Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Haunted Wisconsin: Jeffrey Dahmer

[WARNING: This post has extremely graphic descriptions of gore and violence.]

Dahmer.  The name alone sends shivers up the spine of anyone even remotely familiar with his crimes.  There is a debate as to whether Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer is a more notorious killer in Wisconsin, but the unfathomable darkness in Dahmer's actions and their relatively recent dates make Dahmer the most reviled man in Wisconsin.
Jeffrey Dahmer in high school.
Photo: Wikipedia
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born in West Allis in May of 1960 and moved to Bath, Ohio when he was eight.  According to the excellent graphic novel My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Dahmer was always considered an odd boy and rarely fit in with his peers at school but instead became somewhat of a mascot due to his strange and erratic behavior.  It was at this time that he started collecting roadkill and other dead animals to dissect in his backyard.  An unbalanced life at home combined with an isolated social life lead Dahmer to developing alcoholism months before even graduating.  After his parents divorced in 1977, and the summer after high school was when Dahmer began his sinister activities.  Just two weeks after graduation while his family was out of town, Dahmer picked up a hitchhiker, Stephen Hicks, and brought him back to his house for some beer.  Dahmer made sexual advances and Hicks attempted to leave the house before Dahmer bludgeoned hims over the head with a 10lbs. dumb bell.  Dahmer buried the body in their backyard and was never suspected of the crime.  It would be another nine years before he killed again.
Dahmer's first victim Stephen Hicks
Dahmer was accepted to Ohio State University, only to drop out during his first semester.  His father enlisted him in the army but again was discharged due to his alcoholism.  After a brief time in Florida "to escape the cold," Dahmer moved in with his grandmother in West Allis in 1982.  Living there for six months, his behavior grew even more strange.  His grandmother found a fully dressed mannequin in Dahmer's closet and reported strange smells coming from her basement, which were later revealed to be squirrels that Dahmer dissolved in acid.  He was arrested twice for indecent exposure (once for masturbating in front of two young boys).  And then in September of 1987, Dahmer picked up the 26-year-old Steve Toumi at a bar, only to later kill him that night--a crime that Dahmer claimed he had no recollection of.  It wasn't long after that that his grandmother coincidentally asked him to move out.  He found an apartment closer to his job at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory and was left all alone.
The one that almost escaped, Konerak Sinthasomphone

With his new freedom (some say isolation) Dahmer's blood lust only increased.  Not after a week of living on his own, he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old boy.  He was sentenced to probation and community service and registered as a sex offender.  But this did little to slow him down.  In the next three years, he killed ten more men after bringing them home for a one-night stand.  It wasn't until May of 1991 that Dahmer had bee caught--but in a painfully heart wrenching twist Dahmer evaded capture to kill again.

Konerak Sinthasomphone, the younger brother of the boy that Dahmer had molested three years previous, was found staggering down the street in a panic.  He was naked, heavily drugged, and bleeding from his anus. Two neighbors found the 14-year-old boy and called 911.  Dahmer caught up with Sinthasomphone and tried to take him back to his apartment but the women refused.  Two officers arrived on the scene where Dahmer convinced them that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old lover and they had an argument after a long night of drinking.  The two women, who knew Sinthasomphone, pleaded to the officers not to listen to Dahmers lies.  They briefly scolded Dahmer for the disturbance and went on their way.  The officers, one of which later became president of the Milwaukee Police Association, noticed a strange smell coming from Dahmer's apartment, but did not investigate.  Little did they know that it was the rotting body of Dahmer's previous victim Tony Hughes.  Sinthasomphone was killed and dismembered later that night in Dahmer's kitchen.

Dahmer's downfall, Tracy Edwards
By that summer Dahmer was slaying one man a week.  He killed Matt Turner on June 30, Jeremiah Weinberger on July 5, Oliver Lacy on July 12, and finally Joseph Brandehoft on July 19.  He was convinced that he could turn the men into his sex zombie.  He would drill a hole into their skulls and pour hydrochloic acid and boiling water into their frontal lobes...all while they were still alive and conscious.  On July 22nd, 1991 Dahmer repeated his tested method.  He lured Tracy Edwards back to his apartment and attempted to handcuff him.  Unfortunately for Dahmer, Edwards put up more of a fight that his previous victims and escaped the psychopath's clutches.  Dahmer tried to corner him in his bedroom with a butcher knife, but Edwards delivered a powerful haymaker, sending Dahmer reeling.  Edwards escaped and luckily flagged down officers on patrol.

Officers Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller were greeted by a pleasant and cheerful Jeffrey Dahmer, but upon entering his home, they quickly made their arrest.  Inside, the mortified men found a 55-gallon drum filled with corrosive acid, photos of dismembered men hanging on the walls of Dahmer's bedroom, and a refrigerator containing four human heads, multiple hands and penises, and other body parts.  Later, as police worked to gather evidence in the apartment, an altar of human bones was found in the closet, multiple shoe boxes containing photos of dismembered men, seven more skulls, and a heart in his freezer.

The barrel Dahmer used to dissolve his victims corpses.  Photo:
Dahmer was charged with 17 counts of murder, which was later reduced to 15.  His trial began in January of 1992 and was over in two weeks.  He plead not guilty by reason of insanity but was found sane and sentenced to 15 life sentences, the maximum possible in Wisconsin.  He was later extradited to Ohio for the trial of Stephen Hicks, of which he was also found guilty.  Dahmer served his time at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage.  In July of 1994, a fellow inmate unsuccessfully attempted to slash Dahmer's throat with a razor blade.  That November, Dahmer was beaten to death with a broom handle in the prison's gym.
Dahmer's capture in 1991.  Photo:

Dahmer's apartment building was purchased by nearby Marquette University and razed.  The University intends on leaving the lot empty to deter memorials or shrines to the hideous crimes committed there.  Most of Dahmer's family still resides in Ohio, except for his youngest brother David, who has changed his last name to live in anonymity.  Dahmer's estate was awarded to 11 of the victim's families who intended to auction it off.  The group Milwaukee Civic Pride raised over $500,000 to purchase the entire estate and destroy it.

He claimed that he never enjoyed the act of killing, that it was just a means to an end.  What Dahmer was after was the sexual charge of controlling somebody.  Consuming their flesh, attempting to make them into living zombies was just another way to be the one in charge.  

The name Dahmer will always be in the deep recesses of the state's psycheHe will always be part of Milwaukee lore and forever one of the darkest figures haunting Wisconsin.

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