Dahmer: The discovery

CREATED Jul 16, 2011

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WARNING: Graphic content

MILWAUKEE – The evening of July 22, 1991 started as a normal night on the job for Milwaukee Police Detective Pat Kennedy as he worked alongside his partner and awaited upcoming assignments from the detective bureau.

The night would end with a call that changed Kennedy’s career and life forever.

“It just happened to be that my squad number was up and when that call came in we got sent to the call.”

Kennedy was told to report to an apartment building at 924 N. 25th Street to investigate a possible murder.  Upon arrival, he quickly realized the details of the case were more grisly than he and his colleagues had anticipated.

“It was a hot July night - typical Milwaukee - a very muggy hot night where things hang in the air and the unmistakable putrid smell of death.  Before we even got up to the apartment floor we knew that there had been a body in there.”

The apartment unit belonged to Jeffrey Dahmer, a man who killed 17 men and boys over a period of 13 years, carrying out the majority of his murders inside that Milwaukee apartment.

The call that brought Kennedy and his partner to the scene came after one of Dahmer’s would-be victims escaped and flagged down police.  Officers would later discover a human head in Dahmer’s refrigerator.

Unbeknownst to them, it was merely a sign of things to come.

The Investigation Begins

Once Detective Kennedy was on scene he knew he was in no physical danger.  The area was contained and the serial killer was handcuffed and surrounded by officers.  

Still, the site of the head in the refrigerator, eyes and mouth wide open, sent shivers up Kennedy’s spine.

“When I saw that freshly severed head, even though I’d seen many things I’d been a police officer and a detective for years, I wanted to get the heck out of there I can tell you that much.”

Kennedy would get his wish.  

His subsequent assignment was to take Dahmer away for an interrogation process and retrieve the man’s initial confession.  The two sat together in a windowless room on metal chairs in front of a matching table for about 15 hours, discussing all the crimes Dahmer was responsible for.  

Kennedy didn’t necessarily believe the details Dahmer was providing about numerous murders and heinous acts, but investigators back at the apartment learned they were indeed dealing with a monster.

“It wasn’t until we got permission from Dahmer to search and actually started to open up the 57 gallon hermetically sealed tank and finding the other body parts, the hands and feet and bones from the different drawers that they started to find those things.”

After a killing spree that lasted more than a decade, Dahmer was caught and his facade was crumbling.  

He had nothing more to lose and decided to unburden himself completely by divulging every dark secret he ever held.

Compiling a Confession

“He did it for his own warped selfish desire of self gratification, that’s what he told us,” explains retired Milwaukee Police Detective Dennis Murphy.

Murphy, a veteran detective on the force, was called in to assist Kennedy with the interviewing of Dahmer when the breadth of the killings was revealed.

The two detectives would spend their days talking to the serial killer trying to determine exactly who he had murdered and why, and Dahmer was very willing to cooperate fully with the investigation.

“It happened relatively quickly,” says Murphy.  “I think we had a full confession of all the 17 homicides within 4 days actually.”

Dahmer’s confession included diligent work with authorities, sifting through missing persons’ reports and identifying the people he had killed.  

It was a long, difficult process as Dahmer’s crimes stretched beyond murder to include acts of mutilation and even cannibalism.

“The dismembering of the bodies initially was just as a way of concealing the crime,” explains Kennedy.  “He needed to do more and more things in order to keep getting the high that he was getting out of having total dominance over people.” 

“He needed more and more to get off.”

It took about six weeks but the detectives learned every detail of the depraved crimes.  

The confession they gathered along with evidence collected by dozens of others in the Milwaukee Police Department was enough for the district attorney to charge Dahmer with 15 counts of murder and he was removed from society.  

Milwaukee moved forward throughout the years but the city still struggles to break its association with the infamous figure.

“I don’t think the city should be punished, says Murphy. “The Dahmer story is going to be there just like any big news story.  It can be associated with the city but it’s not what the city is.”

The extraordinary evil of Jeffrey Dahmer’s killings left a stain on Milwaukee but he was swiftly tried and convicted.  The city maintained its dignity and the victims’ families have not been forgotten - 20 years later.