Jeffrey Dahmer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 21, 1960 into the household of Lionel and Joyce Dahmer. He was described as an energetic and happy child until the age of 4, when surgery to correct a double hernia seemed to effect a change in the boy. Noticeably subdued, he became increasingly withdrawn following the birth of his younger brother.
After he graduated from high school, in June 1978, Dahmer picked up a hitchhiker named Steven Hicks and took him home to his parents' house, where he proceeded to get the young man drunk. When Hicks tried to leave, Dahmer killed him by striking him in the head and strangling him with a barbell. He dismembered the corpse of his first victim, packed the body parts in plastic bags and buried them behind his parents' home. He later exhumed the remains, crushed the bones with a sledgehammer and scattered them across a wooded ravine.
Dahmer's drinking problem persisted and in early 1981, the Army discharged him. Although German authorities would later investigate possible connections between Dahmer and murders that took place in the area during that time, it is not believed that he took any more victims while serving in the Armed Forces.
Following his discharge, Dahmer returned home to Ohio. An arrest later that year for disorderly conduct prompted his father to send Dahmer to live with his grandmother in Wisconsin, but his alcohol problem persisted and he was arrested the following summer for indecent exposure. He was arrested once again in 1986, when two boys accused him of masturbating in front of them, and he received a one year sentence.
In September 1987, Dahmer took his second victim, Steven Tuomi. They checked into a hotel room and drank, and Dahmer eventually awoke to find Tuomi dead, with no memory of the previous night's activities. He bought a large suitcase to transport Tuomi's body to his grandmother's basement, where he dismembered before disposing of the body.
Dahmer's killing spree lasted for more than 13 years. During that time he sought out mostly African-American men at gay bars, malls and bus stops, lured them home with promises of money or sex, and gave them alcohol laced with drugs before strangling them to death. He would then engage in sex acts with the corpses before dismembering them and disposing of them, often keeping their genitals or skulls as souvenirs. He frequently took photos of his victims at various stages of the murder process, so he could recollect each act afterward and relive the experience.
Dahmer's luck finally ran out on July 22, 1991, when two Milwaukee police officers picked up Tracy Edwards, a 32year old African American man who was wandering the streets with a handcuff dangling from his wrist. They decided to investigate the man's claims that a "weird dude" had drugged and restrained him and arrived at Dahmer's apartment, where he calmly offered to get the keys for the handcuffs.
Edwards claimed that the knife Dahmer had threatened him with was in the bedroom, and when the officer went in to corroborate the story, he noticed photographs of dismembered bodies lying around. Dahmer was subdued by the officers, and subsequent searches revealed a head in the refrigerator, three more in the freezer and a catalog of other horrors, including preserved skulls, jars containing genitalia and an extensive gallery of macabre photographs.
Dahmer initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, despite having confessed to the killings during police interrogation, but he eventually changed his plea to guilty by virtue of insanity. His defense then offered the gruesome details of his behavior, as proof that only someone insane could commit such terrible acts, but the jury chose to believe the prosecution's assertion that Dahmer was fully aware that his acts were evil and chose to commit them anyway. On February 15, 1992, they returned after approximately 10 hours' deliberation to find him guilty, but sane, on all counts. He was sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms in prison, with a 16th term tacked on in May.
On November 28, 1994, in accordance with his inclusion in regular work details, Dahmer was assigned to work with two other convicted murderers, Jesse Anderson and Christopher Scarver. After they had been left alone to complete their tasks, guards returned to find that Scarver had brutally beaten both men with a metal bar from the prison weight room. Dahmer was pronounced dead after approximately one hour, with Anderson also succumbing to his injuries days later.
Following his death, the city of Milwaukee was keen to distance itself from the horrors of Dahmer's actions and the ensuing media circus surrounding his trial. In 1996, a group of local businessmen raised more than $400,000 to purchase the items he used for his victims, including blades, saws, handcuffs and a refrigerator to store body parts, which they promptly destroyed.