Serial Killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Aileen Wuornos

Nature or Nurture? What exactly is it that makes a serial killer? Are these people born to kill, or is it the twists and turns of their lives, that leads a person, like Jeffery Dahmer, to drug, kidnap, rape, kill, dismember, and at times cannibalize, 17 men over a course of 13 years? Do they just wake up one morning, deciding they can no longer fight the urge to take the life of a human being? Is it the gratification of the kill; do they lust for the blood of another?

Jeffrey was born May 21, 1960 to his parents, Lionel and Joyce Dahmer. His parent’s claimed that Jeffrey had a normal childhood but, his interest and hobbies, we’re not that of a normal 4 year old. He had a fascination with animal bones and once, decapitated a dog’s corpse and nailed the body to a tree. He was curious as to what happened to animals bones after they had been bleached. Jeffrey’s father, Lionel, whom was a chemist, thought that is was just scientific curiosity

Jeffrey began heavily drinking to suppress his dark sexual “compulsions”, which he later acknowledged were homosexual feelings, during his young teenage years and was an alcoholic by age 17. He committed his first murder in 1978, at the age of 18 years old, merely three weeks after graduating high school. He picked up, Steven Mark Hicks, a hitchhiker on his way to a rock concert ,and lured him back to his father’s house with the offer of beer. “Hicks and Dahmer spent a few hours together listening to music and drinking. When Hicks was ready to leave, Dahmer didn’t want him to, so he struck him in the head with a 10 lb. dumbbell and strangled him to death while Hicks was unconscious. He then masturbated over his body, moved him to the crawl space under the house and dissected his body before burying it in a shallow grave. Several weeks later, Dahmer unearthed Hicks’ body, pared the flesh from the bones and dissolved it in acid. He crushed Hicks’ bones with a sledgehammer and scattered them all in the woodlot behind the house.” (Crime Museum,2018)

Fast forward 9 years, severe alcoholism, a failed attempt in the military, a conviction of Indecent Exposure, after masturbating in front of two teenage boys, and failed relationships, he began killing again, at the age of 27 . By this time, Jeffrey was living in the basement of his Grandmother’s house. Jeffrey’s second victim, Steven Tuomi, whom Jeffrey said, had no recollection of killing at a hotel room, was taken back to Jeffrey’s grandmothers house where his body was dismembered and disposed of. Jeffrey’s next two victims were killed in the home of his grandmother, although, she had no idea of the horrendous acts her grandson was committing just feet away from her. When she grew tired of his alcoholism and late nights, he was evicted from the home in, 1988.

In 1989, Jeffrey was arrested for sexual exploitation for committing sexual acts with a 13 year old boy, he received a lite sentence of only one year in prison with day release, so he could continue his job, and a five year probation period because, he said the boy looked much older than he really was. On probation, his grandmother allowed him to move back in with her. He drugged, sodomized, strangled, and dismembered Anthony Sears, during that time.

When Jeffrey completed his probation, he moved in to his own apartment, that is when his body count sky rocketed. In a matter of two years, he took the lives of 12 more men. He would promise his victims drugs or alcohol, sodomize them, photograph and dismember their bodies, and on a few occasions, eat the flesh of his victims. Several times he attempted lobotomies and injected his victims with muriatic acid.

Jeffrey Dahmer killing spree ended July 22, 1991 after, Tracy Edwards, the final victim, escaped Dahmer’s apartment and was seen staggering through the streets with handcuffs dangling from his wrist. Edwards told police officers that a man drugged and restrained him and led the officers to Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment. There, they discovered polaroid’s of dismembered body parts and Jeffrey committing sexual acts with unconscious men. That gave officers enough evidence to do a thorough search of the apartment, where they found a human head in the refrigerator, three heads in a deep freezer along with jars containing genitalia, a preserved human skull and a gallery with his gruesome polaroid’s.

He was arrested, and his trial began in January of 1992. Jeffrey pled guilty by virtue of insanity but, was found to be sane at the time of the killings, and received 16 life sentences for the murders. He “found” religion while he was incarcerated and was baptized by a local pastor. On November 28, 1994, Jeffrey and another inmate, Jesse Anderson, were beaten to death with a metal bar by, Christopher Scarver.

“It is now over. 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, but not for reasons of hate. I hated no one. I knew I was sick or evil or both. Now I believe I was sick. The doctors have told me about my sickness, and now I have some peace. I know how much harm I have caused… Thank God there will be no more harm that I can do. I believe that only the Lord Jesus Christ can save me from my sins… I ask for no consideration.”(Crime Museum, 2018)

Unlike Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, had far from a normal childhood. Aileen’s father was a convicted child molester who committed suicide in prison and her mother abandoned Aileen and her brother before they were teenagers. Her maternal grandparents took them in, even though they should have been placed in foster care. Her grandfather beat her grandmother regularly and was an alcoholic. When Aileen was 11 years old, she began trading sexual favors for beer and cigarettes and at the tender age of only 14, gave birth to her one and only child. The father of the child is not known, but it is suspected to be a friend of her grandfathers. She gave the child up for adoption and was kicked out of her grandparents home the same year.

In the early 1980’s, she moved to the state of Florida and began working as a prostitute. She met the “love of her life”, Tyria ,at a Daytona Beach bar. They began dating soon after. The couple would steal items and sell them to pawn shops to receive enough money for hotel rooms and alcohol. When Aileen felt as if she needed more money she began to kill. Aileen claimed her first victim, Richard Mallory, in late 1989. She would get in the car with her victims after being solicitated for sex, then shoot them with a .22 caliber pistol and rob them. After Mallory was murdered, Aileen went on to murder and rob 6 more men by November of 1990.

Towards the end of her killing spree, Tyria was beginning to become aware of Aileen’s ways of making cash and became and informant for the police, who had already traced pawned items of Mallory’s, back to Wuornos. She was arrested on an outstanding warrant where they used the confession of Tyria to charge her with the murders. Aileen claimed that she killed the men out of self-defense, but was still found guilty on all charges. An angry Wuornos shouted, “Sons of bitches! I was raped! I hope you get raped. Scumbags of America!” (Capitalpunishmentincontext.org, 2018) after the jury read her convictions. The jury then decided that the only punishment Aileen could receive was death and was executed by lethal injection in Florida State Prison on October 9, 2002.

Then, there are men like , Edmund Kemper, the “typical” serial killer. Edmund was abused physically and emotionally by his alcoholic mother from the time he was a young boy. His psychopathic tendencies became noticeable at a very young age, when he started torturing and killing animals. He ran away from his mother’s home at 14 years old to go on a search for his father, whom rejected him. He then moved in with his Paternal Grandparents, where he claims he was abused and neglected by his grandmother.

In 1964, he took and gun and shot his grandmother in the head; he wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone. Fearing that his grandfather would get angry and turn him in to authorities, he shot his grandfather when he returned home from work. He was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. He served less than five years, was released to the care of his abusive mother, and his criminal record was expunged.

By 1970, he was ready to kill his mother, but wanted to make sure that he did it perfectly. Between 1972 and 1973, Edmund perfected his art by kidnapping 6 young college girls at different times, taking them in to the woods, killing and decapitating them, and continued to have intercourse with the severed heads and bodies. During this time he became friends with many of the local police officers which gave him more confidence in his killings. After much practice, he decided it was time to kill his own mother. On Good Friday of 1973, he killed his mother with a claw hammer, then strangled her best friend to death. After the murder of his mother, he decapitated her and had sex with the decapitated head.

When he was finished, he phoned the police and told them what had taken place. Believing that Edmund was playing a practical joke, they did not take his story seriously until he began giving them details of the college girl murders. Kemper was arrested and charged with the murders of his eight victims. He received life in prison without the possibility of parole on all counts.

So, nature or nurture? Jeffrey was a lonely man who suppressed his homosexual desires and felt unloved by his family. Aileen was a woman whom, from the very beginning, was set up for failure, and Edmund Kemper, a man that couldn’t fight his necrophiliac urges and the desire to kill his abusive mother. Maybe, it’s the lack of nurture that all three faced throughout life, or just maybe, they all contained the perfect recipe to make some of the most horrific serial killers America has ever seen.

Work Cited

  1. Crime Museum. (2018). Jeffrey Dahmer | Crime Library | Serial Killers. [online] Available at: https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/serial-killers/jeffrey-dahmer/
  2. Capitalpunishmentincontext.org. (2018). The Case of Aileen Wuornos – The Facts | Capital Punishment in Context. [online] Available at: https://capitalpunishmentincontext.org/cases/wuornos
  3. Capitalpunishmentincontext.org. (2018). The Case of Aileen Wuornos – The Facts | Capital Punishment in Context. [online] Available at: https://capitalpunishmentincontext.org/cases/wuornos