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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Family of a Serial Killer

Yesterday, I finished reading A Father's Story by the father of serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer. I found it enlightening. Parents look at their children and hope for the best for their future. To what extent, if any, should responsibility (blame?) fall to the parents for the crimes of the children? One of the things that I found most interesting in Mr. Dahmer's book is the degree to which it was an examination of himself. The apple never falls too far from the tree. Not to say that Mr. Lionel Dahmer ever committed the particular atrocities of his son. But the author reveals that his own quirks, failings, weaknesses and flaws are present in seed form in his son. As he put it (I may not have the quote exact), he put his hand on the handle of the door to the room which Jeffrey entered.

Was Jeffrey genetically predisposed to become a murderer? From his father's account, I'd say most likely. But that's not such a stretch really. I think everyone is capable, under certain circumstances, to commit murder. Are our genes our destiny? I'm not saying that. Yet just as some people are naturally more sensitive, others "naturally" lack empathy.

What Jeffrey did, however, goes well beyond merely killing human beings. Perhaps his perversions defy explanation. One of the rationalizations that I find objectionable is when people label such people "monsters." Jeffrey Dahmer was no monster. He was a man. A man who felt, willed, loved, and performed monstrous things. Is there a qualitative difference between Jeffrey Dahmer and you? Certainly a difference in degree, but in quality? Have you never hated another or wished someone dead? Have you never treated people like they are your possessions? Have you never - in pain or anger or sorrow - tortured the innocents? By your words? Your actions or inactions? Ah. Maybe we have all grasped the handle to the door of the room Jeffrey entered.

Now I'm reading a brilliant text by Mikal Gilmore, brother of killer Gary Gilmore, called Shot in the Heart. Mikal is a writer by profession and what a skillfully woven narrative he offers! Whereas Mr. Dahmer focused upon the genetic conveyance of evil (if you will), Mikal Gilmore seems to be looking at the entrenched patterns of violence in family systems. He looks much further into his family tree to see how close the apples fall. And this is a guy with a bizarre and terrible tale to tell.

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Anonymous said...

For a little bit of the other side of a murder investigation, I recommend "Homicide" by David Simon. Simon spent a year with homicide detectives in Baltimore. He was a crime reporter for the paper, and had a lot of experience with reporting on crimes, so he saw this as a good way to get the story. It is excellent. He then went on to write for the show of the same name, and I think he's written for other shows dealing with cops (HBO's The Wire, which is some of the best television period, in my opinion).

Scott Adle

Anonymous said...

How strange that I should come across this story on this page... I googled "Lutheran serial killers", curious as to whether there were more than just the three killers I know of who are Lutheran - John List (who murdered his entire family),Dennis Rader (the BTK killer), and my father (who killed my mother). All three men were heavily involved in the church. I'm fascinated by the Christian connection to these murders in general, and the Lutheran connection in particular. My half-brother, a LCMS church elder, thinks I'm going to hell for suspecting any link between between the religions of these men and the horrific acts they committed, but then - he doesn't want to believe that our father killed my mother in the first place, and won't let me talk to him about it. I wonder how others feel...

Anonymous said...

I would say there is a very strong relgious connection. The Old Testament states you shall not have another God. It states you shall not kill. It also states you shall not lay with another man.

Jeffery was a sinner, a murder and a sodomize but his biggest sin was a false God. Jesus said he is not he messiah and God promises to drive sinners away and into the service of other gods. Jeffery did not commit the sin of having another God until he turned to a man god named Jesus. 9 years passed since his experimental murder. It was when he began going to church with his grandmother that the real God dispatched Satan to touch Jeffery in the head to do evil against men who were sinning. Sodomy.

Jesus and Satn are both punishers.
The church is paganism and part of the test of Deut 13.

Bacause of the words Jesus spoke the folowing was to happen: Matthew 10:21 And brother will give up brother to death, and the father his child: and children will go against their fathers and mothers, and put them to death.

Dahmer ultimately was killed by a man who thought he was Jesus in a church.

This is sign from God to change direction. Who is listening. Read Deut 13 closely.

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