July 22

This Day in History

Crime

Jul 22, 1991:

Cannibal and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is caught

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, police officers spot Tracy Edwards running down the street in handcuffs, and upon investigation, they find one of the grisliest scenes in modern history-Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment.

Edwards told the police that Dahmer had held him at his apartment and threatened to kill him. Although they initially thought the story was dubious, the officers took Edwards back to Dahmer's apartment. Dahmer calmly explained that the whole matter was simply a misunderstanding and the officers almost believed him. However, they spotted a few Polaroid photos of dismembered bodies, and Dahmer was arrested.

When Dahmer's apartment was fully searched, a house of horrors was revealed. In addition to photo albums full of pictures of body parts, the apartment was littered with human remains: Several heads were in the refrigerator and freezer; two skulls were on top of the computer; and a 57-gallon drum containing several bodies decomposing in chemicals was found in a corner of the bedroom. There was also evidence to suggest that Dahmer had been eating some of his victims.

Neighbors told both detectives and the press that they had noticed an awful smell emanating from the apartment but that Dahmer had explained it away as expired meat. However, the most shocking revelation about how Dahmer had managed to conceal his awful crimes in the middle of a city apartment building would come a few days later.

Apparently, police had been called two months earlier about a naked and bleeding 14-year-old boy being chased down an alley by Dahmer. The responding officers actually returned the boy, who had been drugged, to Dahmer's apartment–where he was promptly killed. The officers, who said that they believed it to be a domestic dispute, were later fired.

A forensic examination of the apartment turned up 11 victims–the first of whom disappeared in March 1989, just two months before Dahmer successfully escaped a prison sentence for child molestation by telling the judge that he was desperately seeking to change his conduct. Dahmer later confessed to 17 murders in all, dating back to his first victim in 1978.

The jury rejected Dahmer's insanity defense, and he was sentenced to 15 life terms. He survived one attempt on his life in July 1994, but was killed by another inmate on November 28, 1994.

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