According to prison minister Roy Ratcliff, Jeffrey Dahmer was a born again Christian who was baptized while he was in prison. Reverend Ratcliff came to believe, through his seven months of visits with Dahmer, that the serial killer was truly repentant and sorry for what he had done.
Dahmer was killed in 1994 at Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution after serving two years in the prison for killing, raping, and dismembering 17 men and boys. He turned some body parts into trophies and others into his next meal. During his trial, at which time he professed to be a life-long atheist, his cannibalism fueled a media frenzy. He came to be known as the Milwaukee Cannibal.
Christopher Scarver, the inmate who beat Dahmer to death, does not agree with Ratcliff. Scarver finally spoke publicly about why he killed his fellow inmate, and why he disliked him, a feeling that was shared by most inmates and guards. During a recent interview, he said that Dahmer was not repentant about what he had done.
To prove that Dahmer felt no remorse, Scarver cites examples of his behavior and his delight in making others feel uncomfortable when they were in his company. He says Dahmer made fake limbs from prison food, covered them in ketchup to symbolize blood, and left them where inmates and guards could find them. Scarver did not appreciate his morbid sense of humor.
Ratcliff also notes Dahmer’s abnormal sense of humor about the cannibalism that had shocked the nation. Ratcliff told a reporter that the serial killer liked to make “I bite” comments if a guard got close to him. He would laugh when the guard quickly moved away. He liked his reputation, and the fact that people feared him. It gave him pleasure to make them even more fearful.
Scarver and Ratcliff agree about Dahmer’s behavior. However, while Scarver concluded that his behavior showed he was not remorseful, Ratcliff came to the conclusion that his demeanor was his way of dealing with a hopeless situation. He was in prison for life, and that could mean as many as 60 more years behind bars. While some inmates adapt well and find ways to contribute to the prison system or society, it was not working that way for him.
It is unclear whether it is Scarver or Ratcliff that is correct. Either Dahmer was a misunderstood born again Christian, or an unrepentant monster who delighted in torturing people in whatever manner was available to him. His past behavior justifies Scarver’s belief that he was not repentant. He had claimed to feel remorse in the past, then he went on to murder, dismember, and eat people.
Dahmer had been arrested for child molestation, and at his 1989 trial, he told the judge he regretted what he had done. He did an excellent job in his own defense, admitting that he had made mistakes and promising to correct them in the future. The judge sentenced him to one year in prison with “day release.” Following this, he worked a job during the day and went to prison at night.
Dahmer spent 10 months in jail, and after he left, he went on to snuff out 12 more lives. Only the alleged God that he professed to follow knows if he was truly a born again Christian. However, an examination of his life suggests that the most famous cannibal of all time was a liar, as well as a murderer.
By Shelley Kuziak
Photo by Keoni Cabral – Creativecommons Flickr License