Lionel suspected that the move from Iowa to Ohio was the causative factor, and Jeff's behavior was a normal reaction to being uprooted from familiar settings and placed into entirely new ones. Lionel, too, had suffered from shyness, introversion and insecurity as a child and had learned to overcome these problems. He figured his son would learn to overcome them too. What he didn't realize was that Jeff's boyhood condition was far graver than his and that "Jeff had begun to suffer from a near isolation."
In April of 1967, they bought a new house. Jeff seemed to adjust better to this move and developed a close friendship with a boy named Lee. He was also very fond of one of his teachers and took her a bowl of tadpoles he had caught. Later, Jeff found out that the teacher had given the tadpoles to his friend Lee. Jeff sneaked into Lee's garage and killed all the tadpoles with motor oil.
Things did not get better with time. "His posture, and the general way in which he carried himself, changed radically between his tenth and fifteenth years. The loose-limbed boy disappeared, and was replaced by a strangely rigid and inflexible figure.
He looked tense, his body very straight. He grew increasingly shy during this time and when approached by other people, he would become very tense. More and more, he remained at home, alone in his room or staring at television. His face was often blank, and he gave the more or less permanent impression of someone who could do nothing but mope around, purposeless and disengaged.
He had one friend, who drifted apart from him at age fifteen. Lionel found out at Jeff's trial that during this period, Jeff would ride around with plastic garbage bags and collect the remains of animals for his own private cemetery. "He would strip the flesh from the bodies of these putrescent road kills and even mount a dog's head on a stake." There has been the suggestion that Jeff tortured animals, but that is unlikely. He enjoyed a dog and cat as pets in his childhood and kept pet fish as an adult. His fascination was with dead creatures.
Jeff grew more passive and isolated. "His conversation narrowing to the practice of answering questions with barely audible one-word responses. He was drifting into a nightmare world of unimaginable fantasies. In coming years those fantasies would begin to overwhelm him. The dead in their stillness would become the primary objects of his growing sexual desire. His inability to speak about such strange and unsetting notions would sever his connections to the world outside himself."
While other boys pursued careers, education, the creation of homes and families, Jeff was completely unmotivated. "He must have come to view himself as utterly outside the human community, outside all that was normal and acceptable, outside all that could be admitted to another human being." One would expect that a person harboring the fantasies of death and dismemberment that swirled around in Jeffrey Dahmer's head as a teenager would show some outer signs of mental illness. But Jeff just became more isolated and uncommunicative. Far from rebelling, he never argued with his parents because nothing seemed to matter to him.
In high school, Jeff had average grades and participated in a few activities: he played tennis and worked on the school newspaper. However, his classmates considered him a loner and an alcoholic, who brought liquor into the classroom. He actually had a prom date, whom he later invited to his parents' house for a seance.
His classmates remember a stunt he pulled when he got himself included in the yearbook photo of the members of the National Honor Society, of which he was not a member. The yearbook staff caught the prank in time and blacked out Jeff's picture.
As Jeff became more passive, the passions between Lionel and Joyce increased, culminating in divorce when Jeff was almost eighteen. A custody battle began over David. Some months later, Lionel remarried. Whatever Lionel missed about Jeff's alcoholism, his new wife Shari did not.
Lionel and Shari convinced him to try the idea of college. In the fall of 1978, they drove him to Ohio State University, but he stayed drunk the whole semester and flunked out. By this time, his drinking problem was well understood, but he would not seek help for it. Lionel read him the rules: Jeff had to either get a job or join the Army. When Jeff refused to get a job and stayed drunk most of the time, his father drove him down to the recruiting office to join the Armed Forces in January of 1979.
By Marilyn Badsley