Behind the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is a lesser-known figure: his stepmother, Shari Dahmer. Today, we will explore Shari’s journey, her relationship with Jeffrey, and her portrayal in popular culture.
Her Early Life and Marriage to Lionel Dahmer
Shari Jordan was born in Columbus, Ohio, on May 8th, 1953, to parents Howard M. and Olive Jean Miller. Her life took a turn in 1978 when she married Lionel Dahmer, the father of Jeffrey Dahmer. Shari met Jeffrey Dahmer at Joyce Flint’s house, where Jeffrey was living alone at the age of 18.
Lionel, born in 1936 in West Allis, Wisconsin, is an alumnus of Marquette University. He pursued studies in chemistry, eventually becoming a research chemist. Lionel, now 87, remains a public figure, appearing in interviews where he addresses the path his elder son, Jeffrey, took.
Family Dynamics of The Dahmers
Jeffrey Dahmer was born to Lionel and his first wife, Joyce Annette Dahmer, on May 21st, 1960, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their family expanded with the birth of their second son, David Dahmer, in 1966.
However, as time progressed, challenges arose. Joyce battled depression, which added stress to the family, and by the time Jeffrey was 18, Lionel and Joyce decided to divorce. Lionel took custody of Jeffrey, while Joyce took David.
Shari’s Life Amidst Tragedy
Between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey committed a series of crimes, leading to his arrest in 1991. Authorities found heads in his kitchen, skulls in his bedroom, and other preserved body parts in his apartment. Jeffrey admitted to 17 murders, and in 1992, he was sentenced to fifteen terms of life imprisonment for 15 of these crimes. In 1994, Jeffrey was killed by an inmate in prison.
Throughout these times, Shari and Lionel stood by Jeffrey. They supported him during his trial and made visits during his incarceration. However, with the attention the Dahmer name received, both Shari and Lionel chose a life of privacy.
Her Observations About Jeffrey
Shari also noticed Jeffrey’s drinking problem early on and claimed he was a ‘closet alcoholic.’ Apart from his drinking, she didn’t find any alarming signs in Jeffrey’s behavior. She often visited Jeffrey’s apartment in Milwaukee, which she saw as clean and spotless. Shari believed Jeffrey was mentally ill and said a part of his soul died years ago.
In a 2004 Larry King Live interview which you can watch above, Shari and Lionel openly shared their emotions about their son Jeffrey. Shari expressed her wish to understand Jeffrey’s motives, hoping that such understanding might prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Despite the notoriety of the Dahmer name, Shari continued to use it, stating she was proud of it and did nothing wrong.
Her Legacy and Passing
Her connection to the Dahmer name even reached popular culture. The Netflix series titled ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story’ portrayed her role, with actress Molly Ringwald playing Shari.
Shari also made an appearance herself in the Oxygen documentary, ‘Dahmer on Dahmer.‘