Crimes of the '80s

The Jeffrey Dahmer Connection: Here's What Life Is Like When Your Name Is Dahmer

Oxygen spoke to three Dahmers: a distant relative of the killer, a Dahmer who met the serial killer's murderer and a man whose own grandmother thought he was the killer. Read their stories.

Infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer brutally murdered 17 people between 1978 and 1991. Most of the killings took place in Milwaukee. Nicknamed the “Cannibal Killer,” Dahmer reportedly ate some of his victims. He preserved body parts and even filleted one victim’s heart and ate part of their thigh. He also kept keepsakes of his victims: skulls and genitals and Polaroid photographs of dismembered body parts.

When the news broke about Dahmer’s heinous crimes the name became synonymous with murder and cannibalism. So, how did it affect people who had the name Dahmer but had no connection to the crime? Oxygen spoke to three men who have names similar to that of the infamous serial killer.

JJ DAHMER

JJ (John Justin) Dahmer of Denver, Colorado told Oxygen that his name “caused some problems growing up.” Now 35, JJ was in elementary school when the serial killer was arrested.

“I was getting into fights all the time because people were making fun of me and picking on me for it,” he said. “I ended up having to transfer schools and taking my mom’s last name for a couple of years because I was getting into too many fights.”

He said that for nearly two years he used his mom’s last name. But, then he went back to using his real name.

“I just got to the point where it didn’t bother me anymore,” he said. “Now, it’s a funny thing. I have a bunch of brothers and we always joke about Uncle Jeff.”

People still to this day make comments though, said JJ. “People say ‘Dahmer, really?’ It’s like they don’t believe it.”

He said making dinner reservations often lead to remarks.

“If I call for dinner reservations they think I’m joking and then ask me what I want to eat,” said JJ.

Even though JJ and his brothers joke that the serial killer is their uncle, there is no family relation. The family actually looked into their heritage after Jeffrey Dahmer’s crimes made the news. But, JJ does have a very real connection to the serial killer. He spent some time in prison alongside the man that murdered Jeffrey Dahmer.

In 1994, after Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to jail, another inmate named Christopher Scarver beat him to death. JJ said when he was younger he got into some trouble with the law and did some prison time in a correctional facility in Canon City, Colorado. He was given a cell, and a name tag that read “J. Dahmer” was tacked to its door.

“This guy next to me just started freaking out. He said, ‘this is not a good joke! You cops are always f***ing with me! You’re trying to make me go crazy’ and he started kicking his door. I didn’t know what was going on. He was yelling ‘Dahmer this’ and ‘Dahmer that,’” JJ recalled.

Turns out, Scarver had been transferred from Wisconsin to the Colorado Department of Corrections and was now imprisoned alongside JJ. The man freaking out was Jeffrey Dahmer's killer.

“He thought the cops were playing a joke on him and putting the name J. Dahmer across the way to mess with him. I had to tell him that it’s my real name.”

JEFFREY DAHM

Moline, Illinois resident Jeffrey (Jeff) Dahm had just graduated from college when Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in 1991. Jeff was 22 at the time and lived in Iowa, just two hours away from Milwaukee. 

When Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested, Jeff’s own grandmother got confused. She thought that her grandson was connected to the murders.

“My Grandma Dahm asked my dad what kind of trouble I was getting into,” Jeff recalled. He said she was very concerned. “I mean, my own grandma thought I was him. It made me question what she really thought of me if she thought I was capable of that.”

The serial killer was arrested a month after Jeff started working at a bank and that caused an awkward moment when he tried to cash his paycheck.

“I gave my check to the teller and she just turned white as a ghost. The look on her face was just terror,” said Jeff. To boot, Jeff was the same height and build as the infamous cannibal killer. His hair was darker but they had a similar look. “I had to tell her I'm not him.”

In high school, Jeff’s nickname was actually "Dahmer." He had been thinking about getting vanity plate with the alias but after Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested decided against it.

He said he got dozens of prank phone calls in the 1990s. He was listed as Jeff Dahm in the local phone book, and his name just happened to be at the top upper right of a page. He said the phone calls were innocent, presumably kids, asking questions such as “May I speak with Jeffrey Dahmer?”

Jeff said that his wife, who he married in 1993, approaches the name and serial killer association with a touch of humor. She often introduces her husband to others as “Jeff Dahm, as in Jeffrey Dahmer.” The two share kids, and a weight lifting teacher has nicknamed one of the children “Dahmer.” Jeff said the instructor will often say, “You’re really killing it today, Dahmer!”

KARL DAHMER

Karl Dahmer of Kansas City, Missouri told Oxygen he is a distant relative of Jeffrey Dahmer. He was 10 around the time the serial killer was arrested. Karl’s father was an anatomy teacher at a college and the local newspaper wrote an expose on him, revealing that he was related to the infamous killer.

“Thankfully the college stood up for him and threatened to sue the paper,” said Karl. He said the article caused problems.

“We had to get an unlisted number due to he prank calls,” he said. Karl said growing up he was teased a lot due to the family connection—as was his whole family. 

“Nowadays it's a joking sidenote here and there, but time goes by and many younger people don't necessarily know as much about it,” he said.

[Images of Jeffrey Dahmer courtesy of Getty Images]

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