Jeffrey Dahmer Killed 17 Young Men And Boys — Then Defiled Their Corpses In Unspeakable Ways

Published May 25, 2024
Updated June 10, 2024

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 victims in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin between 1978 and 1991, then collected and cannibalized their remains.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Getty ImagesJeffrey Dahmer’s murders came to an end after his capture by police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 23, 1991.

On the morning of May 27, 1991, Milwaukee police responded to an alarming call. Two women had encountered a naked boy on the street who was disoriented and bleeding. But as the police arrived at the scene, a handsome blond man approached and assured them all was well. But that man was the notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Dahmer calmly told the police officers that the boy was 19 years old and his lover. In reality, Konerak Sinthasomphone was just 14. And he was about to become Dahmer’s latest victim.

But the officers believed Jeffrey Dahmer. Although the women tried to object, they were told to “shut the hell up” and “butt out” of this “domestic” dispute. On their way back to the station, the officers joked about the gay “lovers” — completely unaware that they’d just allowed a murder to happen.

It was but one of 17 murders that Jeffrey Dahmer would commit between 1978 and 1991. Before long, the 31-year-old Dahmer was arrested and charged with murdering Sinthasomphone, along with other men and boys. Tragically, Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims were often young, ranging in age from 14 to 31.

This is the disturbing story of history’s most notorious cannibalistic serial killer — and how he finally got caught red-handed.

Jeffrey Dahmer: A Little Boy Fascinated With Death

Jeffrey Dahmer In High School

Wikimedia CommonsJeffrey Dahmer’s high school yearbook photo.

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was born on May 21, 1960, to a middle-class family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At a young age, he became fascinated with all things related to death and began collecting the carcasses of dead animals.

Eerily, Dahmer’s father Lionel noted how his son was “oddly thrilled” by the sounds of clanking animal bones.

By the time Dahmer was in high school, his family had moved to Bath Township, a sleepy suburb of Akron, Ohio. There, Dahmer was an outcast who quickly became an alcoholic. He drank heavily at school, often hiding beer and hard liquor in his army fatigue jacket.

To fit in, Dahmer would often pull practical jokes, like pretending to have seizures. He would do this so frequently that pulling off a good practical joke became known around the school as “doing a Dahmer.”

During this time, Jeffrey Dahmer also realized that he was gay. As his sexuality blossomed, so too did his increasingly abnormal sexual fantasies. Dahmer began fantasizing about raping men and became aroused by the idea of completely dominating and controlling another person.

As Dahmer’s violent fantasies grew stronger, his control weakened. Just weeks after he graduated high school, Dahmer committed his first murder.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s Murders Begin

Steven Mark Hicks

Public DomainEighteen-year-old Steven Mark Hicks, Jeffrey Dahmer’s first known victim.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s parents divorced the same year he graduated high school. Dahmer’s brother and his father decided to move into a nearby motel, and Dahmer and his mother continued living at the Dahmer family home. Whenever Dahmer’s mother was out of town, he had full control of the house.

On one such occasion, Dahmer took advantage of his newfound freedom. He picked up 18-year-old hitchhiker Steven Mark Hicks, who was on his way to a rock concert in nearby Lockwood Corners. Dahmer convinced Hicks to join him at his house for some drinks before he went to the show.

After hours of drinking and listening to music, Hicks attempted to leave, a move that enraged Dahmer. In response, Jeffrey Dahmer bludgeoned Hicks from behind with a 10-pound dumbbell and strangled him to death. He then stripped Hicks naked and masturbated on his lifeless corpse.

Then, Dahmer brought Hicks down to the crawl space of his house and began dissecting the body. Afterward, Dahmer removed the bones, smashed them to powder, and dissolved the flesh with acid.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders had begun. But on the surface, Dahmer seemed to be a normal young man who was struggling to figure his life out.

Jeffrey Dahmer First Mugshot

Public DomainThe first mugshot of Jeffrey Dahmer, taken in Bath, Ohio.

He briefly attended Ohio State University but dropped out after one term due to his drinking. He also served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army for two years before his alcoholism became a problem.

After being honorably discharged, he returned to his grandmother’s house in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It would later come to light that Dahmer had drugged and raped two other soldiers.

As a civilian, Jeffrey Dahmer’s violence continued. He committed numerous sex crimes, including masturbating in front of children and drugging and raping men at gay bathhouses. In September 1987, Dahmer escalated back to murder when he killed 25-year-old Steven Tuomi.

Dahmer met Tuomi at a bar and convinced the young man to go back to his hotel room with him. Dahmer later claimed that he had just intended to drug and rape the man, but awoke the next morning to find his hand bruised and Tuomi’s bloodied corpse underneath his bed.

Dahmer’s “Incessant And Never-Ending Desire” For Murder

Jeffrey Dahmer’s murder of Steven Tuomi was the catalyst that sparked Dahmer’s true killing spree. After that heinous crime, he began actively seeking out young men at gay bars and luring them back to his grandmother’s house. There, he would drug, rape, and kill them.

Dahmer Victim Steven Tuomi

YouTubeSteven Tuomi, one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s 17 victims.

Dahmer killed at least three victims during this time. He was also arrested for the molestation of a 13-year-old boy. Due to that charge, Dahmer would serve eight months in a work camp.

Still, the idea of killing consumed him. “It was an incessant and never-ending desire to be with someone at whatever cost,” he later said. “Someone good looking, really nice looking. It just filled my thoughts all day long.”

But murder alone wasn’t enough. Jeffrey Dahmer also began to collect grotesque trophies from his victims. This practice began with the murder of a 24-year-old aspiring model named Anthony Sears.

Dahmer The Milwaukee Cannibal

Public DomainBefore Jeffrey Dahmer was captured in 1991, the “Milwaukee Cannibal” brutally murdered at least 17 boys and young men in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Sears struck up a conversation with the seemingly innocent Dahmer at a gay bar. After going home with Dahmer, Sears was drugged, raped, and eventually strangled. Dahmer would then preserve Spears’ head and genitals in jars filled with acetone. When he moved into his own place downtown, Dahmer brought the dismembered pieces of Sears with him.

Over the next two years, Dahmer committed the bulk of his 17 murders. He would lure young men back to his home, often offering them money to pose nude for him before killing them.

The Horrors Of Jeffrey Dahmer’s Murders Grow Even Worse

As Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders continued, his depravity deepened.

After taking photos of the corpses and dissolving their flesh and bones, Dahmer would regularly keep the skulls of his victims as trophies. He also began experimenting with various techniques to preserve these grisly mementos. He once even accidentally exploded the head of one of his victims, Edward Smith, when he tried to dry it out in the oven.

Around the same time, Dahmer began to dabble in cannibalism. He kept body parts in the refrigerator so that he could feast on them later.

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer

Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Sygma via Getty ImagesJeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. He also raped some of his victims and cannibalized their bodies.

But even that wasn’t enough to satisfy Dahmer’s sickening urges. He also began drilling holes into the heads of his victims while they were drugged and still alive. He would then pour hydrochloric acid onto his victim’s brain, a technique that he hoped would put the person in a permanent, unresistant, and submissive state.

He attempted this procedure with numerous victims, including Konerak Sinthasomphone. That’s why, along with being drugged, the boy was unable to communicate with the police and ask for help.

Dahmer’s most violent fantasies had slithered from nightmares to reality. But he hid it well. His parole officer didn’t suspect a thing. And Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims often didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.

The Escape Of His Last Would-Be Victim Leads To Dahmer’s Capture

Tracy Edwards

CBS/KLEWTVJeffrey Dahmer’s last attempted victim, Tracy Edwards, in 1991.

On July 22, 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer went after 32-year-old Tracy Edwards. Like he did with many of his victims, Dahmer offered Edwards money to pose for nude photos in his apartment. But to the shock of Edwards, Dahmer handcuffed him and threatened him with a knife, telling him to undress.

Dahmer then taunted Edwards, telling him that he was going to eat his heart. Dahmer placed his ear against Edwards’ chest and rocked back and forth.

Terrified, Edwards attempted to appease Dahmer, telling him that he was his friend and that he would watch TV with him. While Dahmer was distracted, Edwards punched him in the face and ran out the door — escaping the fate of becoming another one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s murder victims.

Edwards flagged down a police car and led the officers to Dahmer’s apartment. There, a policeman discovered photos of dismembered corpses — which were clearly taken in the same exact apartment that they were now standing in. “These are for real,” said the officer who uncovered the photos, as he handed them to his partner.

Jeffrey Dahmer Crime Scene

Public DomainA 57-gallon drum of acid found in Jeffrey Dahmer’s room. He often used this drum to disintegrate his victims.

Though Dahmer attempted to resist arrest, he was quickly detained.

Upon closer inspection of the apartment, the police found four severed heads in the kitchen and a total of seven skulls, many of them painted. In the fridge, they found numerous body parts, including two human hearts.

In the bedroom, they found a 57-gallon drum — and quickly noticed an overpowering odor emanating from it. When they looked inside, they found three dismembered human torsos dissolving in an acid solution.

The apartment was filled with so many human body parts that were stored and arranged with such care that the medical examiner later said, “It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene.”

When The Tables Turned: The Murder Of Jeffrey Dahmer

Dahmer Murder Trial

Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Sygma via Getty ImagesJeffrey Dahmer’s murder trial shocked and horrified the nation.

After Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested, it didn’t take long for him to admit to all 17 of his murders. But despite his unspeakable crimes, Dahmer was found to be sane during his 1992 trial.

Some disagreed with the declaration of sanity — including at least one other serial killer. When John Wayne Gacy was asked what he thought of Dahmer, he said, “I don’t know the man personally, but I’ll tell ya this, that’s a good example as to why insanity doesn’t belong in the courtroom. Because if Jeffrey Dahmer doesn’t meet the requirements for insanity, then I’d hate like hell to run into the guy that does.”

At Dahmer’s trial, he pled guilty to 15 of the charges against him and was given 15 life sentences plus 70 years. He would spend the next three years imprisoned at Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution, where he would be interviewed by the media multiple times as journalists, doctors, and pundits tried to figure out who Dahmer was deep down. Unsurprisingly, he quickly became infamous as one of the worst serial killers in modern history.

Murder Of Jeffrey Dahmer

Steve Kagan/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesThe Milwaukee Sentinel reports on Dahmer’s death. November 28, 1994.

During his time in prison, Dahmer had constant thoughts of suicide — but he would never get the chance to take his own life. On November 28, 1994, a fellow inmate and convicted murderer named Christopher Scarver beat Dahmer to death with a metal bar in the prison bathroom along with fellow inmate Jesse Anderson.

According to Scarver, Jeffrey Dahmer neither fought back nor made a sound during the attack, but instead appeared to accept his fate.

“If he’d have had a choice, he’d have let this happen to him,” Dahmer’s mother told the Milwaukee Sentinel soon afterward. “I always asked if he was safe, and he’d say, ‘It doesn’t matter, Mom. I don’t care if something happens to me.'”

“Now is everybody happy?” Joyce Dahmer asked. “Now that he’s bludgeoned to death, is that good enough for everyone?”

After learning about Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders, read up on history’s most infamous serial killers and learn how they were finally caught. Then, check out serial killer quotes that will chill you to the bone.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Jeffrey Dahmer Killed 17 Young Men And Boys — Then Defiled Their Corpses In Unspeakable Ways.", May 25, 2024, Accessed June 24, 2024.