In 1991, Nirvana was topping the charts, George H.W. Bush was in the White House and the city of Milwaukee lost its innocence.
On July 23, something terrifying -- almost unimaginable -- had happened inside apartment 213 on North 25th Street.
Like a murderous conveyer belt, Milwaukee police started pulling out body parts, boxes of them, along with acid, a large cooking pot and a refrigerator that smelled like nothing police had ever encountered before
A man named Jeffrey Dahmer had between 1987 and 1991 lured in, drugged and then murdered 16 men and boys between the ages of 14-33. Some he strangled, others he experimented on, trying to keep them alive but in a zombie-like state by drilling a hole in their heads and then pouring hydrochloric acid or boiling water into their skulls for some of a twisted sexual gratification.
It was horrifying, it was shocking, it was scary, it was frightening,” said Charles Benson, who covered the story for WTMJ in Milwaukee. “And for people in Milwaukee, it was like ‘Wow, this is in our backyard.’”
Dahmer’s name almost overnight became synonymous with the kind of twisted evil the country had never seen before.
“If you’re going to look on a list of most evil serial killers in American history, Jeffrey Dahmer is certainly on that list,” Benson said. “And it’s because of what he did, how he did it and also sort of the strangeness of who he was.”
And of course, there was the uncertainty for family members of all of those young men and boys who went missing -- uncertainty that eventually grew into the horrible realization of what had happened to their loved ones.
“I just knew in the back of my mind that my brother had to have been one of them," Steven Thomas said.
it wouldn’t bring them back, but just before the judge sentenced Dahmer to 957 years, family members were able to address the man who had become known as the “Milwaukee monster.”
His victims would never know that the man who drugged them, strangled them and in some cases ate them, would meet justice in prison. On Nov. 28, 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death just two years after entering prison.
“It’s certainly part of Milwaukee’s history, and no one wants that to be part of your history that you had serial killer named Jeffrey Dahmer who wound up killing 17 people, 16 here in the Milwaukee area,” Benson said.
There might have been more victims had it not been for Tracy Edwards. On July 22, 1991, Edwards managed to escape Dahmer’s clutches and lead police back to his apartment where they made their gruesome discovery.
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