WARNING: The following contains extremely graphic and shocking material. Not for the faint of heart. Proceed at your own risk.

As the founder of an interview website who has done thousands of interviews over my three-decade career, I’m often asked to name my favorite interview. This is not my favorite interview – but it is the scariest and most disturbing one.

Some background.

Jeffrey Dahmer was perhaps the world’s most famous serial killer — a necrophiliac cannibal responsible for the deaths of 17 people over the span of 13 years. Milwaukee Detective Patrick Kennedy took Dahmer’s confession on the night he was caught and developed a strange connection to the madman. Kennedy was featured in the documentary The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, which was released in 2012.

Dahmer was arrested on July 21, 1991 after a man he lured into his apartment got away after he attempted to handcuff him and reached the police.

But the police almost didn’t arrest Dahmer.

“One cop went into his bedroom and there was an open dresser drawer, and in the dresser drawer, it was opened a little bit, but as he looked in, he saw all these Polaroid photographs,” Kennedy told me. “And he picked up one of the Polaroid photographs, and it was a picture of a dismembered body, like split opened, like if you’ve ever walked into an autopsy, how they split you open. First thing he thought was, ‘Where did this guy get autopsy photos? But then he said, ‘The more I looked at the picture the more I realized the room that this dead body was in was the room I was standing in.’ So he said to his partner, ‘You better cuff this guy.’ And that’s when all hell broke loose.”

Dahmer’s apartment was a literal house of horrors.

“Inside the apartment what I saw, was an empty refrigerator,” Kennedy recalled. “On the door handle they had some mustard and ketchup and mayo, but in the main portion of the refrigerator was empty except for an open box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to keep things fresh, and a box containing the freshly severed head of a black male. And it was sitting, no blood. That’s what was surreal. It was immaculately clean, sliced at the neck perfectly when I opened it up, here’s this black guy.”

Although he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, Dahmer was found sane — and guilty. He served time at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin, where he died in 1994 of severe head trauma after being beaten by one of the inmates.

Det. Kennedy ultimately saw a sad human being beneath the acts of a monster. “I thought he was a pathetic kind of individual,” Kennedy told me. “He couldn’t make a human relationship. All of his money, all of his time and all of his efforts went into pursuing pleasure.”

Det. Kennedy revealed new details of the case to me that have not been published before.

The day of our interview, I was running late and forgot to bring my video camera, so I used my audio recorder instead. From the moment Det. Kennedy started talking, I knew I had made a huge mistake. Everything he said – and the way he said it – was shocking and amazing. My head was spinning through the entire interview. I tried to contact Kennedy a few times after the interview but never heard back. A simple Google search later revealed that he died in 2013, a few months after our interview.

Now, with the release of Ryan Murphy‘s Dahmer on Netflix, it seemed like right time to open the vault on this one. Kennedy’s detail and insight into the lunatic can help to shed some light on the madness.


The following is a transcript of my conversation with Kennedy:

MEERS: Take us back to that day that Jeffrey Dahmer was caught. You were called to the scene. What was the crime scene like?

KENNEDY: I was in Milwaukee. I was working the third shift, so I came in for a roll call. I got a coffee. Before I could get to my desk, the lieutenant called me over and said, I got a couple of excited cops, who say they’ve got a head. They found a head in this apartment. It kind of sounds like some bullshit, but go up there and check it out. So I go to my desk and tell Mike, my partner, ‘We got to go. We got a head to check out.’ And we were actually making jokes about it on our way down saying, let’s not lose our heads over this investigation. Making jokes about it, so when we got there it was a very hot July, muggy night with real heavy humidity, and as soon as we walked into the building, which was a three story, you know rectangular apartment building, with a big glass when you come in.

MEERS: This was a kind of bad neighborhood anyway right?

KENNEDY: I wouldn’t say bad neighborhood; it was a low-income neighborhood. It was well mixed, but yes, there was prostitution and drugs there as well, but as soon as you walked in, you could smell death. And every homicide detective or any cop knows what the smell of death is. It’s one that you’ll never forget. You know, the best way that I could describe it is, it’s like coffee. If you know what coffee smells like, they send you to an island for six months with no coffee and you come back and smell it, you know immediately that’s coffee. That’s what death smells like. It’s a real heavy, kind of a putrid, really sweet kind of smell. It’s such a unique type of smell that you’ll never forget it.

MEERS: What was the scene like at Dahmer’s apartment building?

KENNEDY: As soon as I walked in, I looked at Mike and said, ‘Well maybe it’s real.’ So we went up to the second floor hall, there was a big cop that I know, about 6’4” and his hair was sticking up, his eyes were bulging out, he was dripping with sweat, his uniform looked all screwed up. I said, ‘[Ralph] what’s going on?’ And he said, ‘Go in there, and look in the refrigerator.’ So I went in to the apartment, and on the floor his partner had Jeff Dahmer with a knee to his back, handcuffed, and he looked the same. And this guy, he was about, kind of a barrel-chested guy. I wouldn’t call him an “assaultive” type of officer, but he was the type of officer that would respond in kind. Do you know what I am trying to say?

So I knew right away that these two big men were in a hell of a fight with this guy. I said to him, ‘What is going on?’ And he said to me, ‘Look in the refrigerator.’ So that’s when I open up the refrigerator. Inside what I saw, was an empty refrigerator, on the door handle they had some mustard and ketchup and mayo, but in the main portion of the refrigerator was empty except for an open box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda to keep things fresh, and a box containing the freshly severed head of a black male. And it was sitting, no blood. That’s what was surreal. It was immaculately clean, sliced at the neck perfectly, when I opened it up, here’s this black guy.

MEERS: So you were thinking it was a mask or something.

KENNEDY: Well, you knew it wasn’t a mask. The term is used a lot but this is really, I don’t know how to describe it, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in my whole freaking life. And although I was armed, he was handcuffed, my partner and two other cops were there, I knew I wasn’t in danger, but an almost irrational fear gripped me and everything in my body said, you need to get out of here, but you know you can’t leave.

MEERS: What had led the two officers there that night?

KENNEDY: That was very interesting. All of his victims willingly went back with him, he offered them money, and then he would drug them. He would put it in their drinks. So he offered this guy money to come back – $150 to come back and let him perform oral sex on him to watch videos and take some Polaroids. So they did all that, when it got to taking pictures – he would take pictures starting with clothes, he got him down to his whitey tighties. He was taking pictures when he asked to take a bondage photo.

And Jeff told me his idea was that since he ran out of pills, he would try to drink this guy [under the table]. But he said this guy could drink as much as him. So he said, ‘If I get him in a bondage photo, then I own him. If I have him handcuffed, I could strangle him and kill him.’ So he got one hand handcuffed, but when he tried to put his hand behind his back, the gentleman told me, ‘It just didn’t feel right.’ He said, ‘No I don’t want to be handcuffed.’ I guess he felt too vulnerable to be handcuffed behind his back. So Jeff said, ‘I paid you the money and you said you would do it.’ And he said, ‘Nah, I don’t want to do this.’ So they got into a fight, actually rolling around on the ground and during the fight, Jeff picked up a knife. And when he picked up the knife, he slid out the door.

MEERS: How did the police find him?

KENNEDY: He ran down the hall and down the street half a block there was a squad car on a totally unrelated call. I think they had trouble with a juvenile or something. So here comes this black male, 11:30 at night, nothing but his underwear on and a handcuff hanging from him. He pounds on the door and says, ‘Hey, can you help me.’ These two cops, they told me, ‘First thing we thought was, ‘This guy got away from a cop.’ You know, it happens sometimes, it’s very embarrassing. And one of the cop radioed asking, ‘Is anybody missing any equipment?’

And since nobody answered, they asked the guy, ‘Well, what’s going on?’ And the guy was like, ‘Well I met this guy, and he wanted to take photos, and I didn’t want to do it. We got in a fight he threatened me with a knife, and I ran out here.’ And the cops told him, ‘Alright, let’s go back and arrest him.’ The guy responded, ‘No, I don’t want to go back, I don’t want to get involved, I just want the handcuff off.’ He didn’t want to make a complaint. So the cops tried to take the handcuff off, but we carry Smith & Wesson handcuffs, so the key didn’t work on Dahmer’s handcuffs.

MEERS: How did they get into Dahmer’s apartment?

KENNEDY: So they had to take him back. They walked him back to Dahmer’s apartment, knocked on the door, and Jeffrey Dahmer opened the door. He was drunk. They actually told him, ‘We don’t care what kind of freakish thing you’re doing in there, this guy wants the handcuff off, where’s the key?’ Well, Jeff didn’t have the key because he always took the handcuff off by slicing off the hand. So, like all good cops, when he started to kind of mumble and fumble, they just pushed their way in, and they said he kind of started pretending he was fumbling around looking for the key.

One cop went into his bedroom and there was an open dresser drawer, and in the dresser drawer, it was opened a little bit, but as he looked in, he saw all these Polaroid photographs. And he picked up one of the Polaroid photographs and it was a picture of a dismembered body, like split opened, like if you’ve ever walked into an autopsy, how they split you open. First thing he thought was, ‘Where did this guy get autopsy photos? But then he said, ‘The more I looked at the picture the more I realized the room that this dead body was in was the room I was standing in.’ So he said to his partner, ‘You better cuff this guy.’ And that’s when all hell broke loose.

MEERS: But didn’t they smell the death in the room?

KENNEDY: Yeah, the funk was there, they could smell the funk. But it was hot, it was bad area of town. I knew it as death right away only because I was going in to investigate a head in the refrigerator. Somebody else might say, ‘it smells like a dead body around here, but who would have thought? So after they finally took off his cuffs, they were talking to the guy and they asked, ‘What the hell were you guys doing up here? They were just sticking around and that’s when they opened the refrigerator and that’s when they saw the head and called the police. They were just in the room trying to figure out what they were going to do with this case. Whether they were going to charge him without waiting for a wagon.

MEERS: So he could’ve still been doing this, if they hadn’t opened the refrigerator?

KENNEDY: Yes. If they had had the key, that would’ve taken off that guy’s handcuffs. He told them, ‘I don’t want to make a complaint.’ I mean, it’s a very embarrassing thing, you’re in your underwear. So I truly believe, it would’ve been another escape, and a long list of authority figures that he was able to fool.

MEERS: You were there for the confession. What did he say?

KENNEDY: Well, the first thing after I saw the head in the refrigerator, I called for the boss and he came down, he made the decision that I would take him down and start interrogating him. My partner would stay. So my partner actually stayed to find all the heads and the penises, and the skulls.

MEERS: You mean that he collected penises of his victims and put them in a jar.

KENNEDY: A five-gallon plastic pail had a couple of penises. One, he had a black penis. When he started saving the penises, he didn’t save a white one. So the one penis we found, he had bought foundation, like the one women use for their zits, they put that on when I was doing the CNN thing, and he made it a white penis. It’s very strange. So once we got him downtown, let’s not forget, he already had gotten the shit beat out of him by the cops, so I was kind of the nice guy.

I take the handcuffs off and told him to sit, ‘Would you like a cigarette? Let me get you a cup of coffee. Do you want a bologna sandwich?’ You know, usually a homicide confession takes about two or three hours before they start to crap out. And during those two hours or three hours, we talked about everything. About religion, about God, about drinking, about drugs, about sex and finally I think I said to him, would you sign this release, because we’re going to be searching your apartment. And he was like, ‘What? You’re searching my apartment?’ And I said, ‘Of course, we’re going to go through it.’

And then he went through a period, when he was kind of freaking out. He started to kind of cry, and he started to say, ‘Oh, what is my family going to think’ and ‘just kill me Pat!’ How he had planned to kill himself if he ever got caught by shooting acid into his veins. I kept saying, ‘C’mon, Jeff, whatever you did, it can’t be that bad.’ And he finally said, ‘If I tell you what I did, you’ll hate me,’ I said, ‘C’mon, Jeff, I’m a homicide detective, what could you have done. I mean it’s usual to see a head.’ Then he finally says, ‘Ok, if I’m going to tell you, I might as well start from the beginning. Then he told me about when he was 18 years old, in Ohio, the first kid he killed there. Then he talked about going to Ohio State and getting kicked out, going to the army and getting kicked out, getting kicked out of his mom and dad’s house and then moving up to Milwaukee to grandma’s house where he started killing again.

He talked about three or four dead people and I thought, ‘He’s a liar!’ He wasn’t even telling me about the head. He was telling me about shit that happened years ago, murder. So when he said he killed four or five people, I thought he was bullshitting. So he was out of coffee, I went to take a break, getting some cigarettes for him and as I was coming back, the lieutenant came by and said, ‘Hey, is he talking yet or not?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t think he’s going to help us. He’s full of shit. He’s trying to tell me he’s killed like four or five people and he hasn’t even told me about the head.’ The lieutenant’s eyes get real big and he tells me, ‘No, your partner just called, they found like 11 skulls, and body parts. I said, ‘What? He goes, ‘No Pat, he’s not bullshitting you.’ So I went back in with a whole new attitude, I took my pen out.

MEERS: Were you freaked out at that point?

KENNEDY: No, but I said, ‘Jeff, let’s start over.’ I wasn’t writing down before because I didn’t believe him.

MEERS: What was his motivation? Was he a self-loathing gay or was he happy with being gay?

KENNEDY: There’s a lot of misinformation. A lot of people thought he hated gays and he hated black people because he killed 17 people, and like nine of them were black. He also killed a Native American, a Puerto Rican, a Jewish guy, four white guys, so he was a really multi-cultural murderer. It’s just toward the end that he became more of a disorganized killer. He started picking up victims from the lower social economic ladder, which in Milwaukee tends to be people of color, for various reasons. His motivation believe it or not, was he was just very selfish, self absorbed. I thought he was a pathetic kind of individual. He couldn’t make a human relationship. He was obsessed with a constant pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. All of his money, all of his time, and all of his efforts went into pursuing pleasure, sexual pleasure with other men. He lived in that poor area, didn’t own a car, because all of his money went to booze and sex and the drugs to get people drugged.

MEERS: He wasn’t embarrassed about being gay? Was he out to his family?

KENNEDY: No, he wasn’t at all to his family. He was a very straight-acting gay man. He told me about his sexuality, and he said he knew from a very early age that he was gay. He told me about a boy he made out with, they kind of made out in a tree house, he was like 13 or 14. But he said because of the strong Lutheran religion that he grew up in, he knew immediately that this was not going to be an accepted thing, so he kept it to himself. The biggest thing I got out of the six weeks I talked to him was how much we don’t know about other people, even those we think we know and love the most. It made me even think, what is it that I’ve kept secret in my life? So he was openly gay in Milwaukee, but not out to his family.

MEERS: So with these victims, he was just trying to use them for his pleasure?

KENNEDY: Strictly, for his own selfish pleasure. All of his victims had the same kind of profile, all long, lean, kind of muscular and attractive. A lot of them were black, and I asked him about it. He said they were the ones that were the easiest to meet towards the end. But let’s not forget, his first four victims were white. So it was a body type that he was interested in. If you talk to the people around him, they would say, he was a tolerant and kind of a diverse guy. He did not hate people of color. He did not hate gays. He really loved gays and he really embraced the gay lifestyle, but he had this other kink.

He got very excited sexually, looking at the insides and playing with the insides. He would cut you open, reach in and pull out your viscera, and he would fuck your viscera. He would masturbate to it, he would touch it, it excited him. A psychologist told me, that at a young age when he got involved with cutting open the bodies of dead animals, that somehow, sex got crossed. The way they explained it to me was, the psychologist I talked to treated a guy who when he was a kid and he was coming of age, he always found that he could jack off to those detective magazines, where they would show women with their breasts out. In a lot of these magazines, the women are always bound. He found that somehow in his brain, he could only get excited through bound women, which you know, kind of fucked up his love life.

So I thought it was a kind of simplistic explanation for this, but it did make sense and when I talked to Jeffrey, he said the same thing. He said that initially as a kid, he was really interested in the insides of these dead animals, and because his dad was a Ph.D. chemist, when he first caught him with a rodent that he was opening up. His dad was like, ‘What are you doing Jeffrey.’ He was like, ‘Dad, I wanna know what’s inside.’ The one that he found was partially decomposed and his Dad actually showed him how to skin it, how to use different chemicals to acetone for the bones.

MEERS: That’s how he knew how to dispose the bodies?

KENNEDY: Yes. And he was having a problem with alcohol and his dad convinced him that he needed to become a man and join the Army. So he did whatever his Dad told him. He went to the Army and they trained him as a medic, so he got more training there. He got kicked out of the Army after he got out of boot camp, so he told me that as he got older, it started to excite him sexually to look at the insides [of bodies].

He started to have dreams about being with men and looking at their insides. Somehow, that got crisscrossed in him. If you would talk to anybody in the gay community or even heterosexual community where he lived, no one would have said that he hated gays or that he was anti-gay. He was comfortable with himself and truly was a diverse guy. He could talk to whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, it made no difference to him.

MEERS: How is it that he got away with it for so long?

Kennedy: I believe for several reasons. One, he was the product of the upper white middle class, so he knew instinctively how to talk to authority figures, and if you look at the progression, the first person he fooled was his father. When he first went to live with his grandmother, she caught him with one of the guys down in the basement making love. He was going to kill that guy but couldn’t after that; he had to get rid of him. His grandmother told his father, ‘I get weird smells from the basement. I don’t know what he is doing down there. I caught him with a man down there.’ [His father] Lionel told me, he went to look in the garbage and he found a bag, there was actually like four or five of them, with crunched up bones.

What he would do was slice all the flesh off you and put them in double bag, five bags, so it wouldn’t be too full, and then he would just put the skeleton in a sheet, wrap it up, and then take grandma’s sledgehammer and smash it so the bones were all small, so then they would fit in the bags. So Dad saw the bags with the bones, and said, ‘Jeffrey, what are you doing in here?’ Jeffrey said, ‘I found a dead dog and I thought I’d revisit what I did when I was younger, but I’m too old for that so I just threw it out. His father believed that bullshit, OK. Then, when he was arrested for lewd behavior, he was sent for two years in prison for that, he wrote a letter to the judge saying, ‘l’m cured and sorry I made a mistake.’

MEERS: What was the lewd behavior?

KENNEDY: He got drunk at the state fair and was jacking off in front of people. Some kids walked by, and he pulled his pants down and was jacking off. They called the cops and got him. Also, a funny thing was this one kid who the police returned to Dahmer, his younger brother, he brought him home and drank with him, he took some pictures of him. When the kid got home, his parents smelled alcohol, called the police, the kid took them back there, so he got arrested for that. They were going to put him in jail for two years for that, but I think he served less than 90 days and was out.

After that, he had to see a probation officer every month who he fooled. Who never made an unannounced home visit, never came to his house ever to check up. Just think about it, if a probation officer had walked in there, they would have solved the problem. The building superintendent he fooled with the smells. He had a big 55-gallon fish tank, the one time the super came because they were talking about the funny smell, he said, ‘Oh I was in Chicago, my fish tank didn’t work, and all my fish died.’ And I poured it into this bigger plastic garbage pail that he was using when he first started experimenting with dissolving people [in acid], because he found it too much too cut them all down.

He found that by using acid, you just kind of dissolve after three days to a mush. He could just scoop you up and flush you down the toilet. He showed [the super] that empty thing, it still had the smell because of his supposed dead fish, and the super told him to get rid of it because that was the cause of the problem. The smell was always the problem because the night I walked in there, air freshener was all around the place and a bacterial soap all around the place. The sealed tank we found the four bodies in, covered with acid, was right beside the window with a fan behind it to blow the smoke out. His words were, ‘Yeah, Pat, the smell was always the problem. I tried to cover it up.’

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