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Interview With Father and Stepmother of Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer

Aired June 17, 2004 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The remains recovered in the suspect's apartment included four intact bodies and various body parts of seven other individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a runaway train on a track of madness!


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, the parents of Jeffrey Dahmer. Their son was one of America's most notorious serial killers, murdering and dismembering 17 young men and boys, in some cases eating parts of their body. And then in 1994, Jeffrey Dahmer himself was murdered in prison. Now in an exclusive interview, his parents, Lionel and Shari Dahmer, speak out on what went wrong to turn their handsome, soft-spoken son into a monster, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

A great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE tonight Lionel and Shari Dahmer. They're the father and stepmother of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, the late Jeffrey Dahmer. Lionel authored a terrific book about his son called "A Father's Story" some years back. We thank them for appearing with us tonight.

This is a very sensitive subject, and we will deal with it as delicately as possible. And he was called Jeff, right?


KING: You called him Jeff. So who picked up Jeffrey?

LIONEL DAHMER: Well, most of the media and the people who were harmed by Jeff wanted to sort of keep him at a distance, so it was Jeffrey, more formalized, instead of...


LIONEL DAHMER: ... just Jeff.

KING: But to you he was always Jeff.


KING: From childhood.

LIONEL DAHMER: To all of his friends, really.

KING: So you're his stepmother, right?


KING: When did you meet him?

SHARI DAHMER: I met him when he was 18, had just graduated from high school. Lionel was in the final stages of a divorce. We met, and I was introduced to Jeff.

KING: And how did you get along with him?

SHARI DAHMER: We got along fine. Jeff was able to separate his personal relationship with his parents and his mother and with me. He accepted me as an individual.

KING: Was he -- did he love his mother, Lionel?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes, he did. But he, you know, had a very rough time with her physical and mental problems.

KING: Did you ever, with all the notoriety given this, give thought to changing your name and just, like, disappear?

LIONEL DAHMER: No. No. I'm proud of the name Dahmer. My father was a schoolteacher and a barber. He brought himself up from the bootstraps. His father and mother died at a very young age. I have a very good ancestry, and I'm proud of the name. The only thing is when we go out, sometimes we'll give a different name so that -- you know, at a restaurant, for example, so that we don't cause a lot of people to change -- you know, to move their heads around and look, and, Oh...


KING: It must be terrible to live a life with a name that -- the way things are felt about that name.

LIONEL DAHMER: Right. Right. You always hesitate to...

KING: Now, Shari, you married into this family?


KING: How do you feel about the name?

SHARI DAHMER: I'm proud of my name. I used it in the business world. I use it still. I have no reason to deny who I am. We didn't do anything wrong.

KING: No, you didn't.

SHARI DAHMER: So we have no reason to be ashamed of who we are.

KING: Jeff also had a brother, did he not? LIONEL DAHMER: Yes.

KING: And he did change his name, is that...

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes, he did change his name.

KING: What is he doing?

LIONEL DAHMER: Well, we've promised to keep him completely secret with respect...

SHARI DAHMER: He has a career...

KING: No, that's all right. I don't need...

SHARI DAHMER: ... and a family. Exactly.

KING: ... to be specific, but is he happy? Is he...

SHARI DAHMER: He's very happy.

LIONEL DAHMER: He's happy.

SHARI DAHMER: We're expecting a second grandchild. Everything is going well.

KING: Oh, so that part of his life he has put aside.


KING: Were they close, the brothers?

LIONEL DAHMER: Seven years' difference, so...

KING: Who was older?

LIONEL DAHMER: Jeff was older. So yes, they enjoyed themselves as brothers, but there was always that seven years' difference in interests, so it -- they weren't as close as someone maybe that was one or two years different.

KING: Why are you coming on?

LIONEL DAHMER: Why am I coming on to talk to you? I really want to tell parents about what I think they should look for in rearing their children.

KING: It could help a lot of people.

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Yes, that's really my -- I have no other motivation, except to try to help people.

KING: And you support that, Shari?

SHARI DAHMER: Absolutely. Anything that we could do to circumvent or prevent another Jeff would be a blessing. KING: Because it can't be easy.

SHARI DAHMER: It is not easy.

KING: It would be easier to forget about it...

SHARI DAHMER: Absolutely, but...

KING: ... if you can, right?

SHARI DAHMER: ... no one allows us to forget about it. Just as recently as two weeks ago, we were sitting in a doctor's office and someone made a statement that brought it to the forefront. And we never know when we'll see a picture of Jeff on TV, an article. We're never allowed to walk away from this.

KING: Is his mother still living?

LIONEL DAHMER: No, she's deceased. Cancer.

KING: All right, the obvious thing is, you have to look back as to what led to this. What are some early memories? He was born -- let's get this right -- May 21, 1960...


KING: ... in Milwaukee. You lived in Milwaukee.


KING: Were you in business?

LIONEL DAHMER: I was going to Marquette for my master's in analytical chemistry at that time.

KING: You played tennis at the University of Wisconsin, right?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Later -- before -- before I went to Marquette, I spent four years at the University of Wisconsin and played tennis there.

KING: And what was your profession when he was growing up?

LIONEL DAHMER: Analytical chemist and graduate student.

KING: In Milwaukee.

LIONEL DAHMER: In Milwaukee, and later at Iowa State University.

KING: As I remember from the book, your wife had a difficult pregnancy with Jeff, right?

LIONEL DAHMER: Very difficult, yes. She would spasm. Her jaw would go sideways. And we would walk her around and around. My mother and father would do the same.

KING: He was first born?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Nothing seemed to help until we would have to call the doctor, administer barbiturates and...

KING: Were there any problems with the second son?

LIONEL DAHMER: No. Nothing except colic. It kept us awake a lot.

KING: And there are no other siblings.

LIONEL DAHMER: No, just those two.

KING: Were you married? Do you have children?

SHARI DAHMER: I have no children. I've been a stepmother twice, and I adopt a lot.

KING: OK. I understand there was an incident -- what was an incident early on, something about -- trying to remember the book -- dead animals or something?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Unknown to us -- we found out all of this at the trial in Milwaukee, the so-called trial to establish his insanity so he could get treated properly at a psychiatric institution. We found out that he had been collecting at the age of 12 to 14 -- you know, when your hormones are ranging, puberty -- he was collecting dead animals, road kill, riding around the rural roads and collecting them in bags. His mother didn't know. I didn't know. And apparently, none of his playmates knew.

KING: What did you know before 12? If we're going to help people, what are some signs -- this is all recollection now, of course...


KING: ... that, That should have told me something about that?

LIONEL DAHMER: Before 12, there really wasn't -- I mean, if I had known about the roadkill, that would have been a red flag. I would have done something immediately, intervened. But before that, there wasn't really anything.

KING: Would you call him a normal boy up to 12?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Yes. Except extremely shy. And one of the things I'd like to tell parents is don't disregard shyness. Things can be fomenting in that young mind. Dig. Just pull out everything that you possibly can. Don't stop.

KING: You mean talk to him?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes, talk deeply and intensely. It'll come out, I think, eventually. I wasn't tuned to that. You know, back in the '50s and '60s, especially with men, you weren't really taught to be a psychologist.

KING: Or sensitive.

LIONEL DAHMER: There weren't any books then. But since then...

KING: Are you saying, then, if someone is really shy, and we're talking about embarrassingly shy, get some psychological help, too?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Yes. If they feel -- if it's obvious that the child feels very inferior and shy, doesn't want to interact, get some help. Get some intervention by a psychologist, minister or some type of social worker.

KING: Was that completely different than his brother?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. His brother was very, very ebullient and outgoing, just wanted to talk to everyone, not shy.

KING: We'll be right back with Lionel and Shari Dahmer, the parents of Jeff Dahmer. Don't go away.


JEFFREY DAHMER: I know my time in prison will be terrible, but I deserve whatever I get because of what I've done. I've hurt my mother and father and stepmother. I love them all so very much. I hope that they will find the same peace I am looking for.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a crazy man! He believed that this way, he keeps them with him, when he eats their body parts.


KING: We're back with the Dahmers now. Remember, a lot of the things they learned, they learned much later, like the dead animals...


KING: ... where you didn't know that age 13.

LIONEL DAHMER: We're sitting in the courtroom, just stunned, without any sleep.

KING: What did he do with the animals?

LIONEL DAHMER: Well, he examined them and he cut into them, cut them open to examine the insides of the animals. And by the way, a lot of people have been telling me that they've done the same thing, but they didn't turn out like Jeff. But there was one thing that was different with Jeff. He did what most all of us young males do when the hormones kick in tremendously, and he was doing something sexually with them. And I think the neuronal connections, you know, made contact and sort of hard-wired Jeff, so to speak.

KING: What did the doctors explain to you that was? I mean, what do psychiatrists say when they hear this, even after the fact? What is that illness?

LIONEL DAHMER: I forgot the formal name of -- necrosis? Not necrosis.


LIONEL DAHMER: Necrophilia. Necrophilia.

KING: Do they know what causes it, why people are necrophiliacs? Was anything said to you, Shari, by...

SHARI DAHMER: Well, not in great detail. It was something anyone really wanted to discuss because it was so abhorrent. No one said, This is the hard definition of necrophilia, no, other than he was sexually deviant and he obviously found satisfaction with something dead.

KING: And do we know why someone who is sexually deviant is sexually deviant?

LIONEL DAHMER: No. No, not really. We had hoped, with the profits from the book -- we had to spend all of the profits on legal affairs. And after that, I played attorney a couple of times to protect myself. But we had hoped from the profits to have Fred Berlin (ph) at the Hopkins Institute and a woman psychiatrist from the University of Arizona investigate, actually in person investigate, not just for an insanity -- purposes of an insanity trial establishment, but really get to the core of why he did this.

KING: He was convicted of the -- and was he sentenced to death?



SHARI DAHMER: The death penalty was not acted...

KING: Oh, that's right. That was the time when the death penalty...

SHARI DAHMER: Yes. that's why he was scheduled...

KING: ... was in abeyance.

SHARI DAHMER: Exactly. He got life in prison.


SHARI DAHMER: A hundred-plus years.

KING: Let's go back again. The spring of 1964, he had a hernia, right?

LIONEL DAHMER: Double hernia.

KING: Did that impact his mood? That was very painful.

LIONEL DAHMER: He was very subdued, to say the least. And he walked around like a little old man -- I can still see him in his robe -- and complained about hurting very much. And he wondered if he had had his penis cut off.

KING: Did he love his brother?

LIONEL DAHMER: It affected him. Yes, he loved him. But many times, he just tolerated him because -- because his younger brother was so expressive and active that sometimes he got on his nerves.

KING: How was he to you?


KING: Yes.

LIONEL DAHMER: How was he to me? He was -- I have things that he wrote from school expressing love. And he told me that he loved me very much. And when Shari and I went and visited him at the prison, talked to him on the phone, he expressed how grateful he was for bringing us together, for sort of a rehumanizing...

KING: Of course, you loved him a lot.

LIONEL DAHMER: I loved him very deeply.

KING: He was very shy, as you say, in elementary school, awkward.

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. His elementary school teacher tried desperately to get him to interact with the other children, but it just didn't work. It was right after the move from Iowa State University after I got my Ph.D.

KING: To Milwaukee?

LIONEL DAHMER: From Iowa State University in Iowa.

KING: Well, now, when you saw it this shy, didn't you have some wonderment that something's wrong here?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes, I -- we involved him in soccer and tennis and 4-H. We raised lambs and chickens on our two-acre property. We involved him in all kinds of activities. We interacted at school. We tried to get him together with some kids. He did have a small circle of kids. It wasn't as if he was just totally off in a corner.

KING: Did he watch cartoons?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. KING: Did he like "Batman"?


KING: Did he like movies?

LIONEL DAHMER: We watched "Popeye" together every morning -- Saturday morning.

KING: Did he laugh?

LIONEL DAHMER: He laughed, yes. It wasn't as if he was totally morose, Larry, you know. But after we moved from Iowa to Ohio, it seemed like the inferiority and shyness just was so exacerbated and increased to a great degree.

KING: What was he like as a teenager?

LIONEL DAHMER: He had a small circle of friends who liked to play gags and joke around a lot and...

KING: Practical jokes?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. Yes. Jeff played on the tennis team. And a friend of his played with him on the team. And instead of playing, you know, seriously, they would just joke around. And his opponents couldn't understand why they were laughing so much.

KING: Did he date girls?

LIONEL DAHMER: No. No, he did not.

KING: Did he drink?

LIONEL DAHMER: He did drink in his 11th and 12th grade, which we found out -- I didn't know anything about that.

KING: You didn't know that at all.

LIONEL DAHMER: I didn't know that. He was going down to his friend's house and taking from the liquor cabinet.

KING: Any drugs?

LIONEL DAHMER: And taking -- going to school. There was one brief episode where we found a pipe, at one point, yes.

KING: Now, Shari, of course, not in the picture yet. You come in when he's 18?

SHARI DAHMER: When he was 18.

KING: OK. Let me get a break, and we'll be right back with the Dahmers. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and sawed into pieces in the fly-infested apartment of Jeffrey Dahmer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... but not only does Milwaukee have to deal with the unbelievable horror Jeffrey Dahmer says he has spawned here, but...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... crimes police are now beginning to realize the grisly enormity of.



JEFFREY DAHMER: This has never been a case of trying to get free. I didn't ever want freedom. Frankly, I wanted death for myself. This was a case to tell the world that I did what I did not for reasons of hate. I hated no one. I knew I was sick or evil or both. Now I believe I was sick.


KING: We're back with the Dahmers. All right, we have a very shy, reclusive, kept to himself, close body of friends, not interested in girls, a different kind of kid, but certainly no sign to you of violent nature.

LIONEL DAHMER: No. And no parent, no peer, no anyone...

KING: No teacher that called up...

LIONEL DAHMER: No teacher...

KING: ... and said, Come in and talk to us.

LIONEL DAHMER: No teacher told us about the time that -- we found out later that he had a six-pack at high school.

KING: How about, did he express anger?

LIONEL DAHMER: He kept it in. He did not express anger.

KING: You never saw him yell at anyone or get violent with something, throw something?

LIONEL DAHMER: No, I -- I did not see him get angry with anyone physically. He would get angry at his younger brother, but not physically.

KING: What happened when your marriage started to break up? How did that affect him?

LIONEL DAHMER: Well, I was desperately trying to keep the marriage together. My wife wanted to go off and find herself, she said, which means I don't know what. But...

KING: How did Jeff take it?

LIONEL DAHMER: Jeff, I think -- he told me that it disturbed him very much.

KING: Bothered him that you got divorced.


KING: But when he met Shari, he accepted you?

SHARI DAHMER: Yes. He was embarrassed and ashamed that his parents were divorced. See, I did not...

KING: He was?

SHARI DAHMER: Oh, yes, very much so. He didn't want his friends to know. He -- see, he withheld his true feelings. He was very good at disguising his feelings. But he was ashamed and embarrassed.

KING: Did you notice anything that you would have said, Something's the matter with this boy?

SHARI DAHMER: The only thing that became obvious by sheer accident -- I came home early one day, and he was passed out on the bed drunk. And then I found out that he had been in the liquor cabinet, and he would replace the empty bottles with water. So he was a closet alcoholic. That's the only thing that flagged.

KING: How were his grades?

LIONEL DAHMER: Sometimes he would get an "A," and sometimes he'd get a "D." It was very up and down.

KING: He goes to college, though, right?

LIONEL DAHMER: He went to Ohio State.

KING: Ohio State University.

LIONEL DAHMER: For a short time.

KING: Not do well there?

LIONEL DAHMER: Not do well at all, no.

KING: Flunk out?


SHARI DAHMER: And drinking.

KING: Did he go to work? What did he do then?

LIONEL DAHMER: Drinking and selling his blood.

KING: What? LIONEL DAHMER: He sold his blood.

SHARI DAHMER: His plasma.

KING: To blood banks?

LIONEL DAHMER: Right. Right.

KING: For income.

LIONEL DAHMER: For income...

SHARI DAHMER: For money to drink.

LIONEL DAHMER: ... for liquor.

KING: So he was an alcoholic.


KING: What did he -- did he go get a job?

LIONEL DAHMER: No, he didn't.

KING: Live at home with you?

LIONEL DAHMER: He came back home. And I then proceeded to take him to the Army...

KING: He enlisted.

LIONEL DAHMER: Sign up for the Army, right.

KING: He went into the Army?

LIONEL DAHMER: There doesn't -- I told him, There just doesn't seem to be any other way to go right now.

KING: Did he serve?

LIONEL DAHMER: He served. He came back from boot camp looking like just a wonderful physical specimen, smiling, helped me out cutting wood. We were encouraged.

KING: What happened?

LIONEL DAHMER: But don't forget, during all this time when he was at Ohio State, he was drinking to cover up that first killing that occurred in...

KING: That occurred when?


KING: When he was how old?

LIONEL DAHMER: When he was 18.

KING: And who did he kill?

LIONEL DAHMER: Steven Hicks (ph).

KING: This is all discovered later.


SHARI DAHMER: When his mother left and he wanted to stay behind, he became very lonely. And that's when the first murder occurred.

KING: He was about 18?


LIONEL DAHMER: He was 18, and I had moved out of the house.

KING: This was 1978, right?

SHARI DAHMER: He was 17 going on 18.

LIONEL DAHMER: I had moved out of the house, and he was left alone by his mother, who moved to northern Wisconsin.

KING: Was Steven Hicks a friend of his?



LIONEL DAHMER: He just was a pickup.

KING: Pickup?

LIONEL DAHMER: Just a -- he was a hitchhiker.

KING: Was he homosexual?


SHARI DAHMER: That's what happens.

LIONEL DAHMER: I don't think so.

SHARI DAHMER: There was an altercation because Steven wanted to leave. Jeff had made a pass at him, and Steven wanted to leave.

KING: But he said he wasn't gay?

SHARI DAHMER: Steven was not.

KING: Jeffrey was.

SHARI DAHMER: And of course, Jeff was a closet homosexual.

KING: And you knew none of that, either.



SHARI DAHMER: No indications.

KING: So he's now committed a murder, but he's out of the Army. He seems fit to you, but nothing seems to work. What happens after the Army?

LIONEL DAHMER: He kept getting together with another young man.

KING: This is in Ohio or Wisconsin?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes, in Ohio. And getting into trouble.

KING: Police trouble?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. I would give him my car to go look for a job, and he would end up drinking and leaving the car. He forgot where he left the car many times.

KING: One murder, up to this point?


KING: You learned about all of this later, when the first one...

LIONEL DAHMER: Right. Right. And some -- eventually, it got so bad that we sent him to his grandmother's house in Wisconsin.

KING: To your parents?


KING: How did that go?

LIONEL DAHMER: For a while, it went very well. My mother cooked for him. And he finally found a job at a chocolate company. And it went quite well for a while, but then things started to occur.

KING: Like?

LIONEL DAHMER: He got a note at the library one time where he was, and a note offering sex. And this was after five years that he was living with my mother. And suddenly that -- somehow...

KING: The note from someone offering sex with him?


KING: From a male?

LIONEL DAHMER: Yes. And that somehow set him off on a homosexual murder spree. KING: That eventually took how many lives?

LIONEL DAHMER: Seventeen, I think.

KING: All of them in what city? Were they all in one city?

LIONEL DAHMER: Milwaukee. Except for the first one.

KING: So the first one was in Ohio.


KING: And the other 16 were in Milwaukee.


KING: And he was working in the chocolate factory at the time?


KING: And he maintained that job?


KING: Any contact with you?

LIONEL DAHMER: Had contact with us. We were in Ohio. We'd visit. We'd talk on the phone.

KING: No sign of anything, other than the drinking?

SHARI DAHMER: He was getting arrested once or twice a year...

KING: For?

LIONEL DAHMER: Disorderly conduct.

SHARI DAHMER: ... disorderly conduct. He also pulled a gun out in a bar one time. So we thought we were going up there to get him out of trouble in regards to his drinking problem. Again, no hint that there was a darker side to his life.

KING: More after this. We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You took my 17-year-old son away from me. I'll never get a chance to tell him that I loved him, have a chance to tell him that I loved him the last time that I saw him, which will be a year tomorrow. You took my mother's oldest grandchild from her, and for that I can never forgive you. I hope you -- I hope you can deal with what you done.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took a jury just five hours to reach a verdict.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just five hours to find Dahmer sane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The focus now shifts from the who to the why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just thank the lord that me and Dahmer didn't get along, otherwise you might have seen my head on a shelf over there.


KING: We're back with Lionel and Shari Dahmer, the parents of the late Jeff Dahmer. A downward spiral, as I understand, begins, right? You learn from your mother that Jeff has full-sized male mannequin in his closet. You are -- I must tell you, something seriously wrong, right?

S. DAHMER: We thought, again, it was related to his homosexual desires.

KING: You then knew he was homosexual?

S. DAHMER: Yes. Oh, yes.

KING: And you knew it. How did you handle that?

S. DAHMER: Not well.

L. DAHMER: Not very well. I'm a believer in absolute truth. I think people that don't believe in absolute truth may be prone to be more liberal with error. And I believe that the Bible teaches that that is something that you should avoid. Just like too much food, too much drink, too much of anything. And I took it as something to be conquered, I felt. So I took him to a psychiatrist. And really it was for mostly, at that point, the drinking and the...

KING: Did his brother have anything in that area? His brother gay?

L. DAHMER: No. Not at all.

KING: You say his brother is married and you have grandchildren, right?

S. DAHMER: Right.

KING: OK, so the spiral starts. He sets up a satanic altar in his house? He dabbles in the occult, right? You're learning all of this, but still no idea of murder.

L. DAHMER: Right. KING: When you see Satanic cult, isn't that some sort -- when you wrote in your book, "more than anything I allowed myself to believe there was a line in Jeff, I line he wouldn't cross. It was a line dividing the harm he might do to himself from the harm he might do to someone else."

And you wrote, "In the eyes of parents I think children always seem just a blink away from redemption. No matter to what depths we watch them sink, we believe they need only grasp the lifeline and we can pull them safely to shore."

In other words, you knew there was something wrong, you knew he was bothered, something was seriously wrong, but you never thought he would harm someone else.


KING: Harm himself, yes. Did you think he might commit suicide?

L. DAHMER: He had tendencies to denigrate himself. And he even told his grandmother one time, if I die, just throw me down the field. So he didn't -- he did not have a big self image.

KING: In 1988, September 26, he moves out of his grandfather's house. He brings home a Laotian teen and molests him. That leads to an arrest, right?


KING: Did that put a sign into you? That he had molested someone?

L. DAHMER: Oh, yes. We hired someone, an attorney, to represent him. And I argued for a very firm follow-up on a psychological basis. Don't let him out. His attorney actually let him out four months...

KING: His attorney let him out?

L. DAHMER: Let him out.

KING: You mean the court let him out.

L. DAHMER: The court let him out.

S. DAHMER: Jeff was of legal age, so we could not stop him. Lionel wrote a letter to the judge requesting that Jeff get psychological help.

L. DAHMER: He let him out early. Earlier than what his sentence had been given.

KING: I got it. And he got probation, right?

S. DAHMER: Right.

KING: One year work release program, right? S. DAHMER: Mm-hmm.

KING: Did you think he had gotten through it?

L. DAHMER: I tried to hook him up with another psychologist, but he didn't -- Jeff did not attend on a regular basis. I didn't think he got through it. I think -- I thought at that time it would take a long time.

KING: Because then he had another problem with a naked Asian teenager, right?


KING: So, these are all leading up to...

L. DAHMER: Sure.

KING: ...the worst day of your life.


KING: July 23, 1991, Jeff's arrested for homicide investigation of 17. Did you know it was 17 then?

L. DAHMER: Not at first at all, no.

KING: What did they say at first?

L. DAHMER: I had...

S. DAHMER: There were several.

L. DAHMER: ...been called by Shari that there were a few involved in a homicide. I didn't...

KING: Who told you?

S. DAHMER: The police called and the attorney.

KING: They had arrested him?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KING: Where were the bodies?

S. DAHMER: There were virtually no bodies, in most cases, because he had destroyed them.

KING: He had eaten parts of them?

S. DAHMER: He had eaten parts, but he had cut them up and destroyed them. He had put them in trash bags. That's why there was no hard line of bodies to trace.

L. DAHMER: Actually, the eating part was more like, you know, how the Indians -- the ancient Indians used to eat parts of humans hoping that they would gather strength from that, you know. Jeff told me that that was a very, very small part. It was a part. But very much overblown by the media.

KING: But he killed the people.

L. DAHMER: But he did dispose of their bodies, yes.

KING: Did he first deny it to you?

L. DAHMER: You mean when he was finally arrested July 1991? No, he did not deny it.

KING: He admitted it?

L. DAHMER: Oh, yes. Yes.

KING: Where were you? What were the circumstances when he tells you, this is what I did?

L. DAHMER: I met him at the Milwaukee County Jail. I went down to meet with him.

KING: Did you go?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes. Every time. We visited with him.

KING: The first time I'm talking about when he tells you what he did.

L. DAHMER: I hugged him. And said, Jeff -- and he said to me, I really messed up this time, which is an understatement. And I said, Jeff, you really need help. The only way I can see is to have you judged insane so that you'd be put into a psychiatric hospital to really find out what's wrong. He hesitated at first, but later on, he really wanted to find out what was causing him to do these things.

KING: Did he ever plead insanity?

L. DAHMER: Oh, yes. I mean, through his -- through advice of me and the attorney.

KING: The court rejected the insanity, right, and found him guilty of the murders?

L. DAHMER: Yes. I would never have put him and us or anyone through this insanity trial if I had known that this was, I believe, a -- what would we call it -- a situation where they wanted to assuage the community.

S. DAHMER: This was a trial to help appease the victims' families. They needed that trial.

KING: Certainly he was sick.

S. DAHMER: Obviously. He knew that. L. DAHMER: One attorney told me that they watched it and they said, oh, my god, his attorney, a 14-year-old or an apprentice attorney, a journeyman attorney could have done that. They were doing it, we felt and...

KING: All the families attended the trial, did they not?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes.

KING: Did you have a tough time facing the families of the people he killed?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes.


S. DAHMER: There were stares of hatred.

KING: At you?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes, absolutely.

L. DAHMER: We sat just motionless and sick to our stomach.

KING: Was there any thoughts of not attending the trial?

S. DAHMER: Only when he warned us not to. There were several days they said the tempers were so high that we should not appear. So we did not go.

KING: Did he take the stand?



KING: We'll be right back with Lionel and Shari Dahmer. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the defendant Jeffrey L. Dahmer have a mental disease? Answer, no.

Question No. 2 need not be answered. Counsel, do you have anything further for the jury?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm mad. This is how you act when you are out of control. I don't want to ever see my mother go through this again. Never, Jeffrey. Jeffrey, I hate you! (expletive deleted) I hate you! Jeffrey Dahmer, (expletive deleted) I -- killed (expletive deleted). Let me kill you! (ph)


KING: We're back with the Dahmers.

There were accusations that there were racial things involved, right? Because many of the victims were Asian only or black.

S. DAHMER: Caucasian (ph).

KING: Is that correct?

L. DAHMER: In all my conversations with Jeff, that was not a factor at all.

KING: Were any of the killings Caucasian?

L. DAHMER: There was...



S. DAHMER: At least three victims.

KING: Of course, this thing was wild headlines everywhere. How did you cope with that?

L. DAHMER: Not well. I sat with my mother and -- and our home was invaded by national as well as international photographers set up across the street with -- on neighbors' porches. And ringing doorbells, tromping all over our yard and looking in, trying to see in our windows. It was horrible.

KING: And Geraldo Rivera did this special on it, right?

S. DAHMER: He did.

KING: And he portrayed him a brutal and sadistic killer. You were the epitome of the evil stepmother. What was that all about?

S. DAHMER: That was part of his hurrah. He also had a guy on there who was supposed to have been Jeff's lover, and we had a cease and desist letter put out to Geraldo because of all the -- the things that he was doing and saying.

KING: Yes.

L. DAHMER: And we signed an affidavit that this was not true, and it turned out this -- later, this fellow that appeared on "Geraldo" was a felon.

KING: But they still went with it?


S. DAHMER: They ran with it, yes. They ran parts of it.

L. DAHMER: Regardless of warning, these people still went with it.

KING: How did you face the families?

S. DAHMER: Openly.

L. DAHMER: We talked...

S. DAHMER: We reached out.

L. DAHMER: We talked -- we reached out with several of the families. Shari was so wonderful in that regard. I couldn't have gotten through this without Shari, first of all, let me say.

And the way she had -- her demeanor with people, it just -- it causes people to melt. Some of these victims just...

KING: You had to sit through the details of the aspects of these killings. You had to hear about them. Right?


L. DAHMER: Oh, yes.

KING: How did that -- it's your son. I can't imagine...

L. DAHMER: I -- I -- I...

KING: ... how you dealt with it.

L. DAHMER: I can't either. To this day, I can't really see how I -- we both just sat there.

KING: Did you look at him when these things were being described?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes.


S. DAHMER: His back was to us in the court.

L. DAHMER: His back was to us most of the time.

S. DAHMER: Of course.

KING: Did he have remorse?

L. DAHMER: He read a statement that -- at the end that he -- it sounded like he was remorseful.


JEFFREY DAHMER, CONVICTED SERIAL KILLER: I know the families of the victims will never be able to forgive me for what I have done. I promise I will pray each day to ask for their forgiveness when the hurt goes away, if ever.

I have seen their tears, and if I could give my life right now to bring their loved ones back, I would do it. I am so very sorry.


KING: Got a lot of mail, didn't he? He got hate mail; he even got love mail.

S. DAHMER: Lots -- He had lots of friends out there, supposedly, and people who loved him and cared about him.

L. DAHMER: They saw him as different from a Bundy or a Gacy.

KING: What prison did he go to?

L. DAHMER: A Wisconsin correctional institution.

KING: And how long was he in before he was killed?

L. DAHMER: Portage, Wisconsin.

KING: A couple years?

L. DAHMER: It was...

S. DAHMER: Several years.

L. DAHMER: A couple -- two or three years.

KING: And it was a mentally ill inmate, right? How was he killed?

L. DAHMER: Well, you know, I -- I talked with an attorney who has access to that prison quite intimately. And what happened was there were -- there was about 20 to 40 minutes of time where no one, that is the staff at the prison, no one knew the whereabouts of this person, who took a barbell, the rod, the bar from weightlifting equipment, and hit it and bludgeoned Jeff to death.

KING: In other words, he -- they let him be loose for all that time without knowing the whereabouts of a prisoner?

L. DAHMER: I -- this attorney said he was confident that it was something that was allowed to happen, as he put it.

KING: What happened to that person?

S. DAHMER: He was found guilty. Of course, he was insane, and they sent him to another institution...

L. DAHMER: In Cobb (ph), Colorado.

S. DAHMER: I think it's West Virginia or Cut Worth (ph) where he's going to be.

KING: How were you told about Jeff's death?

S. DAHMER: The warden called me at home and said...

KING: Before the news media had it?

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And of course, I sent a friend at work up to be with Lionel, and I had to tell Lionel that his son had been killed.

KING: How old was he?

L. DAHMER: He was 30...

S. DAHMER: He was in his 30s.

L. DAHMER: Thirty-three? Thirty-three. And for the second time I sat at my desk, totally numb, paralyzed, to get -- to get the news.

KING: Did you have a burial? Did they give you the body? Did...

S. DAHMER: It wasn't released for over a year.

L. DAHMER: I wanted -- he wanted to be cremated.


L. DAHMER: And his mother, his natural mother, wanted the brain, the dead brain to be studied. I was all in favor before of having him studied by tomography (ph) and while he was alive. We can really find something, perhaps. But not a dead brain.

There were some scientists at Case Western Reserve that claimed they could tell what -- why he acted like he did. That's not possible with a dead person.

KING: What eventually happened to the body?

L. DAHMER: Well, I -- I played attorney, filed briefs and appeared in Wisconsin court and -- and won. The judge ruled in my favor, and not to turn this into a circus.

KING: And you cremated him?

S. DAHMER: We did. Yes.

L. DAHMER: Cremated him.

S. DAHMER: We had half the ashes, and his mother the other half.

KING: You have the ashes now?

S. DAHMER: They were -- we took care of them.

KING: You took care of them?

S. DAHMER: We put him to peace.

KING: Why did they hold it for a year?

S. DAHMER: Because he was legal evidence.

KING: In the trial of the person...

S. DAHMER: Exactly. Oh, yes.


S. DAHMER: He was legal evidence, so he was held for over a year.

KING: How was he handled in prison?

L. DAHMER: How was who?

KING: How was he dealing with prison, Jeff?

L. DAHMER: Jeff -- he -- at first it was extremely hard, but then he -- he sent away for 13 books. It's down in Alcahone (ph), California, Institute for Creation Research. I told him about the place. And he bought 13 books that turned him from a -- an evolutionist into a creationist and from there into a Christian.

And he started handing out and talking, handing out pamphlets and so forth and talking with other prisoners, trying to...

KING: So he was a born again?

L. DAHMER: He was -- he was -- I'm sure, in talking with him, it wasn't just a jailhouse conversion. I really believe that.

KING: Because he wasn't going to get out?



KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments, find out some things we might learn from this, after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dahmer was on janitor duty when his body was found in a blood-spattered bathroom. He had massive injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the preliminary findings of the pathologist were that Mr. Dahmer died as a result of blunt force injury to the head.



KING: We're back with our remaining moments.

Do we know why he killed?

L. DAHMER: Well, we don't know why he killed. I really believe there was a chance of finding that out, had he not been murdered and he had been studied extensively.

KING: Could have been inability to interact with people...

L. DAHMER: That's part.

KING: ... the shyness factor?

L. DAHMER: That's definitely part of it.

S. DAHMER: There was an overwhelming desire. He admitted that. He had an overwhelming desire to have passive mates.

L. DAHMER: Even the psychiatrist that examined him at -- for the purpose of the trial didn't really know why he did it. But he did tell me why he felt that he could do what he did. Why he felt free to do what he did.

He told me that -- and this was after reading the books on -- by these scientists on creation science, he felt that he was up -- up from the slime, as he put it. You know, molecules to amoebas to Larry type of a thing, evolution. That there was nothing, no direction by a god. No one to be accountable to. No one to answer to at all.

KING: That's what he believed?

L. DAHMER: That's what he felt. That's why he felt he could just do whatever he wanted to. That's quite different from knowing the cause.

KING: Did he ever explain to you why he ate even small parts of the body?


L. DAHMER: That goes back to -- he did tell me that he felt that he just wanted to examine everything as -- every possibility as far as control, having control.

KING: What do we learn from this?

S. DAHMER: Hopefully, we learn to watch our children, monitor them, love them dearly, but be aware of any nuances. How do you know who's going to be a serial killer? There's -- there's still not that many profiles out there. Most parents are not that adept, or do they study their children in depth.

L. DAHMER: My wonderful ex-boss said but for the grace of God, there I go. But... KING: But do we have any exhaustive studies of...

S. DAHMER: Of serial killers, or Jeff?

KING: Serial killers.

S. DAHMER: Serial killers, yes.

L. DAHMER: Serial killers, yes. And, you know, there's a certain profile, of course: 34 and white and so forth and so on.

KING: Angry loner.


KING: But he's different.

L. DAHMER: Torturing animals...

S. DAHMER: He was not a typical profile.

L. DAHMER: But he didn't torture animals. He didn't fit the profile. Well, he fit some of the profile. Shy, that sort of thing.

KING: So are you saying if you have children that show all the keys -- very, very shy, early liquor -- get them some attention. Liquor should have been a sign, right?


S. DAHMER: It should.


S. DAHMER: It should have.

KING: What's life like for the two of you now?

S. DAHMER: We -- we're doing all right.

L. DAHMER: Well...

S. DAHMER: We're retired. We have a lot of faith that has gotten us through this, and we have many good friends out there. You make friends -- if you make friends in dire times, they stick with you.

So we've lost a lot of family, a lot of people we knew, but we have a lot of friends who are proud of us, who are not ashamed of who we are, again because we've done nothing wrong. So life is good.

KING: Do you have cousins that stopped talking to you and...

L. DAHMER: There were a few cousins that wanted to distance -- yes, distance from us.

KING: Are there other people named Dahmer?

L. DAHMER: It's a very uncommon name, and I imagine that this is rough on them. There aren't many as you go from city to city and look at the phone books. There aren't many. But I imagine it's extremely rough for them to go through this.

KING: You ever run into relatives of the victims?

S. DAHMER: We have several -- we have a very close friend, of the sister of one of the victims. And she and we are sounding boards.

L. DAHMER: Shari -- Shari engendered that relationship.

S. DAHMER: Well, we met at a civil trial.

KING: Close friends with the sister of a victim?

S. DAHMER: Yes. And it's helpful, Larry, to share our thoughts and feelings with someone who's on the other side. They -- she must know how we feel, and of course, we want to know how she feels. And that's healing.

L. DAHMER: We arranged it. We arranged a meeting with her and Jeff at the prison. And then later, when he was murdered...

S. DAHMER: She was at the service, the memorial service.

L. DAHMER: She was at the service, and she said to me, "Lionel..."

S. DAHMER: She forgave Jeff.

L. DAHMER: "Lionel, I forgive Jeff."

KING: Very Christian thing to do.

S. DAHMER: Oh, yes. She's a wonderful woman.

KING: Lionel, honestly, do you have any guilt?

L. DAHMER: Well, I'm not -- sometimes I feel like I do, in that, I mean, I'm not a participant in it, and yet I feel guilty that I didn't spend more time with Jeff, rather than on my -- with my wife.

The common knowledge is spend the time, make the relationship with your wife right, and everything will fall in place with your children. But it didn't happen that way.

KING: Anybody going to do a movie at all?

S. DAHMER: There is a possibility.

L. DAHMER: There is -- there is a -- there's a couple of guys named Ambler and Dickinson?

S. DAHMER: Yes. L. DAHMER: In Kansas City who would like to make a feature film of the whole story.

S. DAHMER: The father's story.

L. DAHMER: The father's story.

KING: And you would cooperate?


KING: With Father's Day coming Sunday...


L. DAHMER: And if it will help.

KING: Thank you very much.

L. DAHMER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Good to see you. And great meeting you.

S. DAHMER: Thank you, sir.

L. DAHMER: It was an honor meeting you.

KING: Lionel and Shari Dahmer, the parents of the late Jeff Dahmer.

I'll be back in a minute to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Dan Rather will be with us. And among the guests next week, former President Bill Clinton. Next Thursday night, his first live prime time appearance since the publication of his book. We'll include your phone calls.

Gene Hackman will also be with us next week.

Right now -- in fact, with us right now as we turn things over to New York, it's "NEWSNIGHT" time with Aaron Brown.


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