Never before has egregious police incompetence hindered the apprehension of a serial killer as in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer. When police were called to investigate an alleged domestic disturbance between Konerak Sinthasomophone and Jeffrey Dahmer on May 27, 1991. Although two women came to the aide of Sinthasomophone and urged police to look further into the alleged dispute, the police ignored their pleas and Dahmer was able to convince them that Sinthasomophone was his 19-year-old lover; if police had bothered to check Sinthasomophone's identification they would have seen that he was in fact only 14 years old (Bardsley, n.d.). Having convinced the police that Sinthasomophone and he were in the midst of a lovers' quarrel, Sinthasomophone was released into Dahmer's custody and by the end of the night, Sinthasomophone would become Dahmer's 13th victim (Bardsley, n.d.). Dahmer would proceed to murder four more young men before he was apprehended on July 22, 1991 after Tracy Edwards, his intended victim, escaped Dahmer's house of horrors and managed to flag down a police car and lead them back to Dahmer's home, located at the Oxford Apartments at 924 N. 25th Street (Davis, 1995). Edwards convinced Police Officers Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller to investigate Dahmer's apartment, and although Dahmer attempted to once again claim that he and Edwards were in the midst of a lovers' quarrel. While "Officer Mueller headed for the bedroom…Rauth remained in the living room and attempted to learn more about [Edwards'][footnoteRef:1] allegations against Dahmer from the suspect himself. Rauth's efforts, however, appeared futile. Dahmer was in an alcohol-induced stupor, and he wasn't saying much" (King, n.d.). Officer Mueller was not prepared for what he would find in Dahmer's bedroom. "When Mueller reached the oppressive, fly-infested bedroom, he found a 12-inch butcher knife hidden under the bed [just as Edwards claimed] and noted a Polaroid camera lying on the bed, and several photographs protruding from a drawer…When he viewed [the photographs], Mueller suddenly felt light-headed and nauseous" (King, n.d.). The massive amounts of horrifying evidence prompted Rauth and Mueller to arrest Dahmer on the spot. A more in-depth search of the apartment would yield a trove of grotesque trophies that were kept by Dahmer and would come to incriminate him. [1: King identifies Tracy Edwards as Bruce Wilcox in his article due to the fact that at the time the story was being written the investigation in Dahmer's crimes was a foregoing and ongoing story.]
Prior to the murders that took place in Milwaukee, Dahmer also murdered an undisclosed number of people while residing with his paternal grandmother in South Allis, Ohio, a secondary known crime scene was located at 4480 West Bath Road, which would be where Steven Hicks, Dahmer's first known victim, was murdered. Dahmer murdered Hicks by first striking him over the head with a barbell and then proceeding to strangle him to death. Initially, Dahmer "dismembered the body in his residence and buried the body on his property outside his residence" (Davis, 1995, p. 40). At a future, undisclosed time, Dahmer dug up Hicks' body and then broke up the bones and scattered them. Hicks' remains were then scattered "over the property lines of 4480 West Bath Road; 4410 West Bath Road, and 4464 West Bath Road" (Davis, 1995, p. 39-40).
Dahmer used photography to keep a record of his heinous crimes, often taking snapshots of his victims in various stages of dissection and mutilation. "Several of the Polaroid shots depicted nude men engaged in homosexual acts…The flesh on one of the corpses, from its chest down, had been stripped cleanly away" perhaps by being immersed in some sort of acid (King, n.d.). It was not long before Officer Mueller realized, during his initial investigation into Tracy Edwards' claim that the photographs had been taken in the very room that he was in. Mueller then proceeded into the kitchen area where he found a severed human head in the refrigerator (King, n.d.). Mueller put Dahmer under arrest and then proceeded to further search the apartment. During this initial search, Mueller and Rauth found a number of human skulls and other various, mutilated body parts and more photographs that belonged to Dahmer's extensive and grotesque collection (Montaldo, n.d.). Due to the nature of the evidence found, not only was Milwaukee's medical examiner Dr. Jeffrey Jenzten called to the scene of the crime, but due to the hazardous materials found on the premises, the Milwaukee Fire Department Hazardous Materials Response Unit had to be called to aid in the removal of forensic evidence from the scene (Sorgi, 2011; Oppat, 2008).
The forensic evidence in Dahmer's case appears to have been collected in two separate ways: the physical, non-hazardous materials were collected by the police department, whereas the hazardous materials were carefully sealed and removed from the premises by the Hazardous Materials Response Unit, who were required to wear hazmat suits to protect them from any corrosive materials that they might encounter. The evidence removed from Dahmer's apartment included: a human head and three bags of organs, two of which were hearts found in the refrigerator; three heads, a torso, and various internal organs that were found inside a free-standing freezer; chemicals, formaldehyde, ether, and chloroform, and two hands and male genitalia that were found in the closet; a filing cabinet containing three painted skulls, a skeleton, a dried scalp, male genitalia, and various photographs of his victims; a box containing two skulls; a 57-gallon vat filled with acid and containing three torsos; victims' identifications; bleach used to bleach the skulls and bones; incense sticks -- "neighbors often complained to Dahmer about the smell coming from his apartment;" tools including a claw hammer, handsaw, 3/8" drill, 1/16" drill, and assorted drill bits; a hypodermic needle; an assortment of videos, some pornographic, which also included copies of Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Exorcist; a blood soaked mattress and blood spatters; and a King James Bible (Montaldo, n.d.; King, n.d.). Additionally, "the team also discovered five full skeletons at an undisclosed location inside the apartment. By their best count, at least at this point, the cops had recovered the remains of 11 victims inside Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment" (King, n.d.).
As forensic evidence was being collected from Dahmer's apartment, Milwaukee Police Chief Phillip Arreola held a news conference during which he revealed that there were many victims recovered from the apartment, and as far as investigators could tell, they were all male; most of the victims appeared to be black, but there were also victims of various races, including the Laotian Sinthasomophone (King, n.d.)
In one of many surprising twists in the case, Dahmer confessed to murdering the 11 victims found in his apartment and the murders that took place at his grandmother's house in South Allis. Upon a search of Dahmer's grandmother's house, investigators uncovered the remains of one of three people Dahmer admitted to killing there and seized a sledgehammer, a hatchet, a sewer grate cover, and several prescription drug containers (King, n.d.).
Furthermore, Dahmer disclosed the details of how he murdered and disposed of Steven Hicks' body, which prompted investigators in Ohio to conduct a search of his former home in Bath. "On the first day of their search…searchers found as many as 50 bone pieces and fragments as they raked debris from the ground where Dahmer had told them to look. Among the bones found was a pelvic bone, a long leg bone, a rib, and a forearm" (King, n.d.). Summit County Coroner William A. Cox believed that up to 70% of the bones recovered were human and that some of the bones appeared to be skull fragments. "At a hastily called news conference, Cox said that investigators hoped to extract genetic material from the bones and make a positive identification utilizing DNA printing, even though they had little or no doubt that the remains were Hicks'" (King, n.d.).
In another surprising twist in the case, "Dahmer was willing to give a full confession, leading to a unique investigation that saw Dahmer work closely alongside authorities to match assorted evidence collected from his home with missing persons' reports" (Ianelli, 2011). Dahmer's collaboration with the Medical Examiner's Office enabled them to determine exactly who his victims were; however, forensic testing would help to verify the identity of his victims.
Description of Analytical Tests
The identification of Dahmer's victims would require a number of different tests and the collaboration of several professionals across a variety of forensic fields. One of the first things that investigators had to do was to match organs and body parts to their respective victims. In order to complete this undertaking, investigators turned to DNA analysis. "To identify individuals, forensic scientists scan 13 DNA regions, or loci, that vary from person to person and use the date to create a DNA profile of that individual" (DNA Forensics, 2009). Forensic scientists then compare DNA samples in order to determine if…