Jeffrey Dahmer Crime Reporter Reveals What the Netflix Series Got Wrong

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A former Milwaukee crime reporter who first broke the story of Jeffrey Dahmer's gruesome crimes in 1991 is weighing in on the "artistic license" that she says was taken in Netflix's dramatization of the saga. Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story stars Evan Peters as the real-life serial killer and has smashed records as the streamer's biggest series debut ever. 

Anne E. Schwartz, who was working for the Milwaukee Journal at the time of Dahmer's arrest, says the show "does not bear a great deal of resemblance to the facts of the case." 

In an interview with The Independent, Schwartz says, "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." 

Schwartz was working as a crime reporter when she received a tip from a police source that a human head and body parts had been discovered inside an apartment. She arrived at the scene of Dahmer's apartment and, she says, poked her head inside. 

"I was a crime reporter for five years so I know what it smells like when you walk into a building with a dead body or a decomposing body. This was not that. This was a very chemical smell," she tells The Independent

Schwartz later went on to author the 1992 book The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough: The Secret Murders of Milwaukee's Jeffrey Dahmer and its updated 2021 version, Monster: The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders. She also worked in communications for the Milwaukee Police Department and Wisconsin Department of Justice. Among the key issues she takes from Netflix's Monster is its depiction of law enforcement officials as racist and homophobic. 

"I’ve spent a lot of time with them, interviewing the people who were at the scene. Again this is a dramatization, but at a time when it is not exactly easy for law enforcement to get trust and buy in from the community, it’s not a very helpful representation," she says. 

Schwartz also brings up that Glenda Cleveland, played by Niecy Nash, was not actually Dahmer's next door neighbor. The real Cleveland, who tried to alert officials to Dahmer's suspicious behavior, actually lived in a separate building. According to an obituary published by USA Today in 2011, her daughter and niece had spotted 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone fleeing Dahmer's apartment in a nearby alley. 

"In the first five minutes of the first episode you have Glenda Cleveland knocking on his door. None of that ever happened," Schwartz says. "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 series has not been without its fair share of controversy. The families of Dahmer's victims have slammed Monster and Netflix for "retraumatizing" their experiences, while stars like Whoopi Goldberg have expressed similar outrage. 

“Ryan [Murphy] is an amazing artist,” Goldberg said recently on The View, adding, "If that were my family, I’d be enraged. Because it is being killed over and watching your child get [killed], and then you have to listen to how it went and all this other stuff that, as a person who’s lost someone like that, it’s just -- you can’t imagine."

She continued, "Over and over and over! I think, if you’re gonna tell these stories, be aware that a lot of the people who are part of these stories are still with us."

Meanwhile, Schwartz says the people of Milwaukee are also "absolutely done with hearing about the case." 

"People in Milwaukee think this is a horrible blemish on the city, they don’t want people to think about it," she says.

The real Dahmer was attacked and killed at a Wisconsin prison on Nov. 29, 1994, according to the The New York Times. He was 34. 

Prior to his death, Schwartz says, Dahmer personally called her to express his ire with one aspect of the book she had written about his crimes. As part of her reporting, Schwartz had spoken to several psychiatrists who had interviewed Dahmer and they attributed his behavior to his parenting. 

"He hated that. 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 tells The Independent

"He had no inflection in his voice," she recalls. "He was so vanilla, he was so flat. There was nothing. He just said no one was responsible for what I did except me." 

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