The Jeffrey Dahmer Victim Who Did Not Have To Die

My interest in certain cases continues long after the headlines cease. Such is the case surrounding Jeffrey Dahmer. His name is no doubt familiar to everyone reading this. His despicable mass murders, depraved mind, and his subsequent death at the hands of another prisoner, are general knowledge. However, there is something else about the case that stays with me, and it has to do with how his youngest victim met his death because of the homophobic and national origin bigotry of two Milwaukee Police Department officers.

Fourteen year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone did not have to die.

Konerak Sinthasomphone

Konerak Sinthasomphone

 

Konerak Sinthasomphone’s family left the Nonkai refugee resettlement camp in Thailand, and came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when Konerak was 3-years old. On May 26, 1991 when he was 14-years old, Konerak was playing soccer when Jeffrey Dahmer approached him.  Dahmer offered him money to come to his apartment to pose for Polaroid pictures. Konerak was reluctant, but changed his mind.

According to Konerak’s family, Konerak would not have recognized Dahmer as the man who, in 1988, was convicted of drugging and sexually fondling his then 13-year old brother.

“We never saw him. Police officers told us they were going to put him away for good,“ said Anoukone Sinthasomphone. “We never thought he was going to be out.“

The family was so convinced of what they were told by the police that they never went to court when Dahmer was tried and sentenced to 1 year of work release and 5 years of probation.

Three years later, and while on probation, Dahmer would visit grief upon the Sinthasomphone family again.

In Dahmer’s apartment, Konerak posed for two photos in his underwear. According to Dahmer, he drugged Konerak with sleeping pills and while unconscious, he performed oral sex on him, then drilled a single hole in Konerak’s skull and injected muriatic acid into his frontal lobe. Dahmer was experimenting to see if he could render his victims into passive submission, and he was so confident in this that after injecting muriatic acid into Konerak’s brain, he left his apartment to go to a local bar.

Somehow, Konerak found his way out of Dahmer’s apartment and butt-naked, was found by Sandra Smith and Nicole Childress, both 17. They called the police. Konerak appeared drugged, confused and was bleeding from his rectum. He was not coherent to talk. Sandra and Nicole knew Konerak from the neighborhood. They knew something was wrong. While waiting for the police to arrive, Dahmer returned from the bar.  He tried to convince Sandra and Nicole that Konerak was his lover and he took Konerak’s arm to take him back to his apartment. The two 17-year olds intervened and would not allow Dahmer to take Konerak.

Milwaukee officers

John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish

Milwaukee Police Officers John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish arrived. Dahmer told them that Konerak was his 19-year old boyfriend who had drank too much following a quarrel.

Sandra and Nicole told the police that Konerak was a child, was bleeding, and that he had struggled against Dahmer’s attempts to walk him to his apartment.

Sandra and Nicole were told by the officers to “butt out,” “shut the hell up,” that it was a domestic incident, and threatened them with arrest for interfering.

Officers Balcerzak and Gabrish covered Konerak with a towel, and at Dahmer’s offer of giving them proof that Konerak was his lover, they escorted Konerak back to Dahmer’s apartment. Dahmer showed the officers the two Polaroid photos he had taken of Konerak in his underwear. Leaving Dahmer’s apartment after seeing proof that they were lovers, the officers remarked to Dahmer to “take good care” of Konerak.

After the officers left, Dahmer injected more muriatic acid into Konerak’s brain. It was fatal. According to Dahmer, he took off work the next day to devote himself to dismembering the bodies of Konerak and that of 31-year-old Tony Hughes, who he had killed 3 days earlier, and whose dead body was laying on the bedroom floor of Dahmer’s apartment when the police were there. Dahmer retained both victims’ skulls.

Had Officers John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish checked Dahmer for identification and conducted a background check, they would have found that Dahmer was a convicted child molester on probation. Not only did Balcerzak and Gabrish not check Dahmer for identification, they neither asked Dahmer if he had Konerak’s identification in his apartment.

Dahmer's victims

Jeffrey Dahmer’s known victims.

 

After Dahmer’s arrest and the discovery of Konerak’s skull in his apartment, the story was widely publicized and an audiotape was released of officers Balcerzak and Gabrish making homophobic statements to their dispatcher and cracking jokes about having reunited “lovers.” The officers defended their decision to take Konerak to Dahmer’s apartment, saying that Konerak did not speak English. That angered Konerak’s family who said that Konerak spoke perfect English, having come to this country as a 3-year old. They also said that it should have been apparent to the officers that Konerak was not 19-years old.

Balcerzak and Gabrish were terminated, and took their termination to court where a judge reinstated them. John Balcerzak went on to serve as president of the Milwaukee Police Association from 2005 to 2009. He later opened a tavern. Gabrish was hired as a police officer in suburban Grafton, Wisconsin.

The story didn’t end there. The Sinthasomphone’s filed suit against the City of Milwaukee. Some readers might have heard it said that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the purpose of the Constitution is to protect the people from the State, not to ensure that the State protects them from each other.  In other words, the government cannot be sued for failure to protect citizens from citizens.

That doctrine was reaffirmed in the case DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, (1989).   I came upon comments during the Zimmerman case where people used that to say that the Sanford Police Department had no duty to protect Trayvon Martin from George Zimmerman.  That debate centered on the dispatcher telling Zimmerman, “We don’t need you to do that” in response to Zimmerman answering that he was following Trayvon.

In 1992, Chief Judge Terence T. Evans of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in the case of The Estate of Konerak Sinthasomphone v. The City of Milwaukee, left no stone unturned in analyzing that doctrine. The City of Milwaukee used that doctrine in effort to have the Sinthasomphone case dismissed on the doctrine of failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. In other words, the City of Milwaukee claimed that the allegations were true, but there is no law to give the Sinthasomphone’s redress.

Judge Evans explained that the Sinthasomphone plaintiffs were not merely alleging that the police officers failed to protect Konerak from Jeffrey Dahmer, but that they actively prevented private citizens from helping him, and in fact, delivered Konerak, who was a minor, not to his parents, but into Dahmer’s custody. Chief Judge Evans wrote:

“The police left him with Dahmer despite the persistent attempts of private citizens to urge them to investigate further. One of the officers assured a concerned private citizen, who later called the police station, that everything was under control. In other words, the allegations are not just of police inaction, but of police action, action which violated Konerak Sinthasomphone’s substantive due process rights. I find that a claim is stated on this basis alone.”

Judge Evans established the difference between police inaction, and police action. The case proceeded.  A few days before trial was to begin, the City of Milwaukee agreed to pay $850,000 to the Sinthasomphone family. In April 1995, Deputy City Attorney Rudolph M. Konrad said that the settlement was a way to avoid the trauma of replaying Dahmer’s crimes.

When the case was settled, Jeffrey Dahmer was dead, having been beaten to death on November 28,1994.

In July 2011, the Wisconsin Gazette published an article titled, “Dahmer Case Changed Police Relations.”   It reports about some Milwaukee police officers who came out of the closet after the Dahmer case, and how it led to positive reforms in the police dealing with the LGBT community.

Posted on 08/08/2015, in Cases, Cops Gone Wild and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. crustyolemothman

    It would seem that history only teaches those who take the time to study it…..

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mothman, that is true, but I think mankind is more conditioned to only study history when the present demonstrates that it’s being repeated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • crustyolemothman

        Xena, Good morning! Agreed, but could it be that we only look to history to confirm preconceived opinions in some cases? I would not apply this to the current article, but it is possible it does apply to some writings by some authors with a bias to sway public opinion. No, that was not intended to include you or necessarily anyone in particular.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so grateful for the two kids who acted to protect Konerak. Although their efforts did not save him, they are a light.

    And I am frustrated, so frustrated, by narratives I see discharging police from all responsibility. They exist to protect us, not themselves. When they fail to protect–and indeed are part of destruction–responsibility is the only way to ensure the failure is individual, not systemic.

    Have you read the book Blink? The last chapter addresses ways that police forces can and should change. It could only touch on a small amount of data, but it was compelling nevertheless.

    (I wrote a post on how social media has the potential to change policing, but I quickly–???–made it private. This confirms I need to return it to public.)

    Liked by 5 people

    • Good morning Deborah! I’ve not read the book Blink but I’ll look for it now that you’ve asked. Oh no — please take that post off private. We need all the recommendations we can get in order to help this problem.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. crustyolemothman

    An interesting article (actually two) that gives a little insight into the human concept of truth and the perception of truth to the individual…

    http://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html

    http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/fl/What-Is-a-Confirmation-Bias.htm

    These are not long drawn out articles, and don’t take a long time to read, but will perhaps explain how we as humans arrive at our opinions.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hey Mothman! Let’s see if I can breakdown my first lesson for today based on the first link.
      1. If a person is bleeding, then there’s a possibility that they are physically injured.
      2. If a person is drunk, and has had a quarrel and left the residence, then there’s a possibility they do not want to be in the presence of the person they quarreled with.
      3. If a person is drunk, has had a quarrel and left the residence naked, and is bleeding, then there’s the possibility that they are in danger and should not be returned to the residence with the person they quarreled with.

      Actually, the assumption that they are drunk should not supersede the fact that they are bleeding.

      Did I get that right?

      Liked by 2 people

      • crustyolemothman

        Xena, My posting of those links was not intended as a lesson. It was merely a little thought as to how and why people form their opinions and why sometimes those opinions don’t mesh with reality. In your example, IMO you are 100% correct, however I feel sure someone could argue the opposite as is often the case in life.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Xena, My posting of those links was not intended as a lesson.

          Well, it’s been a very long time since I read/studied that, so I took it as a refresher course. 🙂

          I feel sure someone could argue the opposite as is often the case in life.

          Some people are simply argumentative. As my late husband used to say, “They will argue with a sign-board.”

          Liked by 4 people

    • A confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases.

      So, Jeffrey Dahmer took advantage of confirmation biases by telling the police he and Konerak were lovers, making them gay lovers, relying on the officers to then construe what they physically saw to be associated with the behavior of homosexuals in which they were already biased? That MIGHT have also concluded that a 19-year old gay “lover” would physically appear as a kid, which would have been Dahmer’s attraction????

      Liked by 1 person

      • crustyolemothman

        Xena, I would again have to agree that you are correct. In life we, if we are objective, we must admit that we will often see things with a bias that conforms to our own logic, and it is obvious that the officers in that instance did just that. Could it be that the two officers did that act by intent, or simply by neglect of the facts posed to them?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Could it be that the two officers did that act by intent, or simply by neglect of the facts posed to them?

          Mothman, based on the available information, I don’t think their intent was in bad-faith until they (1) listened to Dahmer and (2) told the two girls to shut up or they would be arrested. What he said to them played into their biases and he offered them proof — proof of his own plan and creation.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. yahtzeebutterfly

    Thanks for your excellent article, Xena. I agree with your point about

    However, there is something else about the case that stays with me, and it has to do with how his youngest victim met his death because of the homophobic and national origin bigotry of two Milwaukee Police Department officers.

    I think the officers’ bias against gays led them to allow Konerac to be placed back in a dangerous situation and not care about his safety nor welfare.

    Leaving Dahmer’s apartment after seeing proof that they were lovers, the officers remarked to Dahmer to “take good care” of Konerak.

    “Take good care of” takes on a sinister implication because the officers already knew from the two private citizens and from Dahmer’s own words that Konerac was bleeding, had struggled against and escaped Dammer, and that there had been a “quarrel.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Good morning Yahtzee! “Sinister” is right. It was almost like approving getting a virgin drunk so she cannot resist sex, and after taking advantage of her, doing it again until she gets used to being RAPED.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. scrodriguez

    Awesome read, tragic story yet this is another Example of how Police officers elect themselves as prosecutors and judges. the duty of a police officer is to look for probable cause and if its found to make an arrest nothing more.
    This means they set aside their personal beliefs or opinions and allow the judicial system to do their jobs.

    I am starting to believe we need a Federal Public Servant act that prohibits officers or any public servant from being allowed to conceal the facts of cases they are suspected of wrong doing this means for example if an officer is involved in a shooting and the evidence is not clear that it was justified that the officer must stand trial and it must be made public.

    No side stepping with these secret grand juries in which we don’t know if they really took place or not. in addition if there is an officer involved incident and its not clearly justified from the outset there should be no fund raising for these officers as they have a Union and a Union attorney that will represent them and if they cant afford an attorney like any other citizen they will be provided one.

    Change needs to happen with this system that is intact right now, and the change that is needed is to treat these rouge cops as any other accused would be treated this means if a crime is suspected they get arrested booked and arraigned none of this reaching out to the media Non sense that allows them to basically set forth a narrative that will fit their defense.

    Good work Xena

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Santiago!

      This means they set aside their personal beliefs or opinions and allow the judicial system to do their jobs.

      That would be impossible because they are human. They can never be completely without biases, but what they can do is follow proper procedure. For example, if they see someone who is naked, incoherent and bleeding, don’t take another person’s word for why — get them to a hospital.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. chuquestaquenumber1

    Excellent post on all levels. None of them had to die ,especially Konerak. It’s so obvious that Konerak was a minor. This is not only anti gay it’s racism due to him being non white. Also to many times black and non white victims of crime will suddenly become adults. If those cops had done their jobs Konerak and others would have been alive. The good news was in the end Jeffrey Dahmer and another racist killer named Jesse Anderson would be killed in prison by Christopher Scarver. Dahmer and Anderson killed by the very person they targeted. Anderson killed his wife,stabbed himself and blamed 3black men. Dahmer had to drug up black men as well as Konerak. It just shows how victimizers aren’t so tough without an obvious advantage.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey Chuquest!

      If those cops had done their jobs Konerak and others would have been alive.

      Indeed! Dahmer killed four others after Konerak. After Dahmer was finally captured, the officers who gave Dahmer custody of Konerak said the apartment has a funny smell but they didn’t take time to investigate. The funny smell was a 3-day old body in the bedroom.

      Thanks for the info about Anderson. I knew Scarver killed him, but didn’t know Anderson’s conviction that landed him in prison. Do you remember the man out East who had a similar story about a Black man killing his pregnant wife? If I remember correctly, the husband ended up jumping off a bridge after he became a suspect.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Two sides to a story

    How horrible. The Dahmer case always gives me big shivers . . . the darkest evil . . . how sad this child wasn’t protected and that his brother had already been a victim . . .

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hey Two sides! Dahmer and Gacy were absolutely evil. They rendered their victims unable to defend themselves by drugging them. Also, because their victims were male, families reporting them missing were disregarded by the police. Konerak’s family reported a 14-year old missing, while the police, based on Dahmer’s lie, had a police report about a 19-year old gay man found drunk.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t know so much of this. But for the officers to have gotten their jobs back is beyond a travesty and a slap in the face to not only citizens but to other officers.

    Liked by 3 people

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