Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born on May 21st, 1960 at the Evangelical Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His mother, Joyce Annette worked as a teletype machine instructor and his father, Lionel Herbert Dahmer, was going to Marquette University to pursue a degree in chemistry. Dahmer was loved and cherished as a child by both his parents, but his mother was a very tense, greedy for attention, and argumentative woman with her husband and even the neighbors. When Dahmer started first grade his mother was in bed a lot due to recovering from weakness. His father’s studies kept him away from home and when he was home Joyce always demanded attention from him. Needless to say, Dahmer started getting less and less attention from a young age from his parents.
Dahmer was always considered an energetic and happy child until he went through a double hernia surgery right before he turned four. This left him quite subdued. When he was interviewed later he commented that his family life was very tense and his parents argued a lot with each other. During his time in elementary school many people noted he was quiet and timid. A teacher commented that Dahmer had a sense of neglect which seemed to be attributed to this mother’s constant illnesses. Even though Dahmer was quiet and timid as a child he did have a small group of friends.
Ever since Dahmer was a child he had a strange fascination with animals. Friends said that he would keep insects in little jars that he stored in his house, but later he would go and collect animal carcasses off the side of the road. He would dismember the animals at home or in the woods behind his house. He always said that he wanted to know how each animal fit together. At one time he was known to have impaled a dog’s head onto a stake behind his house. His fascination with dead animals might have started when he was four and he watched his father remove animal bones from beneath their home. According to Lionel, Dahmer was “oddly thrilled” by the sound of the bones and had developed a fixation on them and played with them. He would sometimes look under the house for bones and when he had his live animals he would explore their bodies and figure out where their bones were.
In October 1966 the Dahmer family moved to Doylestown, Ohio. During that time Joyce was pregnant with her second child. She gave birth to a baby boy on December 18th, 1966. Dahmer was given the opportunity to name the baby, which he calls David. That same year Lionel got his degree and started working as an analytical chemist in the city of Akron. Just two years later they moved to Bath, Ohio. Two years after their move during dinner one night Dahmer had asked his father what would happen to chicken bones if they were placed in bleach. At this point Lionel was worried about his son’s isolation and his lethargic attitude and thought Dahmer was having some sort of scientific curiosity and was happy to tell him. He showed his son how to safely bleach and preserve animal bones. Dahmer would later use this to bleach many more animal bones he collected.
During high school, especially his freshman year, Dahmer was seen as an outcast with only a few friends. He attended Revere High School and there were many testimonies as to how strange and concerning Dahmer’s behavior was in school. He was known to have drank liquor and beer, bringing it into school in flasks and such in his army fatigue jacket. He was always drinking before, during, or after school and it started when he was about 14 years of age. One time a classmate saw Dahmer drinking a cup of gin and asked him why he was drinking alcohol in class, in which Dahmer simply replied “it’s my medicine”. The staff on the other hand saw him as an intelligent and polite student. He had average grades, which many believed was due to this apathy, but he was known to be a good tennis player and played in the high school band.
When he reached puberty Dahmer realized he was homosexual. He never revealed to his parents of his sexual orientation even though he was in a brief relationship in his early teens. Later he admitted that he started sexually fantasize sexually about having complete control over a subservient partner. These thoughts eventually intertwined with thoughts of dissection. At about 16-years-old Dahmer had a rape fantasy of knocking unconscious a male jogger he found attractive and making sexual use of his body. He hid himself in a bush with a baseball bat and waited but the jogger did not go past that day. Dahmer never tried the plan again but he admits this was his first attempt to hurt someone.
Even though Dahmer was a loner in high school he was also seen as a goofball and a class clown. He would play pranks that some were to amuse his peers and some were for attention. Due to these pranks if anyone else pulled pranks it became known as “Doing a Dahmer” or “Pulling a Dahmer”. By 1977 his grades were failing because of his alcoholism and his apathy towards school and interacting with people. His parents hired a private tutor for him, but the tutor had limited access. That same year his parents were seeing a marriage counselor which was unsuccessful and they ultimately divorced. Although it started out as an okay situation they started bickering a lot in front of their sons and finally Lionel moved out in 1978. In May of 1978 Dahmer graduated school. A few weeks before his graduation one of his teachers saw him sitting in the school parking lot drinking beer. The teacher threatened to report him, but Dahmer said that he was dealing with a lot of problems and that the guidance counselor was very aware of his problems. A little bit after this Joyce was given custody of her younger son and left to move in with her family. Since Dahmer was 18 by this time the custodial considerations did not apply to him.
Now, after learning about Dahmer’s past, let’s get to his streak of murders. He committed his first murder in the summer of 1978 just three weeks after he graduated high school. He was living alone in the family home after his parents moved out. On June 18th he picked up an 18-year-old hitchhiker named Steven Hicks. He lured him to his house with the idea that they’d drink together and Steven accepted. After drinking and listen to music for several hours Steven wanted to go and Dahmer didn’t want him to. He hit him twice from behind with a 10 lb dumbbell and then strangled him with the bar of the dumbbell. He then stripped the clothes off of Hicks’ body and stood above the corpse, masturbating. The next day he dissected the body in his crawl space and later buried the remains in a shallow grave in his backyard. He later took the remains out and dissolved the flesh in acid before flushing the solution down the toilet and crushing the bones with a sledgehammer and scattering them in the woods.
About six weeks after the murder his father and his fiancee returned to the house where they discovered Dahmer was living alone. That August he enrolled at Ohio State University and hoped to major in business. As soon as Dahmer got to college however he was incredibly unproductive, mainly because of his alcoholism. Lionel on one occasion visited Dahmer and found his room completely littered in empty liquor bottles. Even though Lionel paid for Dahmer’s second term of college he dropped out just after a few months.
In January of 1979 due to his father urging him to, Dahmer enlisted in the United States Army. He trained as a medical specialist at Fort Sam Houston before July 13th, 1979 when he was moved to Baumholder, West Germany where he was a combat medic. According to reports he was an average or a slight average soldier. Two soldiers accused Dahmer of rape while in the army. One said while stationed at Baumholder Dahmer raped him over a 17 month period while the other soldier says he believed he was drugged and then raped by Dahmer inside an armored personnel carrier in 1979. Due to Dahmer’s severe alcohol abuse his performance in the army deteriorated and so in March of 1981 he was deemed unsuitable for military service and discharged (honorably). On March 24th, 1981 he was sent to Fort Jackson for debriefing and was given a plane ticket to travel anywhere in the country. Dahmer felt like he couldn’t face his father so he went to Miami Beach, Florida as a way to live on his own. He got a job and was staying at a nearby motel, but because of his alcoholism he spent most of his salary on alcohol and was eventually kicked out of the motel for not paying. He spent his evenings on the beach while working at his job until he called his father and asked to return home.
Once he returned home he spent some time living with his father and his stepmother, but he kept on drinking heavily and was eventually arrested for being drunk and disorderly. He was fined $60 and spent ten days in jail. Lionel tried hard to get Dahmer off drinking, but was unsuccessful. Eventually they sent him to go live with his grandmother (who was the only person he ever showed affection towards) who lived in West Allis. He occasionally drank there but mostly was weaned off it. He eventually found a job as a phlebotomist at the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center, but he held the job for only ten months before being fired. He was then unemployed for two years, living off of whatever money his grandmother gave him. Shortly before losing his job, Dahmer was again arrested, this time for indecent exposure. He had exposed himself in from of twenty-five women and children on August 7th, 1982.
He picked up a job at the Milwaukee Ambrosia Chocolate Factory, where a man gave him a note offering to give him oral sex. Dahmer did not respond, but this did start to stir the sexual fantasies he had when he was a teenager. He started going to gay bars and bathhouses to find men that would follow his fantasies. By late 1985, he started going frequently to the bathhouses, but during his sexual encounters there he was getting frustrated with how his partners would move during the acts. He saw them more as objects instead of people. Because of his way of seeing people as objects instead of people, he began drugging his partners by slipping sedatives into their liquor. He then would commit sexual acts on their unconscious bodies. After about twelve of these incidents he was kicked out of the bathhouses, but he still used hotel rooms to continue these practices. A little bit after he was kicked out of the bathhouses, he saw in the newspaper that an upcoming funeral for an 18-year-old was to be held. He thought about digging up the body and bringing it home, but when he attempted the act, he claims the ground was too solid and he gave up on the idea.
In August 1986, Dahmer was arrested again for masturbating in front of two 12-year-olds, and he did admit to it but later claimed he was simply urinating and was charged with disorderly conduct and so on March 10th, 1987 he was sentenced to a year’s probation with additional instructions to see a counselor. After this period is when his killing spree really began.
In November 1987 Dahmer, who was still living with his grandmother, met a 25-year-old from Michigan named Steven Tuomi at a bar and managed to persuade him to return to the Ambassador Hotel where Dahmer had rented a room. According to Dahmer, he did not intend to kill Tuomi, but he did intend to drug and rape him. However, when he awoke the next morning Tuomi was laying under him with his chest crushed and black and blue with bruises. Blood was leaking out of the corner of his mouth and Dahmer’s fists and forearm were bruised as well. He said he didn’t remember what happened or that he had killed him. He then later said he couldn’t believe it happened. To get rid of the body, Dahmer purchased a large suitcase and moved the body to his grandmother’s house. One week later he cut off the head, arms, and legs and placed the flesh inside garbage bags. he wrapped the bones in a sheet and pounded them into spinters with a sledgehammer. This whole process took Dahmer about two hours to do and all of Tuomi’s remains except his head were disposed of into the trash. Two weeks following Tuomi’s murder, Dahmer kept the head in a blanket and he later boiled the head in a mixture of Soilex and bleach in an attempt to keep the skull to use as a stimulus for masturbation. Eventually the skull was too brittle by this process and was destroyed as well.
After he killed Tuomi, Dahmer went on to actively seek victims. He encountered most of them at gay bars and enticed them to his grandmother’s house where he would drug and kill them after engaging in sexual activity with them. His method of killing was strangulation. Two months after Tuomi, he encountered a 14-year-old Native American prostitute named James Doxtator. Dahmer again lured him to this home this time with the promise of $50 to pose for nude photos. After they engaged in sexual activity Dahmer drugged him and then strangled him in the cellar. He left the body there for a week before taking it apart. He did the same thing to Doxtator as he did with Tuomi. On March 24th, 1988 he killed another man, 22-year-old Richard Guerrero which after he killed him he performed oral sex on the corpse. On April 23rd, he lured another man to his house, but after drugging his coffee his grandmother called to him and so he could not kill him and took him to the hospital instead.
In September 1988, Dahmer’s grandmother asked him to move out because she did not like him always bringing men over and complained of foul smells coming form the basement and the garage. Dahmer found a one bedroom apartment and moved in on September 25th. The following day he was arrested for drugging and sexually fondling a 13-year-old boy and then in January of 1989 he was convicted of second degree sexual assault and of enticing a child for immoral purposes. The sentencing for the assault was suspended until May. On March 20th, Dahmer commenced a ten day absence from work and moved back in with his grandmother. Two months after his conviction and two months before his sentencing he murdered his fifth victim. He was a 24-year-old aspiring model named Anthony Sears and they met at a gay bar on March 25th, 1989. According to Dahmer, he wasn’t looking to commit a crime that night, but right before he left Sears started up a conversation with him. He took him back to his grandmother’s house and they both engaged in oral sex before Dahmer drugged and killed him, placing his body into the bathtub while taking apart the body. He admitted he found Sears “exceptionally attractive” and he was the first victim that he permanently kept. He preserved his head and genitalia in acetone and kept them in his work locker. When he moved the following year, he brought the remains with him. On May 23rd, 1989 Dahmer was sentenced to probation for five years and one year in the House of Correction. He got a work release form so he could keep his job and was required to register as a sex offender.
Two months before his scheduled release from work camp he was paroled. Dahmer moved back temporarily in with his grandmother again. He then moved into the Oxford Apartments in May 1990. Within a week of moving he killed again. His sixth victim, Raymond Smith. He then attempted to murder another man, but accidentally ingested the laced drink himself and when he awoke he had been robbed. He then killed three more people. After the last victim, he did not kill for five months. He was unsuccessful in luring more men into his apartment, and often complained to his probation officer about feeling anxiety and depression along with suicidal thoughts all relating to his sexuality, solitary lifestyles and financial difficulties.
The killings continued in 1991. In February, he killed a 17-year-old boy named Curtis Straughter, who he drilled a hole in his skull and poured hydrochloric acid into it, hoping to make essentially a zombie that would not resist his advances. By 1991, other residents in the apartment were complaining strange smells and sounds of a chainsaw coming from Dahmer’s space. He claimed the smells were that his freezer broke so food was being spoiled. On May 26th, 1991 Dahmer met 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, who was the younger brother of the boy he molested back in ‘88. He ended up escaping the next day and was found by three women who called the police. Dahmer convinced the police that he was a lover of his and took him back to the apartment. He then killed him and along with the already decomposing body of another victim in his bedroom, he left them both and went to a bar to drink and went and bought more alcohol. He then took the day off on the 28th to spend the whole day dismembering the bodies. He went on to kill four more men before the last one managed to escape and report Dahmer.
His last attempted victim was Tracy Edwards. He was offered $100 to accompany Dahmer, and when they entered the apartment he smelled a foul odor. There were several boxes of hydrochloric acid on the poor, but Dahmer claimed they were used for cleaning bricks. He handcuffed Edwards and brought him into the bedroom to pose for nude photos. He then brandished a knife and told Edwards to strip which he complied but told him that he needed to take the handcuffs off to do so. Dahmer agreed and focused on the tv that was playing. Edwards observed Dahmer rocking back and forth and chanting. Eventually turning around and listening to his heartbeat and said he was going to eat his heart. Edwards said he needed to go to the bathroom and convinced Dahmer he wasn’t going to run away. He said he wanted to go in the living room and drink some beer with him and Dahmer complied. Edwards waited until Dahmer seemed to lapse in concentration and punched him in the face and ran out the front door. He flagged down police who followed him to the apartment and there is where they found the pictures of the dismembered bodies and even found a severed head in the freezer still. Dahmer, while on the floor with an officer on top of him said, “For what I did I should be dead”. The police found four severed heads, seven skulls, two human hearts, and even more body parts in Dahmer’s apartment. A total of 74 pictures were gathered.
Dahmer’s interview hours totaled over 60 hours and he admitted to killing 16 young men, including Steven Hicks in Ohio. He also confessed to being in the process of making an altar, believing he could draw a sense of power from his victims. He pleaded guilty but insane to 15 counts of murder on January 13th, 1992. He was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Necrophilia, alcohol dependency, and a psychotic disorder. He was not given the insanity sentence, and was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 70 years. He was extradited to Ohio and was tried for the murder of Steven Hicks. He pled guilty and was sentenced to a 16th term of life imprisonment on May 1st, 1992.
While in prison Dahmer was kept in solitary confinement due to concerns of his safety should he come into contact with other inmates. He became a born-again Christian and was baptized. In July 1994, a fellow inmate, Osvaldo Durruthy, attempted to slash Dahmer’s throat with a razor imbedded in a toothbrush. He suffered superficial wounds but was not seriously injured. Dahmer was reportedly ready for death and didn’t care what happened to him. Finally, on November 28th, 1994, Dahmer was beaten in bathrooms by Christopher Scarver. He was taken to the hospital, but was pronounced dead an hour later. Many people were pleased with his death, but of course his mother was outraged. His body was cremated and his ashes divided between his parents.