 957 years in prison, on 15 life terms; he later confessed to the killing of his first victim, Stephen Hicks, and received an extra life sentence.

Dahmer confessed to killing seventeen men: Steven Hicks, Steven Tuomi, James Doxtator, Richard Guerrero, Anthony Sears, Raymond Smith (also known as Ricky Beeks), Edward Smith, Ernest Miller, David Thomas, Curtis Straughter, Errol Lindsey, Tony Anthony Hughes, Konerak Sinthasomphone, Matt Turner, Jeremiah Weinberger, Oliver Lacy and Joseph Bradehoft.

Dahmer served his time at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin, where he apparently expressed some remorse for his killings.

There were two attempts on his life: one involved a knife attack requiring stitches. The second attempt was more successful - on November 28, 1994, Dahmer was bludgeoned to death by an inmate as they cleaned one of the prison showers, unshackled and unattended.

Dahmer was taken to hospital but died of severe head trauma: he was 34 years old. His killer, 25 year old Christopher Scarver, himself incarcerated for murder, later told police he'd kept press clippings detailing Dahmer's killing spree and was 'disgusted.'

- LJ Charleston is a freelance features writer. Continue the conversation @LJCharleston



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