How Was Jeffrey Dahmer Caught? Police Found Human Torsos Dissolving in Acid in His Apartment

Jeffrey Dahmer
Photo: Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images.

If you’ve heard of his horrific crimes, you may be wondering how Jeffrey Dahmer was caught and captured by the police after he killed and dismembered more than a dozen people.

Dahmer—also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal and the Milwaukee Monster—was an American serial killer and sex offender who murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area between 1978 to 1991. Dahmer earned his nickname as the Milwaukee Cannibal after police found that many of his murders involved necrophilia (the sexual act with a corpse), cannibalism (the act of humans eating another human) and the preservation of his victims’ body parts, usually their skeletons. Dahmer, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder, was convicted of 15 of the 16 murders he committed in Wisconsin and was sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment on February 17, 1992. Dahmer was sentenced to a 16th term of life imprisonment in 1978 for another murder he committed in Ohio. Dahmer died on November 28, 1994 after he was beaten to death by Christopher Scarver, a fellow inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin.

Since his death, Dahmer has become the inspiration for several TV shows, movies and documentaries, including Netflix’s 2022 drama series, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, in which he’s played by American Horror Story alum Evan Peters. In an interview with Netflix in September 2022, Peters explained why the serial killer was the hardest role he’d ever played. “I was very scared about all of the things that Dahmer did, and diving into that and trying to commit to [playing this character] was absolutely going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life because I wanted it to be very authentic.” Peters said. “But in order to do that, I was going to have to go to really dark places and stay there for an extended period of time.”

He continued, “”I have to say that the crew was instrumental in keeping me on the guard rails, I cannot thank them enough and I could not have done any of this role with them…It was a challenge to try to have this person who was seemingly so normal but underneath all of it, had this entire world that he was keeping secret from everybody.” “It was so jaw-dropping that it all really happend. It felt important to be respectful to the victims and to the victims’ families to try to tell the story as authentically as we could.” Dahmer is also the subject of Netflix’s 2022 docuseries, Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes. 

So how was Jeffrey Dahmer caught? Read on for how one of the serial killer’s survivors led to Jeffrey Dahmer being caught by the Milwaukee police and how he managed to evade arrest for so many years.

How was Jeffrey Dahmer caught?

Jeffrey Dahmer

Image: Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.

How was Jeffrey Dahmer caught? Dahmer was caught on July 22, 1991, after he offered three men $100 at a bar to come with him back to his apartment to pose for nude photographs. One of the three men, Tracy Edwards, agreed to to the offer. When he entered Dahmer’s apartment, however, Edwards smelled a foul odor and noticed several boxes of hydrochloric acid on the floor, which Dahmer told him he used for cleaning bricks. During their conversation, Dahmer asked Edwards to turn his head and look at his tropical fish, which is when Dahmer put a handcuff on his wrist. (He unsuccessfully cuffed both of his wrists.) Though Edwards was confused and asked Dahmer “what’s happening?”, he followed him to Dahmer’s bedroom to pose for the nude photographs. While in the bedroom, Edward saw posters of nude men on the wall, a videotape of The Exorcist III playing and a blue 57-gallon drum in the corner of the room, from where the foul odor he smelled earlier was emanating. Dahmer then took out a knife and ordered Edwards to take off his shirt. To appease him, Edwards started to unbutton his shirt but told Dahmer that he could do it himself if Dahmer took off his handcuffs and put away the knife.

Dahmer ignored Edwards’ request and put his head on Edward’s chest to listen to his heartbeat. He then told Edwards he wanted to eat his heart. To keep Dahmer calm, Edwards continued to tell Dahmer that he was his friend and didn’t plan to run away. Edwards, who planned to escape by jumping out a window or running through the unlocked front door, asked Dahmer if they could return to the living room, where there was air conditioning, and drink a beer. Dahmer agreed and the two returned to the living room. Edwards then asked Dahmer if he could use the bathroom. As he got up from the couch, Edwards punched Dahmer in the face and escaped through the front door after five hours at Dahmer’s apartment.

At around 11:30 p.m. that night, Edwards flagged down two police officers, Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller, on the corner of North 25th street in Milwaukee. Edwards explained to the officers, who noticed he had a handcuff attached to his wrist, that a “freak” had kidnapped him. When the officers’ handcuff keys couldn’t unlock Dahmer’s handcuffs, Edwards agreed to return with the officers to Dahmer’s apartment.

When the the officers arrived at Dahmer’s apartment, Apartment 213, Dahmer confessed to putting the handcuffs on Edwards, which is when Edwards told him that Dahmer also threatened him with a knife and told him he wanted to eat his heart. Dahmer, who said nothing to Edwards’ claims, simply directed the officers to a key on his bedside dresser. In the bedroom, Mueller, one of the officers, noticed a knife beneath Dahmer’s bed, as well as an open dresser with Polaroid pictures of dismembered human bodies. “These are for real,” Mueller said as he showed the photographs to his partner, Rauth, back in the living room. When Dahmer saw Mueller holding the photographs, Dahmer fought with the officers to avoid arrest, which is when the officers overpowered him and handcuffed him. Once Dahmer was captured, Mueller opened Dahmer’s refrigerator to see a severed head on the bottom shelf. “For what I did I should be dead,” Dahmer told Mueller.

A search was conducted by the Milwaukee police’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, which found four more severed heads in Dahmer’s kitchen, seven skulls (including some that were painted or bleached) in Dahmer’s bedroom and closet, and a tray of blood drippings in Dahmer’s refrigerator. The investigation also found two human hearts and a part of an arm wrapped in plastic bags on the refrigerator shelves, as well as a torso and a bag of human organs and flesh frozen in ice at the bottom of Dahmer’s freezer. Investigators also discovered two skeletons, a pair of severed hands, two severed penises, a mummified scalp, as well as three more torsos dissolving in acid in the 57-gallon drum. 74 Polaroid photographs in total were found detailing the dismemberment of each of Dahmer’s victims. “It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene,” the chief medical examiner once said.

Dahmer, who waived his right to have a lawyer present throughout his interrogations, was questioned by Detective Patrick Kennedy and Detective Dennis Murphy for a total of 60 hours over the course of two weeks over the evidence found in his apartment. “I created this horror and it only makes sense I do everything to put an end to it,” he reportedly said. On July 25, 1991, Dahmer was charged with four counts of first-degree murder. He was charged with another eleven counts of first-degree murder on August 22, 1991, for crimes he committed in Wisconsin. He was charged with an additional count of first-degree murder after investigators uncovered hundreds of bone fragments in the area where Dahmer confessed to killing his first victim, Steven Hicks. Dahmer was not charged with the attempted murder of Edwards, nor the murder of Steve Tuomi, a man who went missing in 1987 and is believed to be killed by Dahmer, due to insufficient evidence. Dahmer pled guilty but insane to 15 counts of murder on January 13, 1992.

Where is Tracy Edwards now?

Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer. Curt Borgwardt/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

Where is Tracy Edwards now? Edwards, who was 32 years old at the time he met Dahmer, testified in court against and was a key witness that led to Dahmer’s conviction. During his testimony, Edwards described that Dahmer was “not the same person” he met at the bar. “His face structure seemed different…It was like, it wasn’t him anymore,” he said.

Two decades later, on July 26, 2011, Edwards was arrested for allegedly throwing a man to his death off a Milwaukee bridge, according to ABC News. He was 52 years old and homeless at the time and had been moving around from shelter to shelter since 2002. Edwards pleaded guilty to aiding a felon and confessed that he and another man threw a man off a downtown Milwaukee bridge into a river after an argument. In 2012, Edwards was convicted for the the crime by the Milwaukee County Circuit Court  and was sentenced to 1.5 years in jail and two years of extended service.

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is available to stream on Netflix. Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes premieres on Netflix on October 7, 2022.

Jeffrey Dahmer "A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder and Cannibalism" by Jack Rosewood

Image: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Jeffrey Dahmer: A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder & Cannibalism (The Serial Killer Books)

For more about Jeffrey Dahmer, check out Jack Rosewood’s Jeffrey Dahmer: A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder & Cannibalism. The biography—which is a part of Rosewood’s The Serial Killer Books series—tells the true-crime story of Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer, a serial killer who terrorized Milwaukee, Wisconsin and murdered more than a dozen people (not to mention committed acts of necrophilia and cannibalism) throughout the 1980s until his eventual arrest in 1991. The book explains how Dahmer, who had an above-average intellect and is described as “conventionally good-looking,” was able to fool everyone around him, including his family, his neighbors and the police, to avoid capture for so many years. Jeffrey Dahmer: A Terrifying True Story of Rape, Murder & Cannibalism also takes readers through Dahmer’s murder trial, his death at the hands of his fellow inmates and how his crimes rocked Milwaukee for decades to come.

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