In the United States, people from different spheres focus on analyzing and understanding serial killings to predict possible disasters and learn human behaviors. According to Choo and Choi (2020), murder is a combination of individual, social, health, cultural, and environmental factors, explaining the necessity to consider multiple perspectives of criminal behavior. In the list of the most notorious serial murderers, the name of Jeffrey Dahmer can be found as this man killed 17 people in 13 years, including a 9-year-break after his first murder (Inside Edition, 2018). There are many reasons for examining Dahmer’s case, including his childhood, schooling, and mental health problems as the major contributing factors and police negligence as an external aspect. Compared to other serial killers, Dahmer cooperated with journalists and criminologists, making his story available in various media sources. Dahmer was a real Milwaukee monster who suffered from psychotic disorder and schizophrenia and was accused of his serial killings and sexual offenses, characterized by cannibalism, necrophilia, and human body preservation.
Today, the life of Jeffrey Dahmer is currently discussed in many criminology and psychology classes as an example of how a person with several mental health disorders was legally found sane. Dahmer was born in a hard-working middle-class family in Milwaukee on May 21, 1960 (Montaldo, 2019). Although his parents, Lionel and Joyce, did not have perfect relationships, they completed their primary responsibilities by supporting their first child’s basic needs and traditional toddler activities. According to his mother (as cited in Giacomazzo, 2021), there were no warning signs in Jeffrey’s behavior. Dahmer never defined parental neglect as a possible reason for his passion for killing (James, 2019). His teacher at Hazel Harvey Elementary School admitted that the boy felt neglected after his baby brother David was born in 1966 (Schwartz, 2021). The family changed several towns for living, which could explain the impossibility of noticing serious behavioral shifts in the boy. In 1974, Jeffrey went to Revere High School, played clarinet and intramural tennis, and was reported in the school newspaper (Schwartz, 2021). In 1978, he graduated from the school, but his grades significantly declined because of his drinking problems.
Dahmer was accepted to Ohio State University after high school to study business, but he dropped out in three months due to absenteeism and falling behind his peers. The father insisted on joining the Army, but Dahmer was honorably discharged (Montaldo, 2019). After that, Jeffrey changed several jobs, including the Milwaukee Ambrosia Chocolate Factory, where he earned nine dollars per hour and from which he was fired after ten months because of missing the shifts (Schwartz, 2021). During the next five years, the man continued drinking, meeting people, and changing his living places. He was arrested several times but discharged on bail or probation (Wynne, 2019). In 1991, Dahmer was arrested for murder; however, at that moment, he had killed not one but 17 young men.
It is not always possible to understand serial killers, and people want to find some rational explanations or causes. As a result, individuals who commit murders and cannibalism report poor childhood experiences, poverty, biological changes, or meaningful life events (Marono & Keatley, 2022). Dahmer’s family may be defined as one of the contributing factors to his mental abnormalities. At four, the boy had double hernia surgery and experienced severe groin pain (Schwartz, 2021). In a short period, he turned from a sweet and kind boy to a socially isolated loner with an emotionless stare (Montaldo, 2019). Loneliness in childhood is a serious risk factor for criminal behavior (Reid et al., 2019). His parents did nothing to help the child but focused on their problems, which resulted in their divorce when Jeffrey was almost 18. His father even reported Jeffrey was abused by their neighbor, but no allegations followed (Schwartz, 2021). The boy lived with his father, who was traveling a lot, and his grandmother, while his younger brother moved with their mother. Jeffrey spent most of his time by himself, choosing people for his joy.
School and Society
Another important aspect of his behavioral changes and problems was his schooling and the lack of friends in his life. Jeffrey spent much time at home observing his father’s chemical experiments with dead animals and dried-out skins (Schwartz, 2021). At school, he was recognized as a loner with an odd fascination that did not fit social norms (Schwartz, 2021). Instead of helping the boy at a young age, his weirdness was neglected, and some peers expected to hear about his suicide (Schwartz, 2021). Students continued bullying, but experts did not define his behavior as a discipline problem. Similar inabilities to recognize the problem in a person were related to police officers who did not help 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, who almost escaped from Dahmer. Because of Sinthasomphone’s disorientation and general appearance (Lao ethnicity), police believed Jeffrey said they were lovers who quarreled (Jentzen, 2017; Inside Edition, 2018). That day, the boy was Dahmer’s 13th victim. In other words, it is correct to admit that society and school contributed to creating and maintaining a monster in their neighborhood.
Sexual Identity and Personal Habits
The impact of his homosexuality, drug addiction, and alcoholism could be the causes of his killings. Many officials admitted that homosexual overkill affected his decision-making, but gay communities objected to such a prejudiced expression (Schwartz, 2021). However, the fact that Jeffrey was gay could explain the choice of his victims, mostly young black men. In his interview, Dahmer mentioned the intention to desensitize himself and the obsessive desire to control his victims and possess them “permanently” (as cited in Inside Edition, 2018). He made photographs and saved human body parts, including skulls and skeletons. According to his attorney, Gerald Boyle, Dahmer ate some body parts to make them alive in him and played with them to satisfy his abnormal needs (Schwartz, 2021). Several human heads, male genitals, and hands were found in the fridge (Jentzen, 2017). In fact, most of his victims came to his house voluntarily due to their common interests and sexual identities, which allowed Dahmer to continue his crimes and meet people at gay bars (Langley, 2020). Therefore, individual habits and sexual orientation might explain the nature of his behavior and demands.
Mental Health Problems
When Dahmer was arrested, many psychologists worked with him to make the right diagnosis and study his serial murders. He did not just kill young people, but ate their bodies, photographed them, and raped or masturbated over corpses (Montaldo, 2019). Several diagnoses were made to find at least some rational explanation for his actions, including depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and psychotic disorder (Langley, 2020). One of the appointed psychiatrists, George Palermo, underlined the necessity of treatment, but he also mentioned that Dahmer was not legally insane (as cited in Schwartz, 2021). His behavior was well-organized, and his decisions were driven by his obsessive dreams of possessing and controlling others (Schwartz, 2021). During his second murder, Dahmer did not remember the moment he killed Steven Walter Tuomi, and his remains were never found (Inside Edition, 2018). With time, his killings accompanied memorabilia and hostility (Jentzen, 2017). These observations and findings proved his mental instability, but at that moment, evidence was not enough to define him as mentally ill.
Explanation of Murders
The stories like those of Jeffrey Dahmer’s quickly become the theme of new media projects and documentaries. People seem to want to know more about how a murder occurred, what feelings a murderer possessed, and what behaviors victims preferred. Citizens believed that local tours are characterized by historical and educational values not to disrespect victims’ families but to remember all those young boys being violently murdered (Cooper, 2019). Dahmer drugged his victims to ensure they spent more time following their own will (Wynne, 2019). Such approaches prove his loneliness and the inability to establish long-term relationships in his life (Reid et al., 2019). He ate and suffered from necrophilia, which underlines mental health problems as the major explanation for his crime. Finally, the most terrible thing was his desire to discuss all his crimes in detail. Despite the number of assessments and guesses, many aspects of Dahmer’s life remain poorly understood.
The type of violence demonstrated by Jeffrey Dahmer while killing 17 young men may be explained by several contributing factors. Attorneys and psychiatrists address several mental health disorders that could affect his behavior and the decision to not only kill, but partition, rape, photograph, and preserve his victims for a long period. His communication and manipulation helped the murderer find rational excuses and explanations for weird situations. Besides, his childhood experiences, schooling without friends, homosexuality, and individual habits should be mentioned as the issues contributing to his serial killings and his readiness to cooperate with criminologists and journalists. Despite various sources describing Dahmer’s life, people might have many questions about this person and his violent behaviors.
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