Born in a family of mixed heritage, Jeffrey Dahmer started his killing spree at the early age of 18 in 1978. After murdering his first victim, the firstborn son of a chemistry student and a homemaker mother would go on to take the lives of 16 people. Using the analytical chemistry ideas his father taught him, Dahmer fed his fascination with bones by adding chemicals to strip the flesh off the bodies to separate the bones. He also dismembered his victims, ate some of their organs and preserved body parts such as the skulls as memorabilia. A homosexual himself, Dahmer primarily targeted male homosexuals, who he hoodwinked with financial incentives in return for sexual gratification, only for them to be drugged, raped and bludgeoned to death. He would then perform sexual acts with their corpses. He was arrested after one of his victims narrowly escaped death and informed the police (Hickey, 2016). During a trial, it was established that he was suffering from numerous personal disorders including alcohol dependency and borderline personality disorder. However, he was found to be sane and sentenced to life imprisonment for all the 16 counts of murder he was convicted of, following hours of chilling confession (Bogira, 1992).
For over a decade, Jeffrey Dahmer killed up to 17 people without arousing the suspicion of his probation officer or even the police who once visited his apartment filled with the stench of corpses. His suspicious actions and history as a convicted and registered sexual offender did not arouse the curiosity of his probation officer to visit his apartment or that of his grandmother, where he stayed for a while. One of the primary reasons Dahmer avoided being caught for over a decade was his personality. From an early age, Dahmer’s social apathy had been in evidence mainly due to the troubled family setting he grew up in. This indifference provided excellent cover. Alcohol dependency also aided him. He was a socially reclusive drunkard who masked his borderline personality and schizotypal disorders behind alcoholism (Bogira, 1992). The manifestation of the symptoms could have been easily dismissed as those of addiction. The law enforcement officers also failed in carrying out due diligence, including doing background checks when they encountered him or visited his apartment, despite the suspicious behavior and the smell (Barron, 1991).
Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested when one of the men he had lured into his apartment escaped and tipped off two police officers (Hickey, 2016). The man had been alerted by the foul smell and the presence of acid in the apartment. The officers accompanied the man to Dahmer’s apartment and arrested him after they uncovered dismembered and decomposing corpses, organs and body parts in a drum, shelves, and refrigerator (State of Wisconsin, 1992). The artifacts discovered in the house included photos Dahmer had taken while he was dismembering some of the bodies. Following his confession and the determination of his sanity, Dahmer was convicted and sentenced to serve multiple life imprisonments, but was later bludgeoned to death by a fellow inmate.
In conclusion, personality disorders provide a deep insight into the mindset of a criminal, including the thought processes that led to the offense. While Jeffrey Dahmer was declared sane and was tried and convicted, understanding these disorders is critical, especially within law enforcement and the judiciary. Dahmer’s case highlights the lapses within the law enforcement, especially when it comes to carrying out background checks. Implementing thorough backgrounds checks during encounters with the officers would have led to an earlier arrest and the subsequent prevention of crime.
Barron, J. (1991, July 27). Milwaukee Police once queried suspect. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/27/us/milwaukee-police-once-queried-suspect.html
Bogira, S. (1992, August 27). The inner life of a psycho killer. Chicagoreader.com. Retrieved from https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-inner-life-of-a-psycho-killer/Content?oid=880359
Hickey, E. W. (2016). Serial murderers and their victims (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
State of Wisconsin v. Jeffrey Dahmer (1992). Retrieved from http://media.jsonline.com/documents/DahmerMurderComplaint.pdf