Jeffrey Dahmer’s Dad And Step-Mom Both Died This Year

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What To Know About Jeffrey Dahmer's Father, LionelSteve Kagan - Getty Images
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The life and crimes of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer captivated everyone last year thanks to Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The limited series detailed how Jeffrey Dahmer methodically targeted, and then brutally murdered, at least 17 men. The streamer also dropped a docuseries with previously unheard tapes from his legal team in October of 2022.

Between 1978 and 1991, Dahmer killed mostly gay men and teens of color, with two victims as young as 14, according to Biography, and he often kept souvenirs from the murders, including his victims’ heads, bones, and genitalia.

The series includes a brief glimpse at Jeffrey’s family, including snippets of his relationship with his parents and his grandma.

In real life, Jeffrey’s father, Lionel Dahmer, has spoken out about his infamous son since finding out about his crimes. But who is Lionel Dahmer and where is he now? Here’s what you need to know.

Who was Lionel Dahmer?

Lionel was the father of American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and another younger son, David Dahmer.

Lionel shared Jeffrey and David with his first wife, Joyce, but the two divorced when Jeffrey was 18, according to The Tab. Lionel married his second wife, Shari, in 1978.

He died in 2023.

The last anyone heard, Lionel was living in Ohio with his second wife, Shari, according to public records. He mostly stayed out of the public eye. Lionel died on Tuesday, December 5. Shari died earlier this year in January, at the age of 81.

According to the New York Post, Lionel passed away from unknown causes while in hospice care in Ohio. The Post said that Shari's health had gone downhill over the past couple of years.

Her death came a week after Evan Peters won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Limited Series for his role as Dahmer in “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

Who plays Lionel Dahmer in the Netflix show?

Actor Richard Jenkins plays Dahmer’s dad in Monster, per Collider. You may recognize the 75-year-old actor from The Visitor or Stepbrothers.

He thought about suing Netflix.

Apparently, Lionel was not super pleased by Netflix’s limited series, which focused on his son’s crimes, and Lionel's assistant, Jeb, said at the time that Lionel was not contacted about the show, The Sun reported. He considered suing the streamer, but does not appear to have done so before his death.

“Lionel and his power of attorney are gathering information and looking at a possible lawsuit against the production team or possibly Netflix,” Lionel’s assistant said back in 2022, per the New York Post. “There was zero care whatsoever about Lionel’s wellbeing.”

According to Jeb, Dahmer’s father was also not consulted about the docuseries, Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes, which was released by the streamer earlier in late 2022.

Although Lionel never spoke publicly about his son since the release of Monster, he was “a nervous wreck,” according to his assistant, per The Sun. And some viewers have even showed up at his property in rural Ohio.

Dahmer’s father “thinks that none of this should have been made,” and that “all the information that needs to be public is right there in his book,” his assistant said, referencing his 1994 memoir, according to the NY Post. “Everything else is just glamorized and provides attention to details that aren’t proven fact.”

He wrote a memoir in 1994.

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Back to that book reference: Lionel wrote a book about his experiences, A Father’s Story, that was published in 1994 only a few months before Jeffrey's death. The book “describes his shock at hearing the news of his son's crimes, his entry into a world of complete denial, and how, during Jeffrey's trial, he placed himself in his son's shoes,” according to its Amazon description.

At least two victims' families ended up suing Lionel for invasion of privacy after the book was published, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

What has Lionel said about his son’s crimes?

Lionel has actually spoken extensively about his son, Jeffrey, and his horrific crimes in previous years.

During a Good Morning America segment in the 1990s, Lionel said that "the closest I could come to why—to give some type of a causality for all this—is that I think it was a cumulative thing.” Lionel specifically mentioned a double scrotum hernia operation Jeffrey had undergone at age four as one of the potential triggers for his son's odd behavior.

The authors of the book Mythologies of Violence in Postmodern Media explained that “the experience was so painful for the child that he ‘asked Joyce [his mother] if the doctors had cut off his penis.'"

After that, Jeffrey's moods changed. BTW, there is absolutely no evidence that a double hernia surgery would lead to Dahmer's horrific crimes. But it is certainly a bizarre theory!

“That plus a blow to the back of the head, plus I don't know these various incidents, going around and getting roadkill,” Lionel continued in the GMA interview. (The Netflix miniseries depicts Lionel doing taxidermy with a young Jeffrey, but otherwise struggling to connect with him.) “All these things came to a cumulative ending and it hooked on, I firmly believe it hooked into his sexuality at age 14 or 15. There really were no overt signs. He wasn't foaming at the mouth or talking to himself in his sleep, or acting in a weird fashion.”

Lionel also told Oprah in 1994 that Jeffrey was a really shy kid. “The only signs I saw was shyness and reluctance to engage in social interactions, that sort of thing. But really no overt signs of any kind,” he said.

In an interview that aired in 2022 with Dr.Phil, Lionel explained, “At first, I couldn’t fathom how he turned out to be this far down the continuum. I mean, we’re all on a continuum, we all do bad things, we all sin.”

“He was at the extreme of the continuum. I couldn’t at first understand how he could have done those things," Lionel added.

What did Dahmer’s father do for a living?

Lionel graduated from Marquette University in 1962 with a master's degree. He then received his PhD from Iowa State University in 1966, according to The Tab. He worked as a chemist and lived with his family in Wisconsin from 1960 to 1962, before starting work as a research supervisor in analytical chemistry around 1968, the outlet reported.

Lionel Dahmer wanted his son to stay in prison after his first arrest.

Before Dahmer was caught for murdering 17 men in 1991, he was convicted of second-degree sexual assault in 1989. He was sentenced to spend a year at a work release camp and was given five years of probation after his release in 1990, Today reported.

But Lionel thought his son needed more help. He wrote a letter to Judge William Gardner about his son’s mental health, asking him to keep Dahmer in prison. Lionel shared the letter with the public in the 2020 documentary, Jeffrey Dahmer: Mind of a Monster.

"I have reservations regarding Jeff’s chances when he hits the streets. I have experienced an extremely frustrating time trying to urge initiation of some type of treatment," the letter read, per Today. "I sincerely hope that you might intervene in some way to help my son, who I love very much and for whom I want a better life. I do feel, though, that this may be our last chance to initiate something lasting and that you can hold the key."

He got closer to Jeffrey after his arrest.

Lionel told Oprah that he grew closer to Jeffrey after he was arrested in 1991. He visited his son in jail once a month and spoke to him on the phone at least once a week.

"We’ve gotten very close since his...arrest," he said during his Oprah interview in 1994. "I still love my son. I’ll always stick by him—I always have."

He wanted Jeffrey’s brain to be cremated instead of used for science.

Lionel and his first wife argued about what to do with Jeffrey’s brain after he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.

Jeffrey's mother told the local newspaper that Jeffrey "always said that, if he could be of any help, he wanted to do whatever he could," and she wanted to have his brain studied after his death, The Washington Post reported. But Lionel wanted his son’s brain to be cremated—which is ultimately what happened, per the Los Angeles Times.

Lionel appeared in a 2020 Dahmer documentary.

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In what is likely his most recent public appearance, Lionel shows up in the Investigation Discovery's 2020 series, Jeffrey Dahmer: Mind of a Monster, and spoke about his life with Jeffrey and his reaction to learning of his son’s crimes.

A four-part docuseries brought new insights into Jeffery’s crimes and his relationship with Lionel before he died.

In September 2023, recordings of conversations between the father and son were made public for the first time in a four-part documentary series called My Son Jeffrey: The Dahmer Family Tapes, which aired on Fox Nation, according to Fox News. The never-before-heard audio revealed new details in Dahmer’s own words about the crimes he committed, as well as his relationship with his father.

The tapes were recorded during Jeffery’s time in prison, at which time Lionel began to look for answers. He asked his son, “What was the very first fantasy, I was wondering that you could remember having which you thought to yourself was kind of off or disturbing?” adding, “I had weird thoughts too, in my childhood. You’re just like me, Jeff.”

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