Here's How Jeffrey Dahmer Was Finally Caught

Notorious cannibalistic murderer and rapist Jeffrey Dahmer is a well-known name to anyone familiar with the deadliest serial killers, or true crime in general. Before he was handed down a life sentence for the murders of 17 victims in 1992, Dahmer spent years hunting and killing young men, mostly in the Milwaukee area. From the late '70s until the early '90s, he was a ruthless killer who kidnapped, lured, drugged, and tortured boys and men that he invited back to his apartment. In 1986 he was arrested for fondling himself in front of two 12-year-old boys (per Radford), and in 1988 for drugging and assaulting a 13-year-old. According to the Associated Press Dahmer served 10 months in jail for the crime against the 13-year-old, then was sentenced to probation. 

In the years leading to his capture, Dahmer managed to evade many more close calls of getting caught. He committed his first murder in 1978 just after graduating from high school. On a drive to get rid of the body, he was pulled over by cops in Ohio to perform a sobriety test — all the while having the body of Steven Hicks (his first victim) in the car, reported the Chicago Tribune. That same year he enlisted in the Army and a decade would go by before he started his twisted and perverted killing spree.

The day Dahmer got caught

Thankfully, as anyone who tuned into the news circa 1991 can tell you, Jeffrey Dahmer's butchery didn't persist forever. In what is definitely a top-contending vie for "worst date ever," Dahmer's hungers finally caught up to him the night he took a potential victim home. As Newsweek describes, Dahmer approached three men in a Milwaukee bar on July 22, 1991, offering each one $100 to come home with him to pose naked for photographs. To offset this glaring red flag, Dahmer also included some drinks and a movie in the deal. One man, 32-year-old Tracey Edwards, took Dahmer up on the offer.

As Decider says, Edwards was suspicious right from the get-go because of some horrid smell in Dahmer's apartment. Dahmer, however, pulled a knife on Edwards and handcuffed the man, and forced Edwards to watch his movie of choice, "Exorcist III." Edwards later told authorities that Dahmer put his head on his chest while they watched the movie and, while listening to his heartbeat, told Edwards that he would "eat my heart at that point," per Deseret News. Edwards also reported that Dahmer made him look in his refrigerator, where he saw a human head. From his filing cabinet, Dahmer retrieved a hand.

Before Dahmer could make his fatal strike, though, Edwards saw an opportunity. At some point in the evening, Dahmer was distracted, and Edwards punched him and booked it out the front door. He was found running down the street handcuffed.

Evidence in Dahmer's apartment

Decider tells us that Tracey Edwards, Dahmer's escaped victim, flagged down two police officers in the street at 11:30 p.m. on the day of his ordeal. He said that a man had tried to kill him, and led the officers to Dahmer's apartment. Dahmer greeted those officers, Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller, and allowed them to come into his apartment without any fight or fuss. On the lookout for material evidence, one of the officers looked through Dahmer's bedside table for the key to the handcuffs that Dahmer had placed on Edwards before Edwards escaped. Instead of a key, however, the officer found Polaroid photos of dismembered bodies. Newsweek says that there were more than 70 photos in total.

The officers restrained Dahmer and conducted a full check of the apartment. In the end, they found not only a head in Dahmer's refrigerator, but a human heart in a plastic bag, and a set of male genitals. In Dahmer's bedroom, they found five human skulls, and the tools that Dahmer had used for his torture and dismemberment: hammers, saws, and knives. One of Dahmer's drawers contained a full human skeleton. As if this wasn't enough, police also found a 57-galloon vat full of acid, three torsos, and other assorted body parts. 

Suffice it to say, there was more than enough evidence at hand. Dahmer willingly confessed to his crimes, telling detectives, "I created this horror and it only makes sense I do everything to put an end to it," per Style Caster.

How Dahmer evaded authorities

Some of his victims could have lived if Dahmer was caught earlier. In fact, not only was he known for the crimes he committed — it is widely discussed how he got away with it for so long. It is believed that Dahmer  — who was white — intentionally chose Black or Asian victims because he knew he could get away with it, reported Newsweek.

Per The New York Times, the Milwaukee police department was also heavily criticized for their handling in what could have been a life-saving situation for one of Dahmer's victims. In a show of the department's negligence, just months before Tracy Edwards escaped, a young boy had also found a way out of Dahmer's murder house. Two young women tried to make a report to the police about a naked boy in need and seen running, but he was returned to Dahmer's apartment by police who wrote off the incident as a couple's conflict, according to the Associated Press. The boy was 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, who was later killed by Dahmer and discovered as one of the many corpses in the apartment.

A few years before, Jeffrey Dahmer had spent 10 months in prison for the assault of Sinthasomphone's brother — the 13-year-old mentioned earlier. According to Radford he was sentenced to eight years for that crime but wrote a letter asking for leniency and it was granted. After murdering 14-year-old Konerak, Dahmer would kill four more men before Edwards' brave escape finally led police to his apartment in 1991.