Why Is There Not a Memorial For Jeffrey Dahmer's Victims?

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

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Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix show Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story has revisited the life and case of one of America's most notorious serial killers. With the No. 1 trending spot secured and 196.2 million (and counting) hours viewed series receiving an encore performance with the three-part Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes debuting on October 7, it's no wonder everyone wants to know more about the Milwaukee murderer. The show leaves us with possibly one of the biggest questions so far at the end of episode eight — why is there no memorial for the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer?

In one of the final sequences of the show, neighbor Glenda Cleveland, portrayed by Niecy Nash, visits the Milwaukee city office to inquire about building a park memorial at the former site of the Oxford Apartments, where Dahmer committed most of his crimes. The scene ends with Cleveland standing outside her former home, before cutting to a screen that reads "no park or memorial to Jeffrey Dahmer's victims was ever built on the site of the Oxford Apartments."

Since Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story pointed out that there is no memorial honoring the lives lost, there have been growing calls from the public urging the Wisconsin city to create one. However, not everyone is keen on the idea of creating a space of honor. Here's everything we know about why there is no memorial for Jeffrey Dahmer's victims, and whether there are plans to build one in the future.

The idea of creating a memorial for Dahmer's victims was first posited in the 1990s

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's interview with the Mayor of Milwaukee Cavalier Johnson's spokesperson Jeff Fleming, there were conversations in the 1990s about creating a memorial for the victims. However, the plan never came to fruition as some feared the memorial would attract people with bad intentions.

Officials acknowledge the need to honor Dahmer's victims

While no current plans are in the works to build a memorial for the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Wisconsin city is looking into ways to honor the deceased. In a statement shared with TMJ4 News, Mayor Johnson said “It is entirely appropriate to remember the victims of this horrific episode in Milwaukee’s history."

Johnson continued, "They deserve our respect. I am cautious, however, about a physical memorial. That would have an unfortunate potential to attract people who have a morbid fascination with the killer. That is something I would prefer to avoid.”

A recent example of a site of memoriam being desecrated comes from Florida. A memorial for the 17 victims of the Parkland school massacre had trouble with a visitor who, according to Fox 13 News, left dead animals on three separate occasions at the site.

Jeff Fleming told TMZ that Milwaukee wants to avoid creating a "ghoulish destination for troubled fans" looking for a reason or place to celebrate Dahmer.

Locals are divided on creating a memorial for Jeffrey Dahmer's victims

Some Milwaukeeans are against the idea of a memorial completely, with the alderman for the area, Robert Bauman, telling The Daily Beast that a memorial for Dahmer's victims is a "terrible idea."

Bauman questioned using the Netflix series to restart a dialogue about building a memorial for Dahmer's victims.

"I suspect the families and friends of these victims could all make a case for a memorial," Bauman said."I don’t know how a memorial process would start or stop, or what criteria would be used unless everyone would get a public, permanent memorial. I hope the criteria is not incidents which make national news or merit TV shows because that would undervalue all the other victims who also suffered from often horrific violence.

"If there were such a process, I could envision some very angry families and friends whose loved one was denied a memorial," he said. "I could envision distraught families crying out 'you approved a memorial for this person, why not for my daughter.'

"Since 1991, Milwaukee has experienced over 3,000 homicides. Most victims were people of color, many were members of the LGBTQ community and many were children. Each homicide was tragic and senseless," he added.

The niece of Glenda Cleveland, Nicole Childress, also spoke on the matter, with TMZ reporting that Childress conveyed that "the show's brought nothing but trauma to the victims' families, and a physical memorial would only make things worse."

"A potential memorial dedicated to Dahmer's victims would just be too tragic for the families," TMZ continues, "She even notes she's avoided local spots related to his killing spree at all costs until recently."

There were efforts to erase Jeffrey Dahmer's presence from Milwaukee

15 months after Dahmer's capture, the complex where Jeffrey killed and dismembered his victims, Oxford Apartments, was bought by a nonprofit and demolished in November 1992, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Currently, the lot is an empty patch of grass surrounded by a chainlink fence on the city’s West Side. That same year, the downtown chocolate factory where Dahmer worked was bulldozed, per Milwaukee magazine. However, the fact that Dahmer worked there seemed not to be the primary reason for destroying the factory, as a new facility was built on the city’s northwest side.

According to AP News, Dahmer’s belongings were destroyed in 1996 by an organization led by Joseph Zilber. A few families of Dahmer’s victims had obtained a court order that turned Dahmer's items over to them. They had planned to auction the items off, taking the proceeds as compensation for their suffering. Real estate magnate Zilber instead bought the items from the victims’ families for $407,225 (about $768,695 today) in order to stop them from being auctioned off. Jeffrey's belongings (including utensils he may have used to cannibalize victims, saws, blades, and a refrigerator where police found human body parts) were then destroyed.

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