How did Jeffrey Dahmer get caught? The true story from Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

Here's the truth behind the incident that finally unveiled him for what he was

A still from Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story of Evan Peters playing serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer
(Image credit: Netflix)

Wondering how Jeffrey Dahmer got caught? Here's everything that went down when the police finally caught up with the notorious murderer.

The new Netflix true-crime dramatisation is shocking viewers, and this is unsurprising. Evan Peters takes on the chilling lead role of Jeffrey Dahmer, whose murder and torture spree went unchecked for 13 years. Despite many encounters with the police in relation to other crimes, and multiple complaints from neighbours about his peculiar behaviour, he was never properly investigated until the final incident that revealed what he’d done. 

Now, series co-creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, are ensuring the victims’ side of the story is being told through Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story - allowing the trauma and devastation caused to them and their families, to be seen by those watching at home. The series is raising many questions for viewers, including exactly how Jeffrey Dahmer got caught and when did Jeffrey Dahmer die - plus where Tracy Edwards is now - Dahmer's only victim to survive.

How did Jeffrey Dahmer get caught?

Jeffrey Dahmer was caught when one of his victims managed to escape, and was able to inform police that he thought he was about to be seriously harmed. This prompted police to visit Dahmer’s residence and conduct a search.

On the night of July 22, 1991, 32-year-old Tracy Edwards met Dahmer in a bar, where he agreed to return to Dahmer’s apartment and pose for nude pictures, in exchange for $100. Once inside the apartment Dahmer handcuffed Edwards, and told him he intended to eat his heart. Noting the foul smell emanating from every room, and boxes of hydrochloric acid littering the floor, Edwards realised the severe threat to his life. He managed to convince Dahmer to take the handcuffs off - when one hand was freed, he punched Dahmer in the face and ran for his life.  

At 11:30 p.m. on July 22, Edwards came across two policemen - Rolf Mueller and Robert Rauth - while fleeing the apartment, who noted his handcuffed hand and inquired about his welfare. Edwards quickly relayed the story to the officers, and they asked if he’d accompany them to Dahmer’s flat for questioning - Edwards agreed. 

Back at Dahmer’s apartment, one of the officers noticed a large knife beneath his bed, and searched some nearby drawers. Inside were many Polaroids depicting human bodies in various stages of dismemberment. 

According to reports, after discovering the gruesome Polaroids Mueller realised the Polaroids he was holding had been photographed in the same apartment where they were standing. He showed his partner and said: ''These are for real.''

While the officers waited for backup, a severed head was discovered in the refrigerator. Dahmer was arrested that same night, and quickly admitted to his remaining grisly crimes, saying while being questioned, "I created this horror and it only makes sense I do everything to put an end to it."

What happened to Tracy Edwards?

After escaping Dahmer, Tracy Edwards was instrumental in bringing him to justice. The then 32-year-old was a key witness in the subsequent trial, with his testimony in court helping to secure Dahmer's conviction.

Edwards testified that when he entered Dahmer's apartment he smelt a "foul odour" which the murderer claimed to be a burst sewage pipe. However, the place otherwise seemed normal and "quite decent". Dahmer offered Edwards a beer and asked if he was still interested in posing for the photos - to which Edwards said he was still contemplating. Conversation continued, but things changed when Dahmer mentioned the fish in his fish tank - when Edwards turned to look at the fish tank, Dahmer then pulled out a knife and the handcuffs.

In his testimony, Edwards added that Dahmer was “not the same person” he met in the bar, where the invite back to his apartment was first made.

Where is Tracy Edwards now?

It's not known where Tracy Edwards is now. But we do know that Edwards himself had a few run ins with the law. Following the Dahmer trial, Edwards faced several charges for drug possession, theft and for failing to pay child support.

In 2011, he was arrested for allegedly throwing a man of a bridge in Milwaukee. He was sentenced a year later to 1.5 years in jail - plus two years of extended service. 

Edwards was the former client of defence attorney Paul Ksicinski, who said in an interview with Fox News Digital that he never recovered from the incident. "The way that I’ve characterized it, in a nutshell, is that the incident with Dahmer made Tracy into Humpty Dumpty – he was never able to put the pieces back together in his life," Ksicinski explained. "At times, he may have appeared or even sounded like, for a lack of a better term, normal. But he was not. He could never get his life together again after that. He abused drugs and drank alcohol excessively. He had no home. He just drifted from place to place. It destroyed his life. I don’t know how or what he could have done to put things back together again."

According to ABC News, Edwards was 52 at the time of the incident and homeless. He had spent much of his time moving from shelter to shelter since 2002.

How many people did Jeffrey Dahmer kill?

Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. He was convicted of 15 of the 16 murders he was initially tried for, and sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment (plus 70 years) on February 17, 1992. 

A further life term was later added for the homicide of Steven Hicks - of which Dahmer committed in Ohio in 1978. Many have wondered why Dahmer was not given the death penalty for his crimes - but this wasn't an option as the state of Wisconsin abolished it back in 1853.

Following his trial and conviction, Dahmer is recorded to have said “I know society will never be able to forgive me. I know the families of the victims will never be able to forgive me for what I have done. I promise I will pray each day to ask for their forgiveness when the hurt goes away, if ever. I have seen their tears, and if I could give my life right now to bring their loved ones back, I would do it”.

Where did Jeffrey Dahmer live? 

Jeffrrey Dahmer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and lived at North 25th Street in Milwaukee - where the majority of his murders took place. His first murder however took place when he was living in Ohio during university, before moving to live with his grandmother in West Allis, Wisconsin. 

While living with his grandmother, Dahmer murdered 5 people, and a further 11 at his Milwaukee residence. This is how he came to be known as the Milwaukee Cannibal and the Milwaukee Monster. 

He was careful to choose victims on the edge of society - often those with criminal backgrounds, or in minority groups - his victims were often black and homosexual. Their disappearances were less noticeable, and allowed Dahmer to keep infiltrating the groups to take more victims. He used promises of money and sex to lure them to his apartment, where he would later brutally murder them and keep Polaroids and souvenirs from the murders. 

The apartment he lived in up until his arrest - apartment 213 of the Oxford Apartments - no longer exists. Around 15 months after Dahmer's arrest, the apartment block was demolished, and while a "collaborative neighbourhood redevelopment initiative" called the Campus Circle Project purchased the lot in 1995,  nothing really came out of it. Although, they did help the building's residents find new places to live, according to The Tab

Now though, the area where the Oxford Apartments used to be is just an empty space.

A photograph of the Oxford Apartments from behind a fence before they were demolished

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Joyce Dahmer: What happened to Jeffrey Dahmer's mother?

Joyce Dahmer died of breast cancer in 2000, at the age of 64. Following her son’s conviction, she moved to Fresno, California, where she worked with HIV and AIDS patients when the disease was in the early stages of emerging. 

According to All That’s Interesting, Jeffrey Dahmer’s father Lionel, suggested that Joyce was an unfit mother, who had taken prescription drugs while pregnant. He asserted she was mentally unstable after giving birth. He also accused Joyce of being a hypochondriac and germaphobe, who spent hours away from, and refused to touch her son. He placed much of the blame for Dahmer’s future actions at her feet.

Joyce later refuted all his claims, saying she could think of nothing that happened in her son’s childhood that contributed to his actions. She did not think it was anything that she had done, saying he had always been very much loved. After his trial, she said “I still love my son. I’ve never stopped loving my son. He was a beautiful baby. He was a wonderful child. He has always been loved”. 

A psychiatrist involved in the case backed up Joyce’s claims that her son had a stable childhood. Forensic psychiatrist Carl Wahlstrom interviewed and evaluated Dahmer, providing witness statements at his trial. He reported Dahmer had only good things to say about his mother, stating “He said he had very loving parents. [And] that blaming [his] parents for these issues was completely off the mark”.

Further proving that she wasn’t the germaphobe her husband made her out to be, Joyce continued her charitable work until her death. Her friends and colleagues argued that she should be remembered for the good she had done, not for her son’s legacy. Julie Mastro, executive director of the HIV community centre where Joyce worked, said “She was enthusiastic, and she was compassionate, and she turned her own tragedy into being able to have a great deal of empathy for people with HIV”. 

Did Dahmer have any siblings? 

Jeffrey Dahmer had one brother named David. He chose to change his identity and live anonymously when his brother’s crimes were revealed.

Jeffrey was actually given the responsibility of choosing his brother’s name, and there was a 4-year age gap between the two. Shortly after graduating from the University of Cincinnati, David Dahmer learned what his brother had done. Immediately taking a new identity, he has never been seen or heard from since.  

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Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.