True Crime Tuesday: Jeffrey Dahmer

Truly one of the worst of the worst
Truly one of the worst of the worst

Welcome to True Crime Tuesday where we review, recommend and generally obsess over everything crime-related.

When you think serial killer, there are a few infamous names that come to mind: Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez (aka the Night Stalker), Charles Manson, and of course, Jeffrey Dahmer, or the Milwaukee Cannibal. With a nickname like that, you know he’s one of the worst one’s out there.

Jeffrey Dahmer operated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin killing seventeen young men and teenagers before he was finally caught in 1991. Many of his victims were men of colour. One in particular, 14-year-old Laotian immigrant Konerak Sinthasomphone, managed to escape from Dahmer’s apartment. He was noticed by three black women who called the cops even when Dahmer caught up with them and tried to explain that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend.

When the cops—two white men—arrived, they believed Dahmer’s story and eventually returned the 14-year-old to his apartment. If they’d done a simple background check on Dahmer they would have found that he was a convicted sex offender. Instead, they did nothing and Dahmer killed Sinthasomphone later that day—and four more men after that before he was caught. A recent article for NewNowNext goes into how Dahmer’s spree was able to go on not just because of police incompetence, but because of complicit racism.

If you’re interested in a detailed timeline of Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes, The Last Podcast on the Left devotes three episodes to him as part of their Heavy Hitter series. LPOTL is a comedy-true crime podcast that is definitely not concerned with being politically correct or avoiding controversy, so their approach isn’t for everyone. But at the very least, it’s well-researched.

Learning about the crimes of a serial killer is one thing, but digging into his past and what he was like before he became a cold blooded killer is another. My Friend Dahmer, which is based on a graphic novel of the same name, was just released and it shows what Jeffrey Dahmer the teenager was like—it’s even partially filmed in the house Dahmer actually lived in with his family in Bath, Ohio. The writer, Derf Backderf was actually briefly friends with him in high school so he has rare insights into his background. The graphic novel provides an even more detailed perspective and paints Dahmer in a sympathetic light. He was considered a “weirdo” at school—the type we can all probably look back and say, “oh ya, I knew someone like that”.

As interesting as finding out how he came across to other people is, there’s no substitute for hearing from the actual killer himself. That’s why Oxygen’s upcoming two-night special, Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks is a must-watch. It includes never-before-seen interviews with Dahmer himself where he describes his crimes from his own point of view and interviews with his father and stepmother and two of his almost-victims that managed to survive.

After he was finally caught, Jeffrey Dahmer confessed to killing 16 men in Wisconsin, and one in Ohio (his first victim, Steven Hicks, in 1978). He plead guilty but insane, but was found sane and eventually sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment. After spending less than three years behind bars, he was murdered at the age of 34 by another inmate who was already serving a life sentence.

Oxygen’s Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks airs on November 11th and 12th. Check out the trailer below:

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