Trigger Warning: Sex abuse
People simply can't stop talking about American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. After all, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Netflix’s newest limited series about his life has been at the top of the streaming service's charts for over a week now, and another docuseries, Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes, drops on October 7.
Monster is a fictionalized retelling of Dahmer's 17 known murders that occurred without detection for over a decade. His victims spanned in age from just 14 years old to 33, and his killings often involved necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism.
Many people don't know, however, that Dahmer actually served in the military over the course of his long killing spree. The topic is discussed in episode four of the limited series, and Dahmer even bragged about some of his killings while being deployed.
Dahmer was eventually caught and sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms during his 1992 trial, before being beaten to death in jail 1994 by inmate Christopher Scarver.
Ahead, find out what Jeffrey Dahmer did in the army, how long he served, why he was kicked out, and if he killed anyone during his time in the service.
Was Jeffrey Dahmer in the army?
Six weeks after his first murder (Steven Hicks, an 18-year-old), in June of 1978, he began college at Ohio State University where he majored in business, according to Newsweek. Dahmer's father, Lionel, wanted him to go to college, but he dropped out just three months into his first semester. After that, Lionel encouraged his son to enroll in the army, per The Cinemaholic.
Where did he serve?
Dahmer was stationed in West Germany, within the Rhineland-Palatinate state, according to AP News.
What did Dahmer do in the military?
Dahmer first enlisted to serve with the military police, per The New York Times, but he ended up being transferred to a six-week medical specialist training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, according to The Cinemaholic. Jeffrey was working as the military version of a nurse's aide, screening patients. He was then stationed in Baumholder, West Germany, in July of 1979, where he helped as a combat medic in the 2nd Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, per The Cinemaholic.
He was an “average or slightly above average” soldier, as stated by his first year reports, according to Distractify.
How long did he serve in the army?
Dahmer served for almost two years, from 1979 until March of 1981. At that time, he was honorably discharged (a.k.a., "formally released after serving a period of honest and faithful service," according to Newsweek) from the military through Chapter 9 of the Code of Military Justice, per The Cinemaholic.
Why did he get kicked out of the army?
Dahmer was deemed unsuitable for military service as a result of his alcohol abuse—he started drinking when he was a young teen, per Distractify.
On March 24, 1981, Dahmer had a debriefing in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and was given a plane ticket wherever he wanted to go. He flew to Miami Beach for a couple of months and got a job at a delicatessen, but was evicted by the hotel he was staying in because he wasn't paying rent, per Newsweek.
Dahmer then moved back to Ohio with his father, Lionel, and stepmother, Shari, but was arrested just two weeks later for drunk and disorderly conduct, for which he had to pay a $60 fine and received a suspended 10-day jail sentence, according to Newsweek.
Two months after coming home, Dahmer went to live with his grandmother, Catherine Dahmer, in West Allis, Wisconsin. He became a phlebotomist at the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center, drawing blood from patients. Dahmer was laid off ten months later, and began working at the Milwaukee Ambrosia Chocolate Factory in 1985, per HITC.
In July 1991, Dahmer told the police that "fantasies of killing people that he had when he was 17 or 18 recurred after he left the Army and moved to Milwaukee," according to The New York Times, adding that he "did not kill again until late 1984 or early 1985, when he 'discovered the gay bars.'"
He was arrested several more times for indecent exposure, lewd and lascivious behavior, and disorderly conduct, per Newsweek.
Did Dahmer kill anyone while he was in the army?
The military looked into five unsolved murder cases that occurred during his service years once his killings became known to the public in 1991. And police in Germany reopened cases from Dahmer's time in the country, but didn’t find any connections, per The Cinemaholic and Military Times.
Some of his interests foreshadowed his killings.
Dahmer reportedly decorated his room in Germany with a poster of Iron Maiden and spent hours invested in a picture book, "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," a children's Norwegian fairy tale, according to The New York Times, per Military Times.
In the book, a group of three goats try to cross a bridge to get food, but a troll tells the youngest male goat that he intends to eat him. The young goat convinces the troll to let him live, telling him that the next goat will be larger and will make a better meal. The second goat tells the troll that the third goat will be bigger and saves himself. But the third goat challenges the troll, and the troll is knocked off the bridge, per American Literature.
It's unclear how Dahmer interpreted the fairy tale, but his fascination with it is certainly eerie in light of his later crimes. In the book, The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh: Book One: Finding the Killer. Did Jeffrey Dahmer Kidnap Adam Walsh?, Billy J. Capshaw, Dahmer's roommate, said he would often reference the tale and tell him, "The Billy Goat's Gruff comin' to get ya."
Jeffrey got the most violent after he drank, Capshaw said, according to The New York Times: "You could tell in his face that he wasn't joking. It was for real. That's why it bothered me. It was a whole different side. His face was blank. It was kind of like he was cross-eyed-like. An expression like he just wasn't there. I've never seen it on anyone else's face."
Jeffrey Dahmer sexually assaulted two men while in the military.
At one point, Dahmer was working in a medic unit with a man named Preston Davis, who was 20 years old at the time, per The Sun. Davis, a Black man, noted that Dahmer was a “racist individual,” and “once he started drinking, he became a very obnoxious individual,” per the New York Daily News. He even mentioned that Dahmer would brag about his victims: "Jeffrey had killed his first victim a year before joining the military, and he would get drunk in the barracks and say, 'I killed the guy in Ohio.’”
Davis worked with Dahmer between October 5 and October 25, 1979, according to his survivor story published on Protect Our Defenders, a national human rights organization aiming to ending sexual violence and racism in the military. The two were training together when their vehicle broke down and had to be wheeled to the train station for the last three or four days of the exercise.
At that point, Davis says he was alone with Dahmer: “Somewhere in that time frame, I was sexually assaulted, which included penetration. I believe that I was drugged because I lost time and have memory gaps...I had very little recollection of the event,” he wrote.
Davis says that the only reason Dahmer didn't kill him was because they were out in the middle of Belgium, and Dahmer didn't know how to get back to Germany, according to The Sun.
After the experience, Davis left to work in a different unit, but his career began to go downhill from the trauma, per The Cinemaholic. Davis wrote that he “still blames himself for all the terrible things that Jeffrey Dahmer did to another victim,” on Protect Our Defenders.
Capshaw also claims that Dahmer sexually assaulted him. He said Dahmer raped him “eight to 10 times,” per The Independent. Dahmer would also lock Capshaw inside their room and take mail from his family, according to the New York Daily News.
Capshaw said that Dahmer was nice when sober, but violent while drunk. “He was tying me to the bunk with motor-pool rope,” Capshaw said of some of the incidents. “He took all my clothing from me. He would either beat me before he raped me, or he would beat me after.” Other people allegedly knew about Jeffrey's abuse but would return Capshaw to him after his many attempts to escape, per The Sun.
Although Capshaw reported Dahmer and took a rape test, the results were ignored, and Dahmer continued his assaults for another 17 months, The Cinemaholic reported. Now, Davis and Capshaw have connected over their shared experience with the serial killer, per Distractify.
You Might Also Like