A normal childhood
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born on May 21st, 1960 in Milwaukee. He was like any other child, smiling, loving, extroverted, and curious, with a great fascination for animals. He will develop bonds with his neighbor as well as the dog his parents bought. His parents adored him and were proud of him.
But his mother, Joyce, had a hard time during the pregnancy, which had repercussions on her behavior. She suffered from depression, and had terrible mood swings. Even though the couple moved to live with Lionel Dahmer’s mother, they suffered from these mood swings and argued often.
Just before his 4th birthday, Jeffrey suffered from a double hernia. This surgery left him with a strange feeling that his was left exposed. His was very scared of this intervention, to know that strangers would go and explore his body. He didn't understand, and nobody felt necessary to give him an explanation. After this, he became more reserved, shy, but only for a short period.
Meanwhile, he discovered remains of small rodents under the house. Very soon he would develop a particular interest in these remains.
As he was 6 years old, his mother Joyce gave birth to his little brother, David. Jeffrey would later pretend that this event didn’t affect him, and that the two brothers were never close. But Joyce and Lionel did spend a lot of time with David. Furthermore, Lionel worked very long hours in his laboratory. He spend Jeffrey’s first years moving for his work and his studies, putting these first in his priorities, before his family. But at David’s birth, Lionel had finished his studies, and they moved in their own house in Bath, Ohio. This house was surrounded by woods where Jeffrey could disappear and create his own imaginary world.
The first transformation
Even if at the start his childhood seemed normal, the end of it, and his teenager years did not go that well. He became more and more reserved and socially awkward. The feelings of isolation he had during his surgery would be once and for all permanent.
It is also during this time that he would discover he was homosexual and had his first experience with one of his neighbors. Later on he would qualify this experience (kissing and caresses) as negative, disappointing and lacking pleasure. Furthermore, considering the time period, it was very difficult for him to feel self actualized through the discovery of his homosexuality. Society was condemning it and he had nobody he could talk to about it. He would be more and more to himself and would increasingly keep his life more secretive.
« In the township where I was at, homosexuality was the ultimate taboo. It was never discussed, never. I had desires to be with someone, but never met anyone that was gay, that I know of. So that was sexually frustrating. » Jeffrey Dahmer
From then on, according to his father Lionel, he would also develop a strong inferiority complex. As he was 10 years old, his mother had to be treated for serious anxiety problems, which would be the downfall of Lionel and Joyce’s relationship.
Birth of the fantasy
During his teenager years, his fascination for animals would change, becoming more and more interested and curious as to how they looked like on the inside. Thus he began to collect road kills and to dismember them in the back of their house.
As he was 15/16 years old, he would also develop thoughts becoming progressively obsessions mixing sex with violence. His fantasy started as laying down next to the unconscious body of another man.
He would later describe an episode where three of his classmates attacked him without reason, just because he was in their way. This happened when at the same time the relationship between his parents went downhill. When they would argue and fight, Jeffrey would find shelter in the woods where he would hit the trees with a stick.
In high school, he was considered as a strange boy, having no friends, but who was seeking attention by playing the clown. He had the reputation to play pranks, which gave birth to the expression “doing the Dahmer”. The biggest prank had been when he managed to persuade the authorities to give him a tour of the Vice President of the United States of America’s office at the White House (usually closed to the public) during a school trip.
But his fantasies will become more and more powerful, and Jeffrey would start drinking to try to escape them. The alcohol only contributed in pushing him even further aside from society, his classmates being aware of his drinking and mocking him.
At age 16, he will act on his fantasy for the first time. He noticed a jogger who used to take the same path every day. One day, he decided to wait for him with a baseball bat to knock him unconscious and lay next to the inanimate body, but that day, the jogger did not show up. Jeffrey would not go back to that spot to wait for his victim.
The first kill
Jeffrey graduated High School in Bath, Ohio, in 1976. But his parents were arguing more and more, to end up in a divorce as Jeffrey was almost 18 years old. This was the beginning of a long battle for the custody of his little brother David. When the divorce was pronounced, in 1978, Lionel leaves the family house to move in a motel a few kilometers away. Sometime later, and without saying anything to her ex husband, Joyce decides to move to Wisconsin with David, leaving Jeffrey alone in the house. Once alone, Jeffrey will have all the freedom he needs to give reality to his fantasy.
During the two years before he met Stephen Hicks, Jeffrey had the fantasy to meet a handsome hitchhiker and to take sexual pleasure from him. This fantasy became reality the week Jeffrey was left at home alone.
He was driving back home when he noticed an attractive young man hitchhiking on the side of the road. He stopped and asked him if he was interested to come back with him for a beer and pot. Stephen Hicks accepts. Once in Jeffrey’s room, they drank beers, but Jeffrey quickly realized that Stephen Hicks was not gay. Suddenly, Stephen Hicks decided he wanted to go home, but Jeffrey didn't want him to leave. Panicked, not knowing how he could make him stay, he hit Stephen Hicks on the head then strangled him.
He got scared by what he just had done. He paced for a while, and, while staring at the body, started masturbating. He was sexually aroused by captivity, by knowing he was dominating his victim.
The next day, he had to find a way to get rid of the evidence. He bought a hunting knife, and the next night, opened Stephen Hicks’ abdomen. Aroused by his internal organs, he masturbates again. Finally, he dismembers his victim, bags the body parts in garbage bags, and drops the bags in the car trunk to dispose of them at the municipal landfill. But while he was driving, he got pulled over by a police car. After fining Jeffrey for driving too much on the left, the police let him drive away. Jeffrey decides then to drive back home and change strategy.
He took Stephen Hicks’ head, cleaned it and laid it down on the floor of the bathroom, masturbated again. Then let the body decompose during two and a half years. As he came back from Miami and the army, he picked up the bones, crushed them and scattered them in the woods.
Enrolling in the army
After his murder, Jeffrey feels very bad about what he had done. He has remorse, but his fantasy continues to haunt him. He will then sink himself into alcohol. He will be arrested several times for behaviors and noise nuisance under drunken state. Lionel, his father, tries to help him, and takes him to AA meetings, to meetings with psychologists. He will even register his son to Ohio State University. But Jeffrey won’t show much interest for studies, and spends his time drinking. He will be dismissed after the first semester.
Lionel decided then that the only way for his son to go back to a normal life was to enroll him in the army. As for every decision his father made for him, Jeffrey accepted passively his enrolling in the army professionally. Starting his new career in December 1978, he was trained as a doctor, where he learned a lot about human anatomy. He was then transferred to a division based in Germany.
Even though he showed a great interest in his job, he continued drinking, what put him in a lot of trouble. He was asked to go to counsel therapy. This going nowhere, he is then asked to enter a program for alcoholic rehabilitation. But Jeffrey refuses the treatment and stated he had no desire to control his alcohol problem.
Therefore he was transferred to Fort Jackson, USA, on March 24, 1981 and would be discharged from the army on March 26 of the same year.
After the army
A short time after being discharged, Jeffrey decided that instead of going back to his parents, to settle down in Miami, as he was tired of the cold. He found a part time job as versatile worker. But the money was not enough, as he continued to drink. He ended up quickly without a place to live, and was later forced to move back in with his parents in Ohio, what he did in September 1981. Three month later, after having been arrested again for driving while being intoxicated, he moved out from his father’s house to move in with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin.
For a few months, life becomes quieter, until he pulled down his pants in front a group of people in 1982.
He then managed to keep his behavior under control for almost four years. He stopped drinking, went to church with his grandmother, tried to fight the best he could what he thought were immoral homosexual impulses, until he got arrested again in 1986 for masturbating in front of two young men. He would then be on probation for a year.
After four years of success repressing his fantasy, Jeffrey went to the public library. A man came to him to give him a note where he proposed some favors to Jeffrey. Jeffrey refused the offer, but it became a turning point in his life: this event would awaken his sexual fantasy again. He started drinking again, and his fantasy became stronger every day.
He started by stealing a mannequin in a store. He looked for a means to satisfy his fantasy without hurting anyone. But the mannequin was not very fulfilling.
One day, as he was going through the newspaper, he saw the obituary for the death of a 18 year old man. He went to the morgue, saw the body, and discovered that the young man was very attractive. He became so aroused that he ran to the toilet to masturbate. He then decided to take the body back to his home, but as he tried to dig into the ground, realized that the ground was too hard. He abandoned the project.
He started going to gay saunas (place where gay people go to have anonymous sexual encounters), where he would start experimenting. Indeed, most of the men he met there would practice sodomy, and Jeffrey did not like it much. He wanted to find a way to spend a night next to a man, play with him, without having to practice sodomy. He would then try drugging his partners, mixing sleeping pills with their drinks. As they were lying unconscious, Jeffrey would lay down next to them, listening to the sounds of their bodies, their stomach, to their heartbeats. But one day, one of his partners did not tolerate the mix and had to be hospitalized for a whole week. Jeffrey was then banned from the establishment.
At the same time, he discovers gay bars and discos. One evening, he meets a young man in front of one of these discos, and invites him to spend the night at a hotel. This young man’s name was Steven Tuomi. Jeffrey did not remember anything until he woke up the next morning with Steven lying next to him, dead. Horrified by the scene, even more because he booked the room under his name, he decided to go and buy a suitcase, brought it back to the room, and placed the body of the victim.
Once back to his grandmother’s house, he waited patiently for her to go to church to take care of the body. He took his hunting knife, opened Steven Tuomi’s body, masturbated, quartered the body and placed the meat in trash bags. He wrapped the skeleton in old sheets and crushed it with a hammer. All the bags would be taken on the next Monday morning with the rest of the trash. But still he kept the skull that he diluted in bleach to clean it. It didn't work out the way he expected, so he got rid of it.
After this incident, « my moral compass was so out of whack, and the desire, the compulsion, was so strong, that I just continued with that mode » Jeffrey Dahmer
He will, from then on, let go of his impulses, and attract, drug, rape, kill, dismember, two young men: Jamie Doxtator and Richard Guerrero.
During the Summer of 1988, his grandmother asked him to leave her house : she could not stand the stench coming from the basement anymore, as well the late hours Jeffrey would come back home and the fact that he started drinking again.
North 24th Street
On September 25, 1988, Jeffrey moved into an apartment in North 24th Street in Milwaukee. The very next day, he would already find himself in a dangerous situation.
He offered 50 USD to a young Laotian boy to pose in front of the camera for him. He brought him back to his place, drugged him, but did not perform any violence or sexual act on him. The young man managed to escape and go back home. His parents went immediately to the police and filed a complaint. The police arrested Jeffrey on the count of second degree rape.
The trial took place on January 30th, 1989, where he pleaded guilty. The Assistant of the District Attorney, Gale Shelton, required 5 years prison, and declared during the trial:
« In my judgment it is absolutely crystal clear that the prognosis for treatment of M. Dahmer within the community is extremely bleak… His perception that what he did wrong here was choosing too young a victim, - and that’s all he did wrong – is part of the problem… he appeared to be cooperative and receptive, but anything that goes below the surface indicates that the deep-seated anger and deep-seated psychological problems that he is unwilling or incapable of dealing with. »
Three psychologists examined him, and their conclusions converged in the sense that Jeffrey was a manipulator, resistant and evasive. They all recommended a hospitalization with intense treatment.
Jeffrey had to wait March for the sentence, and until then, he can walk free. This enabled him to meet Anthony Sears, who would be his 5th victim.
He was sentenced to one year in prison (but would still be able to leave it during the day to go to work) with five years of parole. After only ten months, and despite a letter sent by Jeffrey’s father, the judge reduced his sentence and let him out of prison. Lionel asked the judge in his letter the request for intensive treatment to be respected. « I sincerely hope that you might intervene in some way to help my son, who I love very much and for whom I want a better life… this may be our last chance to institute something lasting. » Lionel Dahmer
But it was too late, as Jeffrey was already out of prison and back to live temporarily with his grandmother.
Oxford Apartments: Highway to hell
On May 24th 1990, Jeffrey moved in 924 North 25th Street, apartment 213, and started his harvest of bodies. Within the next 15 months, he engaged in a rampage that would cost the lives of twelve young men. This madness grew even worse between may and July 1991, when he lost his job at the chocolate factory.
He would then spend all his time and money finding new victims, buying new equipment to make it easier to get rid of their bodies. The only moment he had pleasure was during sex, that would unfortunately implicate murder.
The end: arrest and trial
On July 22nd 1991, Jeffrey attracted a new victim to his apartment. His name is Tracy Edwards. After attempting in vain drugging Tracy Edwards, he handcuffed him and threatened him with his hunter knife. Jeffrey forced him to go to the bedroom, where Tracy saw the pictures of the dismembered bodies hanging on the wall, and realized the horrible stench emanating from a blue barrel.
It took Edwards only a moment where Jeffrey lost focus to punch him in the face, kick him in the stomach, and run for freedom. He stopped a police patrol and the officers, accompanying him back to the apartment 213, discovered the horrors.
The trial began. The objective of the trial was not to prove Jeffrey Dahmer’s culpability, first because the evidence was speaking for itself, and second because he already pleaded guilty. Nevertheless, three main questions had to be answered:
- Was he sane?
- If yes, was he able to understand that what he did was wrong?
- Was he able to act in respect of the law?
Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced on 15 accounts to 957 years in prison. He expressed remorse, and apologized to the families.
He died on November 28, 1994 at the Colombia Prison in Portage, Wisconsin, beaten to death by a fellow inmate, Christopher Scarver.