Just a Friend

Could having a friend prevent a serial killer's heinous murders?

Posted Oct 09, 2019

Stefano Pollio on Unsplash
Source: Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Warning: the story contains some explicit details around murder

The story is the same and repeated time and time again in alleys, bedrooms, fields, backrooms, and anywhere the opportunity or planning allows. The weapons are as diverse as the suspect's intelligence and availability. The methods of death dictated by the motivations of the killers, their needs, or even the voices inside their heads. The victims killed for the mere pleasure of the kill, the enjoyment of the inflicted torture, and the vindictiveness. Yet...


May 26, 1960. In the hospital, the expectant dad was anxiously awaiting the birth of his first child, his son and on this day brought the bundle of joy to this new family and life was good.

Growing up, their son was like most any young boy. He watched Saturday morning cartoons with his dad, rode his bicycle, and enjoyed his dog, Frisky. Everything was good. Almost everything. His mom was having severe bouts of postpartum depression and would shun her new son, alienating him, and forcing his dad to pick up the slack.

During a visit to the doctor, it was announced to his mom and dad that their young son had a double hernia and it would have to be surgically repaired. This happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, active boy was prepped for surgery and all went well. The family returned home to resume their lives. They returned home, but not to the life they had previously experienced. This normal, active child was different now. He was shy, reserved, distant, and inward focusing. Despite all attempts by the family to bring their child back, nothing worked, or would ever work. The happy child they had known was forever gone.

As the child grew into his teens he had few friends. Most thought him to be weird, and while they would sometimes hang out with him, their interest seemed to be more in talking him into doing the silly antics for which he was becoming well-known. He had no true friends – none that would be a stable fixture in his life.

Turning to alcohol, he began a downward spiral, but still tried to fit in. The teen was in the high school band, on the school newspaper, and on the tennis team. Still no true friends, but there was one solace upon which he could depend — his family.

Unfortunately, during his senior year in his school, he was devastated and extremely embarrassed by his parents' announcement that they were divorcing. If their divorce was not horrible enough on him, his dad moved out of the house leaving his oldest son with his mother and younger brother. It became tragically worse when his mother took his brother and moved out of the house and to another city. This left him in the family home all alone. Everyone had left him.

The downward path was about to take a horrendous turn. A horrendous outcome in the simple search for something most find natural - friends.

While driving one afternoon, he observed a teenager, close to his age, hitchhiking. Thinking that the teen may be interested in hanging out for a while, he turned his car around and pulled alongside the hitchhiker who agreed to accompany him to his house for beer and conversation. That went well for as long as the newfound friend agreed to stay but when he revealed he had to leave everything changed. Not wanting his new hitchhiking friend to leave, he took a barbell and struck him in the head killing him.

That was just the beginning as he would go on to seduce, and subsequently murder, 17 young men, mostly because, by his own admission, he just wanted a friend who would not leave him. The underlying theme of just wanting a friend was shown in his attempt to produce a mindless, submissive partner who would stay in his life, was shown as he would drug some of his victims, drill holes in their heads, and pour into their skulls hot water or acid in an attempt to alter their brain and diminish their will. In a couple of instances he would cannibalize parts of some of his victims. His rationale for such cannibalism was that by eating part of them, they would forever be part of him. He would later state that having them dead, with him, was better than having them leave him.

As different as his needs were as compared to most other serial killers, perhaps the greatest difference was the fact that his murders, as gruesome as they were, were not the means to the end. The killing was not the focal point—it was what was necessary to keep people from leaving. In fact, he would provide each of his victims with a cocktail of sleeping pills so that they would not feel any pain as he murdered them.


The life of Jeff Dahmer is one of tragedy, loneliness, rejection, and subsequently, became the life of one of the world's most heinous serial killers and, based on psychological assessments, fueled by his borderline personality disorder. Yet, beyond any of that, his showing of at least some compassion seeps through and contrasts against the enjoyment of the assault, torture, and murder by almost all other serial killers.