Fact-Checking the Most Controversial Moments From Ryan Murphy's DAHMER Series

Netflix's DAHMER - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story has captivated viewers, but questions have arisen about its authenticity. We decided to do some fact-checking of the controversial series.

By Daniel Trainor Oct 05, 2022 4:44 PMTags
Watch: The Truth Behind Our Obsession With True Crime Stories

Jeffrey Dahmer's story has ignited the Netflix charts—but is it accurate?

Evan Peters plays the titular real-life serial killer in Netflix's DAHMER - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, which tells the brutal story of how Dahmer killed and dismembered nearly 20 men between the years of 1978 and 1991. 

The series also covers Dahmer's 1992 murder trial in Milwaukee and his subsequent 1994 murder at the hands of fellow Columbia Correctional Institution inmate Christopher Scarver.  

Since all ten episodes dropped on Sept. 21, the series has skyrocketed to the top of the Netflix charts, with 496 million total hours viewed. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story also became the second most-watched English-language series in a week, behind only Stranger Things season four. 

But it hasn't all been good news.

Rita Isbell, whose 19-year-old brother Errol Lindsey was murdered by Dahmer in April 1991, spoke out against the series, telling Insider, "Netflix should've asked if we mind or how we felt about making it. They didn't ask me anything. They just did it. But I'm not money hungry, and that's what this show is about, Netflix trying to get paid."

So, with all the fanfare surrounding the buzzy and controversial series, we decided to dissect some of the biggest plot points from the show in an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

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Did Glenda Cleveland really live next door to Dahmer?

In perhaps one of the strangest inaccuracies in the series, Glenda Cleveland (Niecy Nash) is depicted as Dahmer's concerned next door neighbor in Milwaukee. As it turns out, she lived in an entirely different building.

"In the first five minutes of the first episode, you have Glenda Cleveland knocking on his door. None of that ever happened," crime reporter Anne E. Schwartz told the Independent. "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."

The tragic case of Konerak Sinthasomphone

In the series, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone is seen escaping Dahmer's apartment while bruised and drugged. He is found by Cleveland, who calls the Milwaukee police department. 

Once officers John A. Balcerzak (Scott Michael Morgan) and Joseph T. Gabrish (Matthew Alan) arrive, they hand Sinthasomphone back to Dahmer, who murders him shortly thereafter.

The scene is disturbingly close to how things actually played out, though it was Cleveland's daughter Sandra Smith and niece Nicole Childress who actually found Sinthasomphone, and Childress made the 911 call.

Officer of the Year?

On the topic of Balcerzak and Gabrish, episode nine of the series shows the officers who released Sinthasomphone back into Dahmer's custody eventually winning Officer of the Year awards. There is no evidence of this ever happening.

However, despite being suspended after Dahmer's arrest, the officers were later reinstated in 1994 and Balcerzak eventually served as the president of the Milwaukee police officer's union from 2005 to 2009.


Rita Isbell's testimony

The victim impact statement given by Isbell, played by DaShawn Barnes, at Dahmer's trial in 1992 is re-enacted in the series, which has drawn criticism from Isbell's cousin Eric Perry.

"I'm not telling anyone what to watch, I know true crime media is huge rn, but if you're actually curious about the victims, my family (the Isbell's) are pissed about this show," he tweeted Sept. 22. "It's retraumatizing over and over again, and for what? How many movies/shows/documentaries do we need?"

Perry posted his message above a side-by-side comparison of Isbell's statement and the way it was played by Barnes on the show, and while Isbell's real-life testimony was arguably even more dramatic, it's a word-for-word re-telling.

Did Dahmer really serve human flesh sandwiches to his neighbor?

In the series, admitted-cannibal Dahmer is seen giving a suspicious "meat" sandwich to neighbor Cleveland. As revealed earlier, Cleveland didn't actually live next door to Dahmer, so it's probably all fiction, right?

Unfortunately, not so much.

As it turns out, Cleveland is really a conflation of two women: Cleveland and Pamela Bass, who actually lived next door to Dahmer in the Oxford Apartments. In a 2012 documentary called The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, Bass was interviewed and revealed that Dahmer did, in fact, once give her a sandwich. 

To put it bluntly, she said, "I have probably eaten someone's body part."


All ten episodes of DAHMER - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story are available to stream on Netflix.

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