It's been more than 23 years since Jeffrey Dahmer was killed while in prison, where he was serving time for the rape, murder, and the dismemberment of 17 young men. Now, Shari Dahmer — Jeffrey's stepmother — is shedding some light on what may have caused her "nice, kind boy" to become one of America's most infamous serial killers.
On Nov. 11, Oxygen aired a new two-night special called Dahmer On Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks, in which his father Lionel, along with Shari, opened up about the murderer's upbringing in Wisconsin. "What I wanted to do, and what most people wanted to do, was mother him," the 76-year-old told Fox News. "He was just vulnerable. Even if I wasn't his stepmother all his life, as a mother you sense those things. And he was very vulnerable. He needed love and he needed attention."
Shari married Lionel after his divorce from his first wife, Joyce Flint, in 1978. During the special, viewers learned that Joyce suffered from mental illness and reportedly took up to 27 pills a day while she was pregnant — including antidepressants, progesterone, and growth hormones. Many speculated that the cocktail of prescription medication could have affected the fetus.
By the time Jeffrey was 18 years old, Shari realized her stepson — whom she described as "quiet and respectful" — was a heavy drinker. "When I moved in, I had my own mini bar and the bottles kept lessening in [liquor]," she remembered. "When Jeff got drunk and had his father’s car, he didn’t remember where it was. We had to track the car down one time because he had parked it somewhere and didn’t remember where. But alcohol was the only thing at that time that stood out."
After being discharged from the army because "he just didn't fit in," Shari attempted to get Jeffrey psychiatric help. "We wanted to get Jeff help," she claimed. "Lionel would drive him down to the building and Jeff would go to the front door and go out the back door."
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In 1991, Shari's world was turned upside down when Jeffrey was arrested at the age of 31 after a man with a pair of handcuffs dangling from his wrists escaped from his apartment and told police he tried to kill him. It was then that Jeffrey admitted to detectives that his first slaughter took place back in 1978, unbeknownst to anyone. The loner admitted he would lure men at bars back to his apartment where he drugged and murdered them.
"[I thought] I wished I could have taken it on myself," said Shari when she first heard of her stepson's confession. "I wished I could have taken the burden from him, but of course, I couldn’t do that. That was my first true thought. My God, why is this happening to somebody so young who has so much life to give?"
Today, many wonder why she and Lionel haven't changed their last name. She said, "I didn’t feel ashamed. We were not guilty. That’s where it stood. My family and many people said, 'Why don’t you change your name?' We didn’t do anything wrong. Why should we change our name? Lionel would tell you that’s his given name from his father... Because we were not involved, we didn't feel ashamed in that respect."