Expert Reacts To Dahmer's Chilling Testimony

Though dramatized, the gripping Netflix series "Dahmer — Monster The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" offers insight into the mind and motives of one America's most notorious serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer. Known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, Dahmer died in 1994 in a Wisconsin prison at the hands of another inmate, Christopher Scarver. Dahmer was serving 16 life sentences for the brutal murder of 17 young men and boys when he died, with instances of cannibalism and necrophilia in some cases, as Britannica explains. In 1993, one year before he was killed in prison, Dahmer himself sat down with TV journalist Nancy Glass from the TV news magazine program "Inside Edition.” 

In the interview, Dahmer provided his own account of the disturbing crime spree he committed, and included tidbits about his mental state both before and after the killings, as he also tried to explain how any person could do what Dahmer was convicted of doing to another human being. With that in mind, we reached out to true crime expert and creator of the YouTube channel "That Chapter," Mike Oh, to get his feedback on the testimony that Dahmer provided to Glass in that prison interview — including the sincerity of Dahmer's words and how Dahmer fits the pattern of other serial killers in his thoughts and behaviors.

Can a serial killer's own words be trusted?

Among the most disturbing aspects of Dahmer's '93 prison interview, which can be seen above, is the frank openness and honesty with which the convicted killer explains his motive to commit a string of brutal murders involving sexual assault and, in some cases, torture and cannibalism. Dahmer attributes these acts to a sexual urge for complete domination and control and a fear of abandonment. In that regard, Oh finds Dahmer's words believable. "The explanation he gives is in line with what we see from many serial killers: the rush, the addiction, the need for complete domination of another," Oh said.

Dahmer was known to pick up his victims in Milwaukee nightlife establishments. He then lured them home where he often offered his victims a sleeping pill concoction he'd prepared before he had even left his home that day. He was only caught when one of his potential victims, Tracy Edwards, escaped, as History notes, and police found polaroid pictures of Dahmer's victims in his apartment and arrested him. As Oh adds, that level of preparation that Dahmer described in the TV interview is also typical. "First he got the necessary items to commit his crimes ready, in hope that he would find his perfect victim for the night," Oh explained. "Then he would take home his chosen man, all the while he knew he was about to kill him. He has thought it through and knows exactly what and how he will go about doing it."

Dahmer did not become a killer overnight

Also in the "Inside Edition" prison interview, Dahmer is asked about how he was able to, both mentally and emotionally, commit such heinous crimes. According to Dahmer's own words, it didn't happen overnight. Dahmer's first murder took place in the late 1970s and there were many years before he killed again, per Biography. While it may be surprising to us, this slow escalation does fit the serial killer profile, Oh says. Also, Dahmer did seem to understand what he did was wrong, and that is also unsurprising from a serial killer's point of view. For this reason, "... at the beginning, even after committing his first murder, he was able to control his urges," Oh said. "But fantasies evolve, so did his, up to the point where the urge to act out on them became stronger and stronger."

Once Dahmer indulged himself, there was no end in sight. "The thrill and satisfaction they gain from the crimes only lasts so long, and they need to feel them again and so they keep committing crimes," Oh said. As was the case with Dahmer, the murders became more gruesome and personal each time. "Serial killers often will get used to the 'rush' they feel of their acts, like its an addiction, and so they have to keep going further and further with it each time," explained Oh. In Dahmer's case, Dahmer wanted total control over his victims "... and to try and create the perfect companion for himself," Oh said — a goal he failed at several times but that he never stopped trying to pursue until he was arrested.

Dahmer kept trophies of his victims

As was revealed by Dahmer to Glass on "Inside Edition" in 1993, and also in Dahmer's trial, he was known to take polaroid pictures and to keep pieces of his victim's dead bodies (via Biography). With sexual serial murderers such as Dahmer, keeping trophies of this type is quite common, Oh said. It's a means by which they can re-live the perverse thrill of murder, and also prolong the sexual satisfaction they experienced in the act of it. As Oh goes on to add, this behavior also exerts power over a victim even after they're dead. "Dahmer was someone who had abandonment issues," Oh said, and if Dahmer took pictures and kept body parts of his victims, "... these people who would never leave him," he added.

Also in Dahmer's own words, nothing but incarceration would have stopped the killing. If psychological intervention happened for Dahmer much earlier in his life, Oh believes help could have been possible and lives could have been saved. By the time he was arrested, though, Oh tends to agree that locking Dahmer up is the only thing that could prevent him from reoffending. "I don't believe someone who has committed crimes of this magnitude could be treated in such a way that they wouldn't pose a highly possible harm to society," Oh said. "Of course, there is hope for positive psychological treatment, but definitely not in Dahmer's case. At least not by the time he has been imprisoned."

Dahmer drank heavily before he killed

Another harrowing moment in the "Inside Edition" interview comes when Dahmer speaks candidly about his second victim, Steven Tuomi, the first person he killed after the unplanned murder he committed in the late 1970s. "He was his second victim but the one that blew the doors wide open," Oh said. According to Dahmer, in the midst of his killing spree, he often drank heavily and reached a blacked-out state before the act was completed. As a result, he often had no memory of what had happened. 

As Oh explains, it's known that Dahmer abused alcohol from the time he was a teenager. His reported blackouts while killing could be induced by too much alcohol consumption alone, and not necessarily an underlying psychological condition. The blacked-out state Dahmer described when Tuomi was killed "... could be caused from among many things," such as excessive drinking, but also "... the simple fact that his brain blocked the memory of him killing Steven as protection against the trauma," Oh said.

Dahmer gave a detailed account of what his life in prison was like

After his sentencing to 16 life sentences for killing 17 young men and boys, Dahmer seemed unable to come to terms with his crimes, according to his own words. He also showed little remorse for what he had done. Watching the footage, Oh recognized that Dahmer was haunted by his acts. "He had to make himself get drunk to kill," Oh said, "... but now sitting in prison with nothing but the four walls around him, he had to "... sleep the days away in a depressed state." He also needed to gather himself up before he spoke about the horrific acts he committed as those memories overwhelmed him, Oh added.

The lack of remorse Dahmer displays is also in keeping with the mental state of many serial killers after they commit their crimes. "Serial killers, just as Dahmer himself said, turn humans in their heads from living, feeling creatures into things to be used by them," Oh said. "When you buy a mug and you then break it, either be it a mistake or on purpose, you don't feel remorse for it, right? That is how they see their victims, it also makes it easier to commit their heinous crimes having this mindset." 

In killers like Dahmer, the empathy centers of their brains are nonexistent. "It's a compulsion they know is wrong, but do it anyway and without regret," Oh added.