Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Lionel and Joyce Dahmer. At the age of eight, his family moved to Bath, Ohio. As a child, he was a very shy and suffered from low self esteem (Lionel, 1994). His parents divorced while he was still a small boy. His mother left with his brother leaving him in the care of his father and step mother. He consequently lost contact with his mother and brother whom he did not see for many years.
He attended Revere High School in Ohio and was afterwards admitted to Ohio State University where he dropped out after two semesters. His father then forced him to join the army where he was enlisted for six years as an army medic. However he was discharged after two years as a result of excessive drinking. He then moved to Miami Beach, Florida where he offered the skills he had learnt from the army to a local hospital. Just like in the army, he was dismissed from the hospital as a result of excessive drinking. After being kicked out of the hospital, he moved in with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin for a period of six years. His grandmother also sent him away due his drinking sprees which extended late into the night (Lionel, 1994). As a child, Dahmer killed and collected dead animals and kept them in the garage. This was revealed to the police by his step mother after he was arrested. He also alleged that he was molested when he was a young boy by a neighbor.
Dahmler was a serial killer who lured his victims to his house where he killed them and mutilated their bodies. He cut his victims’ bodies some of which he consumed and preserved others in his shrine. He therefore also engaged in cannibalism. He was a psychopath who had the ability to deceive his victims as well as the police with his calm demeanor. His monstrous behavior can be largely attributed to his personal imbalances that can be traced back to his early childhood which later resulted in chronic neurological deficiencies as an adult (Robert, 2006). His case has been as the subject of research in different fields including psychology, behavioral science and criminology in trying to explain why people engage in criminal activities. These studies may be used in the future to deter crime.
Dahmer killed his first victim when he was eighteen years old. This marked the beginning of series of brutal, inhumane murders that involved dismembering the victim’s body and consuming his body parts which Dahmer claimed gave him special powers to overcome his social as well as financial problems. These killings which shocked the whole nation would go on unnoticed, even by law enforcement agencies, for another thirteen years claiming a total of seventeen young men and boys. Dahmer was first arrested in 1988 not on charges of murder but on accusations of molesting a thirteen year old boy. He was sentenced to a year in prison but was released ten months later and placed under probation where he was to report to the police every month.
Most of Dahmer’s victims were young men of Asian and African American descent who formed a significant population in his neighborhood. He usually got his victims from gay bars where he would entice young men with drinks so that they could accompany him home to watch movies and pose for photos. Once they got to his house, he would drug his victims before stabbing them and raping them. He would then proceed to dismember their body parts. He consumed their muscles and kept their heads and genitals as trophies. This continued until 1991 when he was apprehended and charged with sixteen counts of murder. He was found guilty after his plea for insanity was thrown out and handed a sentence of 936 years in prison. He died in 1994 after he was killed by a fellow inmate while working out in the gym.
Dahmler’s case can be explained by psychological and biological theories of causation of crime. Biological theories attribute an individual’s affinity to engage in criminal activities to their genetic and neurological deficiencies (Shelden, 2008). This may result in a disorder known as psychopathy. Contrary to popular belief, psychopaths are not unambitious people with a low IQ. Psychopaths may often be intelligent, ambitious, creative individuals with a tendency to be manipulative, egocentric and often show little or no emotion. Dahmer was an above average individual and this is proven by the fact that he was admitted to the Ohio State University and was also enlisted in the army for six years. He even had a job just like any other ordinary citizen. However his neurological deficiencies, propagated by traumatizing events in his early childhood led him to become a murderous monster. The degree of deviant behavior exhibited by psychopaths depends on the individual’s life experiences especially those that relate to his or her early childhood.
Many psychopaths have been known to be chronic offenders. Although they might not go to Dahmler’s extreme, they have the habit of being found on the wrong side of the law. They may engage in minor offences like public brawls and drunken driving (Jonathan. P.H., 2001). Most people suffer from this deficiencies however not all of them end up being murderous. This means that there are certain factors which stir up these deficiencies to the point of eroding an individual’s conscience. Childhood experiences and mode of upbringing play a significant role in enhancing an individual’s neurological deficiencies. Human beings’ life experiences are to a large extent modeled on his or her childhood experiences. This brings us to the second theory of causation of crime; the psychological theory.
According to the psychological theory people commit crime because of imbalances that can be traced back to early childhood (Shelden, 2008). Dahmler as mentioned earlier had the habit of killing animals and stocking them up. His neurological deficiencies started showing in early childhood but this did not seem to bother his stepmother or father at the time. As an adult his childhood behavior was replicated but this time it was not dead animals he was stocking up but dead bodies of human beings. He also was raised up as a child from a broken family and never saw his mother or brother from the time he was separated from them as a young boy. This must have traumatized him as a child triggering his deviant behavior later as an adult.
The effects of neurological abnormalities leading to deviant behavior can be managed in society if the necessary measures are put in place early enough so as to avoid a repeat of the Dahmler’s case in future. To begin with, the law enforcement agencies should not treat any incidents reported to them lightly, however trivial. Psychopaths have the ability to disguise themselves as honest and law abiding citizens due to the fact that they do not show emotion. They will not panic or become nervous even after committing a very grave crime.
In the case of Dahmler, the police were negligent. They ignored crucial leads that could have led to the early arrest of Dahmler. The most bizarre incident was that of 14year old Konerak where Dahmler managed to fool the police and went ahead and murdered the young boy. In the early morning of May 27, 1991, three police officers were alerted of a young boy of Asian origin running around a Milwaukee suburb naked and bleeding with a white man following him trying to get him back to his apartment. The police arrived at the scene but Dahmer managed to convince them that this was his nineteen year old gay partner and they had just had a small disagreement.
The police dismissed it as one of those gay outbursts and left the two to solve their issues. This was after the police had seen the boy bleeding and even more surprising, after checking out his house which by then should have been having an awful stench as a result of the numerous human body parts stored in the house. After the arrest of Dahmer, the officers were discharged but later reinstated after they made an appeal and were awarded with the honor of police of the year for what was termed as a righteous battle for reinstatement by the police union. Cases of young gay men disappearing had also been reported but the police did not take such matters very seriously. Law enforcement agencies in suburban areas should therefore be sensitized on the need to take such matters seriously as it is not possible to rule out another Dahmer case in the future. Dahmer’s behavior can be partly attributed to some form of mental illness and poor socialization which he was able to hide through his calm and composed nature, a characteristic exhibited by most psychopaths. The police should therefore be more proactive by thoroughly investigating any reported incidents however trivial they may be. This will go a long way in apprehending any potential Dahmer’s before they become murderous monsters. If the police had bothered to look more closely into the Konerak incidence, they would have saved the life of the four young men who were brutally executed by Dahmer afterwards.
As mentioned above, the early childhood experiences have a lot of influence on an individual’s adult life. Those entrusted with the responsibility of raising up children should be responsible enough to give them a decent childhood full of love and concern. This includes the parents, guardians, teachers, relatives and the older members of society. In case a child develops unusual behavior as in the case of Dahmer, it is important to seek help from an expert on child psychology. This may help correct neurological imbalances before the situation gets out of control.
Lionel. D. (1994) A Father’s Story. William Morrow & Company, New York.
Robert. M. & Miryam.W. (2006) Forensic Detective – How I Cracked The World’s Toughest Cases. Ballantine
Brian.M. (1993) The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer. Hodder and Stroughton Limited, London.
Jonathan. P.H. (2001) Base Instincts – What Makes Killers kill? W.W. Norton & Company, New York
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Smith. B.A. & Berlin. L. (1988) Treating the Criminal Offender: Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Springer.
Duff. R.A. & Green. S. (2006) Defining Crimes: Essays on the special part of the Criminal law. Retrieved December 4, 2008 from http://www.worldtrade.com/society/law/crime.