MILWAUKEE — Thirty years ago, Milwaukee woke up to the news that Jeffrey Dahmer was responsible for killing more than a dozen people. The majority of those murders happened in an apartment near Marquette University's campus.
Neighbors interviewed by TMJ4 News on July 22, 1991 said they smelled something coming from his apartment.
“We thought it was his deep freeze. Now we found out he has dead bodies in it,” said an unidentified neighbor.
All the remains of the apartment near 25th Street and Kilbourn is a grassy lot. We returned there with Clayborn Benson, the former TMJ4 photographer and current executive director of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society/Museum. He said he remembered the scene that morning.
"We could actually see the body parts being carried out the back door,” said Benson.
He’ll never forget the family member with missing loved ones who showed up to the crime scene.
"I began to see family members come and ask questions about who were these people. Did they know of their loved ones, and they would hold pictures up, they're saying, 'I'm missing a brother. I'm missing a cousin,’” said Benson.
He interviewed Michael Lindsey, the brother of Errol Lindsey, 19, who had been missing since April of that year. It would later be learned Lindsey was murdered by Dahmer.
“The Dahmer case was an awakening for Milwaukee in many ways. An awakening that there were people who were missing and not followed up on,” said Jeff Fleming.
Fleming works for the City of Milwaukee in the mayor’s office. In 1991, Fleming was a crime reporter for TMJ4.
"The case of of Konerak Sinthasomphone raised serious questions of how the police treated people,” said Fleming.
Three months before Dahmer was caught, one of his victims, Konerak Sinthasomphone, 14, escaped Dahmer’s apartment. An alert neighbor called police when they saw a naked and disoriented boy running down the street. Police showed up, and so did Dahmer. He convinced police the boy was drunk and they were lovers. Police brought the boy back to Dahmer’s apartment.
“Would they have treated Konerak Sinthasomphone differently had he been a blond woman? Probably they would have,” said Fleming.
Fleming says there was an immediate change at the Milwaukee Police Department after the Dahmer case.
“It certainly has changed the way the police department views missing persons cases, looking at a situation and not as quickly dismissing cases. But cases that deserve follow up,” said Fleming.
Dahmer confessed to killing 17 people. He was sentenced to multiple life sentences. He was killed in prison on Nov. 28, 1994