Jeffrey Dahmer, The Milwaukee Cannibal

Jeffrey Dahmer was an American cannibalistic serial killer who sexually assaulted and dismembered 17 men.
Jeffrey Dahmer, The Milwaukee Cannibal
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Written by Vanessa Viqueira

Last update: 04 March, 2024

When Jeffrey Dahmer was stopped for the first time at a police checkpoint, they didn’t imagine for a moment that, behind his polite and charming demeanor a dangerous serial killer was hiding. Not to mention a cannibal.

As a matter of fact, that very same day, in the trunk of his car he was carrying the remains of one of his victims. The mistake was in letting him go with only a speeding ticket. This negligence cost the lives of another 16 men. In fact, it marked the beginning of an unparalleled necrophiliac orgy.

Childhood and adolescence

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960, in Milwaukee, into a middle-class family. As he declared on numerous occasions, there were no unusual events in his childhood to justify what he became. There was no mistreatment or sexual abuse, as in other cases, like Ed Kemper, for instance.

Dahmer  was a shy and lonely boy, who had a hard time relating to other children. He loved animals, but over time he took a liking to dissecting dead animals “to see what they were like inside”.

Lonely boy from behind

Abnormal recurring fantasies

In Bath (Ohio), the town in which he spent his adolescence, homosexuality was taboo. At that time, Dahmer began to be aware of his sexual inclination toward men. The problem was that in his fantasies, men were always immobile or unconscious. In addition, he’d established an association between violence and sex. This would mark his future behavior and actions.

Dahmer was aware that these types of thoughts weren’t normal. He began to drink large amounts of alcohol, which resulted in him being expelled from both university and the army (he enlisted at the direction of his father). His impulses were too strong, and neither the alcohol nor the mannequins he kept in the closet to simulate inert people could placate them.

Gradually, his great fantasy in which he had a submissive lover came to fruition. However, aware that he couldn’t achieve it consensually, he set out to capture a man to take home, drug, and kill so he could have sex with the corpse, and then eat parts of it.

A cannibal on the loose

This he did. Proof of it can be found in the photographs the police found in his apartment about the different phases of the process of dismembering corpses he was carrying out. It was for this reason that, in the future, he was called the cannibal of Milwaukee or the Milwaukee monster.

He committed the first murder at the age of 18 when he was left alone in the family home for weeks. He picked up a hitchhiker, Steven Hicks, who he took home. They drank and took substances, but when Steven wanted to leave the house, Jeffrey stopped him by hitting him with a barbell. The next day he tore his body apart and disposed of it.

Eight years later, he committed his second murder in a hotel room. He’d met Steven Toumi at a local bar and, after putting sleeping pills in his drink to render him unconscious, Jeffrey found Steven’s body the next morning. He claimed he didn’t remember what had happened the night before. He then boned the carcass and kept the skull as a souvenir.

More murders followed, two in 1988, one in 1989, four in 1990, and eight in 1991, until he was arrested. He used to save objects and body parts of his victims, to masturbate to while reminiscing about the murders. In several interviews, he confessed that he ate parts of the bodies of his victims “so that they would be part of him”.

They could’ve caught him on more than one occasion

There were several occasions when he had contact with the police, but there was never a reason for suspicion. On one occasion, after drugging and sexually abusing one of his victims, Konerak Sinthasomphone, a 14-year-old Laotian, he decided to go to a bar for drinks.

While Dahmer was at the bar, Konerak, still in a daze, regained consciousness and managed to get out of the apartment. The cannibal had made a trepanation, a hole in his head with a drill, and had poured acid directly into his brain (among his fantasies was keeping his victims alive in a permanent submissive and unresistant state).

As Dahmer was about to return to his apartment, he found the boy sitting naked on the sidewalk, barely able to speak. He was surrounded by policemen astounded by the situation they were faced with. Dahmer approached and managed to convince the agents that Konerak was his lover and was drunk. They believed him. Not only that, but they also helped him take him back to his apartment.

Perhaps if they’d paid more attention to the stench in the apartment (which was recorded in a subsequent inspection report), or simply entered the apartment, they might have seen that there was already a dead body in the bedroom. Instead, Konerak was left at the mercy of his executioner, who strangled him minutes later.

A hunted cannibal

There were several victims who escaped from the clutches of Dahmer after suffering sexual abuse. However, when they reported what had happened, the police weren’t interested. This meant that Dahmer was able to pay little attention to those who escaped his clutches since they didn’t cause him any problems.

However, in July 1991, Tracy Edwards, who’d been handcuffed by Dahmer, managed to escape from his apartment and stopped a nearby police patrol. When they proceeded to search the apartment, they had no idea of the subsequent magnitude of the discovery.

They discovered photographs of eviscerations and the human remains of eleven people. Dahmer had hidden heads in the fridge, organs in the freezer, and skulls in cabinets. There was blood on the walls, a 215-book can of acid, and three decomposing human torsos.

Following this discovery, there was a huge uproar in America. The most disturbing thing was that all these murders had gone unnoticed. Indeed, no one had missed their victims, which further complicated Dahmer’s link to the crimes being uncovered.

Condemnation and end

Dahmer pleaded guilty to all seventeen murders. In fact, the evidence against him was indisputable. The question that was raised most during the trial was whether he suffered from some kind of mental disorder or not. The defense didn’t have an easy time, since Dahmer had given enough signs of knowing exactly what he was doing, as well as the legal or moral implications of his actions.

By ten votes against two, in 1992 he was found guilty and sentenced to 937 years in prison. He granted several interviews of great forensic value.

Robert Ressler who, in his day, coined the term serial killer, collected in his book entitled, “I Have Lived in the Monster: Inside the Minds of the World’s Most Notorious Serial Killers”, an extensive interview with Dahmer requested by his defense team to be used during the trial. Ressler argued that a person with such impulses shouldn’t go to prison, but to a psychiatric hospital.

At the end of the day, Dahmer’s stay in prison was extremely short. In 1994, another prisoner approached him in the prison gym and beat him with a barbell until he died. That was the end of Jeffrey Dahmer.

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