Created and written by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, Dahmer chronicles the brutal murders of men and young boys by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who is played by Evan Peters, between 1978 and 1991.
The show has been praised by some for taking a more critical look at how the Milwaukee Police Departments failed to apprehend Dahmer and how it ultimately led to the deaths of numerous men, who were efficiently Black. Dahmer sheds light on the racism, homophobia, and more that led to Dahmer being able to commit murders for more than 10 years.
In real life, Jeffrey Dahmer confessed to police for “a total of 17 slayings” once he was finally arrested in 1991. A year later, Dahmer was convicted of 16 murders and was sentenced to 16 life terms in prison. In 1994, he was murdered while serving his life sentence in prison.
Since its debut, Dahmer has faced criticism from people for once again romanticizing Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders. One victim’s family member spoke out about not being contacted prior to the release of the show, and she called the whole thing Netflix’s way to make “money off of this tragedy.”
And now, the original journalist who broke the story about Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders is speaking out about the “inaccuracies” with this new Netflix series, as well as detailing a conversation she had with Dahmer himself.
Anne E. Schwartz, who was working as a crime reporter for the Milwaukee Journal in 1991, was one of the first people to arrive at the Oxford Apartments where Dahmer committed most of his murders. She had received a call from a police source saying they had found human remains inside an apartment. Once there, she recalled watching the police figure out the magnitude of Dahmer’s crimes after discovering Polaroids of his victims.
She’s written two books based on her reporting of the Dahmer murders, and in an interview with the Independent, she explained how Dahmer “does not bear a great deal of resemblance to the facts of the case.”
“When people are watching Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series and saying, ‘Oh my God, this is terrible,’ I want to tell them it didn’t necessarily turn out that way,” she told the publication.
One of the inaccuracies Schwartz couldn’t get past with Dahmer is Glenda Cleveland’s role as Dahmer’s direct next-door neighbor. In the show, Glenda (Niecy Nash) is seen making several attempts to alert the police to Dahmer’s murders while living next door to him.
“In the first five minutes of the first episode, you have Glenda Cleveland knocking on his door. None of that ever happened,” Schwartz said. “I had trouble with buy-in, because I knew that was not accurate. But people are not watching it that way, they’re watching it for entertainment.”
Schwartz noted that in real life, Glenda Cleveland lived “in a separate building” at the Oxford Apartments.
Aside from calling out the dramatizations that are prevalent in Dahmerwhich is no surprise considering it is a true crime TV series, Schwartz detailed her own conversation with Jeffrey Dahmer following the release of her 1991 book The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough.
Schwartz said she received a “very quick” phone call from Dahmer, after several psychiatrists she had spoken to attributed his behavior to his parents. “For someone who didn’t show any emotion or seem to care about anything, he was very protective about his parents, especially his mother,” she said.
“He had no inflection in his voice. He was so vanilla, he was so flat. There was nothing. He just said no one was responsible for what I did except me.”
Schwartz ended her interview talking about how not only is this show hard for the victims’ families, but also the people of Milwaukee, who still see this as a “horrible blemish on the city” and that “they don’t want people to think resulting.”
She even recalled how after Dahmer’s murders gained attention, people often went to the Oxford Apartment looking for souvenirs, with some trying to take “bricks and pieces of dirt” after the apartments were demolished. To this day, the vacant lot remains blocked off.
You can read Anne E. Schwartz’s entire interview here.