Jeffrey Dahmer has been one of the most notorious serial killers in American History. Dahmer’s killings primarily took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for several years during the late eighties into the early nineties. He murdered over a dozen men, of different races but mostly homosexuals. Not only was the public shocked but also sickened by his brutal killings and his perverse nature of his sexual murders. Jeffrey’s odd behavior and his abnormal personal characteristics made his case extremely interesting to the individuals in the United States.
Such characteristics relevant to Jeffrey included his incapacity to develop his social skills and feelings for others, in addition to impulsive behavior which led to his violent and sexual offending (Biography). The theories that have been studied for many years to help understand why people partake in criminal activities can be applied to Jeffrey Dahmer. Social control theory and the developmental theories can help us try to understand why Jeffrey committed these murders from 1978 until 1992. Jeffrey Dahmer was born on May 21,1960 to Lionel and Joyce Dahmer (Casey).
He was their first child and as a youngster was known as happy and bubbly(Casey. ) Jeffrey used to love playing with his wooden blocks and stuffed bunnies(Casey. ) Six years later his little brother David was born. This is when Jeffrey had to have his surgery to correct the double hernia that he had. Shortly after, his teachers began to report his feeling of neglect. When Jeffrey was eight years old he was given a chemistry set. He used this to experiment with animals. He began by preserving insects inside of jars which later lead to him impaling cats and frogs on sticks.
At an early age, Jeffrey was a fun and active child, which are not normally the early characteristics of a serial killer. However, Jeffrey had been a normal child up until his father received his PH. D in chemistry and moved the family multiple times before settling down in Ohio. When Jeffrey had moved, his father began to notice that he was very shy and extremely anti-social (Blanco). Two years later, “He started to collect road kill, bleaching the bones of chickens, keeping insects in bottles of formaldehyde, decapitating small rodents, and [even] learned to use acid to strip meat off the bones of the dead animals” (Casey).
This is when Jeffrey began to go out and collect road kill. Unfortunately, by the age of thirteen, Jeffrey was drinking alcohol. He attended school at Revere High School where he played in the school band. The same year Jeffrey began consuming alcohol, he would regularly fantasize about having sex with a human corpse. By the time he was fifteen years old, he was drinking alcohol much more often and was frequently drinking Scotch in class. Jeffrey started to carry plastic garbage bags with him so he could collect the remains of animals to later strip the flesh from the bones.
When he was in highschool he maintained average grades but his classmates viewed him as an alcoholic and a loner (Casey. ) When Jeffrey turned eighteen his parents filed for divorce leading his father to move out. This is when Jeffrey began his criminal career. “Drilling into the skull of a young man he began to funnel a stream of sulfuric acid into the head of his unconscious victim to create a zombie to fulfill all of his fantasies. Dead within a day, he mummified the head of his victim placing it in the freezer beside the skulls of those who came before.
Dismembering the remnants of the body he placed skin, blood, and bone into a fifty-gallon vat of acid dissolving what was left of the young man. This is the mind of Jeffrey Dahmer, he murdered not in anger, revenge, or financial enrichment but on impulse and desire” (Nature vs. Nurture). When Jeffrey was only eighteen years old he committed his first murder. The first victim was eighteen year old Steven Hicks. Jeffrey picked up Hicks when he was hitchhiking and invited him to go back for drinks. They proceeded to get drunk and have sexual intercourse. However, when Hicks went to leave, he made Dahmer feel insulted.
Thus leading him to hit Hicks in the back of the head with a barbell. Hicks unfortunately died. Dahmer next dragged the body all the way beneath the house, where he later dismembered the body. This was the only murder that Jeffrey committed when he was eighteen. His father who was unaware of the murder later made Jeffrey enroll into the army. But however, two short years later Jeffrey was discharged under an army regulation concerning the consumption of alcohol or drugs. This is when Jeffrey moves down to Florida and is later arrested for other violations rather than murder.
His next murder did not take place until December of 1987 when Jeffrey was twenty-seven years old. By the time Jeffrey turned thirty-one years old, he had committed seventeen murders. Inside of Jeffrey’s apartment he had numerous polaroid pictures of body parts and mutilated corpses, he had human heads and multiple organs inside his freezer. “Seven skulls and five complete skeletons were stashed in various places around the apartment, along with miscellaneous remains: bone fragments, decomposed hands, sexual organs in a lobster pot,” says a police officer who was searching the apartment (Twisted Minds).
Dahmer initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, despite having confessed to the killings during police interrogation (Biography). By August of 1991, Dahmer had confessed to the killing of all seventeen men. He pleaded guilty now, and was charged with fifteen counts of murder which lead him to pleading guilty of insanity. However, the jurors had founded Jeffrey sane and far past responsible for the actions he took.
He received fifteen consecutive life sentences which meant he had to serve a minimum of nine-hundred-thirty-six years in prison. When Jeffrey was in prison he “refused offers of protective ustody despite the many threats against his life” (Blanco). This may have been because he had a desire to die. During his final statement with the court he expressed that he had the desire to die. On November 28,1994 about two years after Jeffrey was convicted, when he was thirty-four years old, still serving in Columbia Correctional Institution of Wisconsin he was killed. “He was cleaning a bathroom adjacent to the prison gym when anther member of the work detail, twenty-five year old Christopher Scarver, grabbed an iron bar from a nearby exercise machine and smashed Dahmer’s skull,” which left Jeffrey instantly killed (Blanco).
Although Jeffrey Dahmer doesn’t fit many of the “Theories of Crime Causation” discussed in Criminology; The core fifth edition by Larry Siegel, social control theory and the developmental theories can help us better understand why he committed these crimes. Social control theory is, “The view that people commit crime when the forces binding them to society are weakened or broken” according to the textbook Criminology; The Core.[Jeffrey] was a loner, who felt neglected by his family and did not fit in well with his peers,” due to this feeling he would constantly be alone and isolated from others and while his parents marriage was crumbling, his feelings of neglect and loneliness intensified drastically (Davis, 1998. ) Dysfunctional and destructive relationships, especially with parents often lead to crime. Could Jeffrey’s antisocial and poor socialization skills be the cause of his criminal actions? Jeffrey has also been known to torture and kill many animals at a young age.
Most mental health professions agree that animal cruelty is one of the childhood activities which correlates with psychopathic offending such as what Jeffrey partook in. Not only did Jeffrey torture and kill animals, he even had violent fantasies. Developmental theories on the other hand attempt to explain the so called “natural history of a criminal career,” said Professor Kolarik (Kolarik). Life course theory, a sub-theory under the developmental theories view criminality as a dynamic process, which is influenced with the many characteristics, traits, and even life experiences.
According to this theory, behaviors can change either for the better or worse over the life course of an individual. Maybe Jeffrey was born as any other normal child, with no criminal characteristics or traits and developed them over time. Jeffrey could have begun to get the urges to commit these crimes after he began drinking alcohol during his high school years. All seventeen of Jeffrey’s murders included the consumption of alcoholic beverages and even other drugs at times. Latent trait theory is the view that criminals do not age out of crime.
Since these criminals were very young they maintained the criminal lifestyle. Since Jeffrey was a little boy he would collect dead animals and experiment on them. He wanted to see what the inside organs were like and try out the different chemicals he had. Was he doing all of this in preparation for the human bodies? The answer to this question has remained unknown and never answered in any of the interviews. “I know my time in prison will be terrible, but i deserve whatever i get because of what I have done,” says Jeffrey Dahmer in front of the judge during his trial.
After living the typical childhood lifestyle, Jeffrey got interested in dead animals and dissecting them. A few years following, Jeffrey began to drink alcohol, the leading drug to result in crime. After the killing, raping, eating, and disassembling of human men Jeffrey admitted to his criminal activity. Although he admitted his actions, he still tried to plead insane. However, in 1992, Jeffrey was found guilty and sane getting a sentence of fifteen consecutive life terms in prison. Two years following, he was killed by a fellow inmate.
Many criminologists have studied this criminal case in attempt to apply the theories of crime causation. The majority of the known theories do not fit this case. Jeffrey was not like the typical serial killer. Although his case was rare and uncommon, the developmental and life course theory can be applied partially to Jeffrey’s case. “The only motive that there ever was to completely control a person; a person i found physically attractive. And keep them with me as long as possible, even if it meant just keeping a part of them,” says Jeffrey Dahmer looking back on the criminal actions he took (AZ Quotes).