Following the arrest and subsequent trial of notorious Milwaukee serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, most of the nation was left asking one question: Why did he do it? Like with most highly publicized murder investigations, viewers became enthralled with trying to figure out what motivated Dahmer to rape, murder and dismember 17 men and boys.
In their first interview in more than 10 years, Dahmer’s father, Lionel, and his stepmother, Shari, give their accounts on how their “sensitive” and “gentle” son turned into one of the most gruesome killers in American history. During the two-night special “Dahmer On Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks,” Lionel and Shari reveal what it was like coming to grips with the fact that the man they knew as Jeff had been hiding a deadly compulsion for over a decade.
Below, we've compiled some interview footage with Lionel and Shari that's exlcusive to Oxygen.com.
Lionel reveals early on in the interview that he believes genetics may have been a part of his son’s transformation into the Milwaukee Cannibal: “My wife at that time had problems. I think she was on the wrong path, too. [...] She was involved with crystal therapy at the local mental health center. [...] Nothing helped. [...] I didn’t find anything in my lineage that would indicate someone with even any type of antisocial behavior. But I’m only half of the production of Jeff.”
He later reaffirms his findings, saying, “With my investigations, there’s no evidence of antisocial or psychotic antisocial behavior in our lineage.”
Shari echoes this belief: “Joyce was on many medications. She was very hyper, she had a lot of problems. I’m not putting her down; it’s simply a stated fact. When Joyce and Lionel lived with Lionel’s parents, the grandparents were not allowed to hold the baby. Joyce didn’t want anyone touching the baby or breathing on it. She was afraid of germs. They virtually had no contact with Jeff as a baby.”
Shari explains this type of isolation followed Dahmer into his toddler years.
“Jeff also noticed that when his younger brother was born, Jeff no longer had fairytales from his mother, stories read at night and tucking him in. So, he felt somewhat abandoned. And there was time period when Jeff and his brother did not speak [...] Jeff felt somewhat left out,” she elaborates.
Shari also believes Dahmer’s feelings of abandonment were exacerbated by his parents’ divorce. After graduating from high school, Dahmer lived alone in their family home, as Lionel was temporarily living at a nearby motel due to his recent separation from Joyce, who had left with Dahmer’s younger brother to move back in with her family.
Shari recalls, “Jeff was left behind with a broken refrigerator, no money and spoiled milk in the fridge. That is also the time when he contacted his first victim.”
Looking back on Dahmer’s early fascination with animal dismemberment and how it may have triggered his series of murders that escalated in violence and sexual nature, Lionel says, “Maybe the roadkill situation had some influence. When he was doing what he did with the roadkill, it somehow probably… there’s a probability that he connected the way the roadkill felt with his puberty urges, sexual urges. It might be. It’s just a conjecture."
Lionel also reveals that trying to figure out why Dahmer committed these horrific murders was one of their main motivations behind taking the case to trial.
“Jeff and I had talked about getting some help, psychological help, to find out, because he insisted he wanted to find out, too, what caused him to do this. So, that’s the only reason that he and I talked about anything, about the reason for going through this trial [...] He had no idea what caused him actually to do this,” Lionel says.
After the trial, however, Dahmer’s father realized only his faith held the answers.
Lionel recounts, “But in the end, I believe that I had the answer: that he just was not involved with investigating, ‘What do I need to do to be with God in the end?’ We never got to that point. He was murdered before that happened. [...] At that time, I was thinking that the mystery could be solved as to why he did these things by being examined by [...] clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. But like I said, I think I know the real reason: there was a lack of connection with our creator.”
Shari concludes, saying, "He was a good human being. He went astray. There are no excuse for that. It wasn’t parental problems, it wasn’t bad school situations. It’s because — we had Jeff studied — it was where Jeff’s mind went, and we couldn’t control that.”
"Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks" premiers on Saturday, November 11 at 7/6c.