Deaf Victim Tony Hughes's Mom Signed An Emotional Message At Dahmer's Trial

who was tony hughes, the deaf victim, from ‘monster the jeffrey dahmer story’
Who Was Jeffrey Dahmer's Deaf Victim Tony Hughes? Netflix

Netflix’s hit limited series, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, details the terrifying crimes of notorious American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. But in doing so, it also sheds light on his long-forgotten victims, telling their life stories from their own perspectives.

And one of Dahmer's victims has been given a chance to "tell" his story in the series: Tony Hughes, a Black man who was deaf and who could not speak. The series' sixth episode focuses on Hughes and explores the victim's interactions with Dahmer before his murder.

The heart-wrenching scenes show Hughes' life story, from his birth, to his quest to find love and his short and convoluted relationship with Dahmer. The episode suggests there could possibly have been a different ending to this story, as, for once, Dahmer tells his dad he's actually happy, and that he has a "new friend" in his life.

But Hughes' story ends the same way as all the others, with his horrific murder.

And if you want to do an even deeper dive into the serial killer's motives, Netflix is dropped a docuseries called The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes on October 7. The doc promises never-heard-before interviews with Dahmer’s legal team, per The NY Post.

Here's what you need to know about who Tony Hughes was and how he died.

Tony was deaf and could not speak.

Anthony "Tony" Hughes was born on August 26, 1959, according to FBI records. He permanently lost his hearing as a baby because of some side effects of medicines that were given to him as a child, according to The Sun. He was also apparently mute.

Hughes graduated from the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, according to Gallaudet University.

He was a model.

Hughes moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to go to college while pursuing a modeling career, The Sun reported.

How did Tony meet Jeffrey Dahmer?

The two reportedly met at a gay bar, where Hughes interacted with people by writing on a notepad. He had communicated with his eventual killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, in the same fashion.

Hughes was visiting family in Madison and "went dancing at a Milwaukee gay bar on May 24, 1991. Jeffrey Dahmer picked him up, took him home, drugged him, dismembered his body and kept his skull," according to contemporary news reports from The Associated Press.

Was Tony Hughes friends with Jeffrey Dahmer?

The series details how the two became attracted to each other, and shows Dahmer even attending some of Hughes’ photoshoots—but it’s not clear how much of the episode is based on truth, and which parts have been fictionalized.

However, Hughes may have been working for Dahmer, because his mother told The Associated Press that her son had "taken a new job two weeks earlier but never got his first paycheck," and that "she was unable to contact the friend because she only knew a first name—Jeffrey."

Where is Tony Hughes now?

Jeffrey Dahmer killed Tony Hughes in 1991. But details of Tony's murder are scarce, even in the series. He was Dahmer's 12th victim.

Dahmer later confessed to murdering Hughes and was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences in 1992 for Tony's murder and the murders of 14 others, according to History. All in, Jeffrey killed 17 teens and men between 1978 and 1991. Most of Dahmer’s victims were people of color.

According to FBI records, 31-year-old Hughes disappeared on May 31, 1991, but hadn't been seen since May 24, when friends saw him at the Club 219. Two months later, in July of 1991, his remains, including his skull and vertebrae were discovered in Dahmer’s apartment, along with the remains of many other victims.

Before Hughes was officially identified as one of Dahmer’s victims, his sister, Barbara Hughes-Holt, explained how she was feeling. “Just fearing that one of those bodies could be my brother is real scary," she told The Associated Press in 1991 after human remains were found in Dahmer's apartment.

Tony was initially identified through his dental records, and his mother was notified of his death in early July.

He spent time with another victim at Club 219.

Hughes would often go to Club 219 and was reportedly a fan of performer, Eric Wynn, also known by his drag queen name, Erica Stevens. Hughes was “my absolute favorite fan,” Wynn told The New York Times. “He would sit there, laughing at me when I was trying to learn sign language with my big, old fake nails on.”

Scott Gunkel, who was a bartender at the club remembered Hughes as someone who would “get there early and have a couple sodas and write me notes to keep the conversation going. He disappeared, and I didn’t think much of it at the time,” he told The New York Times.

Another victim of Dahmer’s, Eddie Smith, would also attend Wynn's shows frequently. Smith was killed just eleven months before Hughes.

Where is Tony's family now?

When Hughes’ remains were identified, his mother, Shirley Hughes thought she “would lose her mind,” she told The Associated Press in 1992. In another interview, she stated, "I just prayed and asked the Lord to show me where my son was. I just wanted to know if he was dead or alive. The way he died, it hurts. Words can’t describe it.″

Shirley described her son as "outgoing, jolly, happy," and said that "he could easily make friends,″ per The Associated Press.

A grief counselor who worked with victims’ families after the tragic events said Shirley worked hard to pick up her family and to find religion after the tragic events, according to The Tab.

Shirley Hughes read a poem during the trial.

At Dahmer’s trial in 1992, Shirley read a poem written by her son’s friend as her victim impact statement, according to Today. The poem was written from her son's perspective.

“Why am I a victim in your cruel and rueful world?" Shirley read aloud. “Although I can’t communicate with a loud voice, listen to me anyway. Try to have mercy on my moans. Look at the tears rolling down my face, see that each one is a cry for help, and realize they are a sign showing you that I want to live," Today reported.

Shirley concluded her statement by signing "I love you," in American Sign Language for her son.

Shirley is not happy about the limited series.

Tony's mom shared her feelings on the Netflix show while speaking to The Guardian in October, criticizing the show for using the family members' real names and bringing their traumatic experiences back to life.

“I don’t see how they can do that,” Hughes said. “I don’t see how they can use our names and put stuff out like that out there.” She added that “it didn’t happen like that” when talking about her son’s episode.

Who played Tony Hughes in the Netflix documentary?

Tony is played by actor Rodney Burford in the series, which first aired on Sept. 21, 2022.

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