Jeffrey Dahmer’s Dad Might Be Suing Netflix

lionel dahmer jeffrey dahmer father now
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 are making headlines again thanks to Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The limited series details 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 early October.

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 is Lionel Dahmer?

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

Lionel shares 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.

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.

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.

After the news broke about his son’s criminal activity, Lionel wrote a book, but more on that later.

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."

What has Lionel said about his son’s crimes?

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

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.

He wrote a memoir in 1994.

Lionel ended up writing 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.

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.

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.

Where is he now?

The last anyone heard, Lionel is now 86 and living in Ohio with his second wife, Shari, according to public records. He mostly stays out of the public eye.

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