Jeffrey Dahmer: The man who lived for death

How a serial killer’s uncanny attraction to dead bodies led to an infamous murder spree


Pooja Singamsetty

Notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had a strange obsession with the movie The Exorcist III. He forced some of his victims to watch the movie before he killed them.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details depicting the crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer.

*TW: mention of sexual assault, murder, rape, necrophilia* 

Jeffrey Dahmer was an American serial killer living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was born on May 21, 1960, and was a generally happy and energetic baby until a hernia operation at the age of four had seemingly changed him forever. Dahmer first started having homicidal thoughts and necrophiliac compulsions at around the age of 14. His first kill was in 1987, by 1992 he had murdered an additional 15 young men, most of which were African American, Asian, or Latino. 

His first victim was 18-year-old Steven Hicks, who was hitchhiking and lured into Dahmer’s car under the pretext of sharing a couple drinks. After spending some time at Dahmer’s house, Hicks decided it was time to leave. However, just as he had stood up to walk out the door, Dahmer struck him on the back of the head with a dumbbell. He then used the dumbbell’s metal bar to strangle him to death. Dahmer then stripped Hicks of his clothes and engaged in various sex acts with the corpse. After having sex with the body, he dismembered it to get rid of the evidence. 

Dahmer would typically pick up his victims from clubs, gay bars, or bath houses. He would then roofie (spike) their drink using either triazolam or temazepam to get his victims unconscious. At this time he would strangle his victims and often cannibalize them. Dahmer became obsessed with the idea of creating “zombies” and decided to begin experimenting on his victims to create submissive sex slaves that he could use at his disposal. 

On May 26, 1991, he kidnapped 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone. However, Konerak wasn’t the only victim of Dahmer in the Sinthasomphone family; Konerak’s older brother, 13-year-old Somsack was sexually assaulted by Dahmer in 1989 after having agreed to go to his apartment for a paid nude photoshoot. Thankfully, he was able to escape. 

In the time, Konerak was being held captive at Dahmer’s mercy, he was drugged, raped, and had a hole drilled into the back of his skull while he was unconscious. Dahmer used this hole to pour hydrochloric acid directly into the victim’s brain. This rendered Konerak unable to fight back as he had lost control of most of his motor function. However, with the odds stacked against him, he managed to escape and leave Dahmer’s apartment building, where he ran into Glenda Cleaveland, her daughter Sandra Smith, and Nicole Childress. They altered authorities of a disoriented underage boy who was bleeding and dazed wandering around outside naked. 

Dahmer arrived shortly after the two officers responded to the call. Despite Glenda Cleaveland and her family’s cries, Dahmer was able to convince the cops that Konerak was his drunken boyfriend, who was overage. Konerak, who was unable to respond, was taken back into Dahmer’s apartment by the police who did a quick inspection of Dahmer’s unit. The body of one of Dahmer’s other victims lay dead on the floor of another room; meanwhile the cop’s discomfort of homosexuality led them to cease further investigation. 

The cops left as they released Konerak back into Dahmer’s care. He was never seen again and became Dahmer’s 13th and youngest victim that night. Like many of his other victims, Konerak was dismembered and dissolved in acid. While Dahmer’s ill deeds are nobody’s fault but his, the Milwaukee police department should be held accountable for their racist, homophobic biases that, if addressed, could have put a stop to Dahmer’s murder spree. 

Dahmer’s murder spree continued until July 22, 1991 when he was caught after offering $100 to three men to come back to his apartment for a nude photoshoot. Tracy Edwards (32) took up his offer and went back to Dahmer’s apartment, where he was held hostage for four hours before finally being able to escape at night in handcuffs. He had flagged down a police car and told the officer that he had escaped from a man who was trying to murder him. After some dismissal, the cops decided to check out Dahmer’s apartment before returning Edwards back to him. They were hit with the stench of rotting bodies almost immediately after entering the apartment. When the cop was searching Dahmer’s apartment he caught focus of several polaroids containing horrifying images of nude corpses contorted in unnatural positions. He also had polaroids of dismembered, mutilated parts of bodies, which the police would later find in his freezer. His freezer contained hands, genitals, organs, and three severed heads. Among the other incriminating evidence, Dahmer’s apartment also contained numerous tools used for his sadistic crimes, including a sledgehammer, saws, needles, knives, and hatchets. The torsos of many of his victims were also found in the 57 gallon acid drum in his room. 

He was finally arrested after Edwards’ escape and pleaded guilty but insane in court, for 15 of his 17 murders. By February 1992, the jury found him guilty and sane for the duration of all of his crimes. He was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences but only lived to serve two years of his sentence. He was killed in prison by fellow inmate, Christopher Scarver, who was serving life in prison for murder. When placed on work detail with Dahmer and inmate Jesse Anderson (who murdered his wife by stabbing her in the face 5 times), Scarver waited for a moment alone with the two men before killing them both. He used a 20-inch long five pound metal weight bar to bludgeon them to death. Both murders occurred on November 29, 1994. Scarver received two life sentences in addition to the life sentence he was already serving. He claimed that God had told him to kill Dahmer and that his murders were acts of servitude.  

Jeffery Dahmer’s crimes were able to go unnoticed for such a long time because of the racism and homophobia plaguing the Milwaukee police department at the time. Dahmer took advantage of the fact that his victims were systematically less of a priority to the cops and would thus fly under the radar. It is important to be aware of this story because it brings light to the fatal consequences of letting personal prejudices get in the way of justice. The cop’s ignorance towards gay POC ultimately led to the deaths of many of Dahmer’s victims. 

“True Crime Chronicles” is a recurring weekly crime column, in which the crimes of famous serial killers are retold, for avid true-crime enthusiasts by an avid true-crime enthusiast.