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Families Struggle to Understand How Their Loved Ones Fell Prey

July 27, 1991 GMT

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ One by one, 11 victims were lured to Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment from encounters at gay bars, city streets, shopping malls and bus stops.

They included a runaway, some free spirits, mostly single young men looking for a good time. They were promised money if they posed for pictures and watched sex videos with a sandy-haired, brown-eyed companion who offered them drinks.

Whoever they thought he was, Dahmer turned out to be a butcher who told police they met a singular fate: He spiked their drinks with sleeping potions, strangled them and cut up their bodies, keeping their heads and other body parts in his apartment.

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Grieving families are struggling to understand how their loved ones could have been willingly taken in. One clue comes from the man who escaped Dahmer’s clutches Monday night and alerted police.

″He seemed so normal,″ said Tracy Edwards, 32, a father of six who met Dahmer at a city mall and was led there by an invitation to a party. ″He turned from Mr. Right to Mr. It ... It was like I was confronting Satan himself.″

Edwards fled with a handcuff dangling from one wrist. He had spotted a large knife under Dahmer’s bed and smelled the stench of death of 11 others who had been there before him.

Dahmer, 31, a former employee of the Ambrosia Chocolate Co., admitted killing 11 people in his apartment, and police say he has killed six others. Dahmer is a convicted child molester with a history of alcohol abuse. The boy he molested in 1989 was the brother of one of his victims.

Those killed in the apartment ranged in age from 14 to 33. Police said nine were black, one was Laotian and one was white. Police on Saturday identified the 11th victim, Anthony Sears, 26, of Milwaukee. One of them, Jeremiah Weinberger, 23, was last seen July 6 leaving Carol’s Speakeasy, a gay bar in Chicago, with an unidentified man. Dahmer told police he and Weinberger took a Greyhound bus for the 90-mile trip to Milwaukee.

Weinberger stayed two days and the two had sex. But Dahmer objected when he wanted to leave, so he was drugged before he was killed and mutilated. Dahmer paused from his gory chores to take pictures.

″My son was hypnotized by a cobra. Unfortunately, he bit,″ Weinberger’s father, David, told a reporter this week.

Two Chicago gay publications ran notices of Weinberger’s disappearance, and his friends distributed fliers, urging anyone with information to call a toll- free number. No one did.

Another victim, Oliver Lacy, 23, disappeared July 12 when he went to a Milwaukee mall for ice cream. Lacy had moved here from Chicago four months ago to be near his 2-year-old son and his fiance.

″I don’t know how this person lured my son,″ said the victim’s mother, Catherine. ″He wasn’t the type of person who would let someone come up to him like that.″

Lacy’s death was particularly chilling. Dahmer said he had anal sex with Lacy after he was killed. Dahmer also told police he cut up the body and saved the heart ″to eat later.″

The most troubling case involved Konerak Sinthasomphone, 14, the son of Laotian immigrants who was going to play soccer with friends when he vanished May 26.

Several residents alleged that police missed a chance to stop Dahmer when the boy was seen May 27 staggering around the streets naked and bleeding from the buttocks.

But the boy was allowed to return to Dahmer who apparently convinced police that it was a squabble between two homosexual lovers.

Police Chief Philip Arreola suspended three officers Friday after confirming they had contact with Dahmer and the victim. He said they failed to write a report or check Dahmer’s background, which included his conviction of molesting Sinthasomphone’s older brother. The police union called the suspensions premature.

″The whole thing is crazy. I don’t know what to say,″ said Anoukone Sinthasomphone, 25, the brother of the dead boy.

Some families had grown accustomed to frequent wanderings.

Catherine Straughter, grandmother of Curtis Straughter, 18, said he left their Milwaukee home on Feb. 18.

″I haven’t seen him since that day,″ Mrs. Straughter said Friday. ″He was out all over with everybody.″

Matt Turner, 20, ran away from his home in Flint, Mich., and had resided at a halfway house for runaways in Chicago. His family last heard from him June 29, the day before Dahmer said he met Turner at a gay rally in Chicago. They took a bus back to Milwaukee.

The family of Ricky Beeks, 33, of Rockford, Ill., also said it wasn’t unusual for him to be gone for long periods. Beeks, also known as Raymond Lamont Smith, was last seen in May 1990 when he came to Milwaukee to visit family. Beeks had a 10-year-old daughter.

Other families fretted over missing loved ones but felt powerless.

Tony Hughes, 31, of Madison, was last seen May 24 with a friend leaving the 219 Club, a gay bar in Milwaukee. His mother, Shirley, said Hughes, a deaf mute, was visiting family here and indicated he would be staying overnight with them.

Hughes had taken a new job two weeks earlier but never got his first paycheck, she said. She was unable to contact the friend because she only knew a first name - Jeffrey.

″He was outgoing, jolly, happy. He could easily make friends,″ Ms. Hughes said of her son. ″I just prayed and asked the Lord to show me where my son was. I just wanted to know if he was dead or alive. The way he died, it hurts. Words can’t describe it.″

Joseph Bradehoft, 25, had recently moved into a Milwaukee apartment rented under his brother’s name, Donald, and was looking for work. Bradehoft recently lived in Illinois and Minnesota, where he had a wife and three children.

Dahmer told police he met Bradehoft, carrying a six-pack of beer, at a bus stop. He said he offered him money to pose and Bradehoft came to his apartment for sex. Then the grisly pattern was repeated.