Konerak Sinthasomphone: Dahmer’s Victim Who Didn’t Have To Die

Konerak Sinthasomphone, 14 | Courtesy of WordPress
Konerak Sinthasomphone, 14 | Courtesy of WordPress

Konerak Sinthasomphone—a name that probably rings no bells of familiarity in your head, certainly not as much as the name of his murderer: Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer’s infamous killing spree ended in 1991 when Tracy Edwards broke out of the murderer’s clutches and ran out into the night. With a pair of handcuffs dangling from one of his wrists, he flagged down a police squad car on its routine patrol. Edwards staggered up to the car, desperately pleading for help. The smell of alcohol lingered on his breath and words tumbled out of his mouth as he explained his situation to Officers Robert Rauth and Rolf Mueller: someone was trying to kill him. His eyes shifted nervously from side to side, as if he expected his assailant to pounce at any second. Despite being slightly skeptical of Edwards’ story, Rauth and Mueller followed his directions to Oxford Apartments #213, where they were greeted by a polite and soft-spoken Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer calmly denied any wrong doing, but an odor more pungent than the beer on his breath infiltrated his apartment, suggesting otherwise. A brief search of the apartment revealed a butcher knife Edwards had described, and evidence far more sinister: photographs depicting mutilated and disfigured male bodies, drums containing human torsos submerged in a chemical solution, and human meat wrapped neatly in bags within the freezer.1 Dahmer was arrested and, while in custody, ultimately admitted to murdering and sometimes even cannibalizing seventeen boys and men. Among his victims was one Konerak Sinthasomphone. Like Edwards, Sinthasomphone also had a chance for escape. However, unlike Edwards, Sinthasomphone wasn’t as lucky.

Konerak Sinthasomphone was a Laotian immigrant whose family left the Nonkai refugee resettlement camp in Thailand to seek out a life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1979. At the age of three, Sinthasomphone began his new life in the United States.2 Twelve years later, on May 6, 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer approached fourteen year old Konerak Sinthasomphone at the Grand Avenue Mall and offered him money in exchange for his visit to an apartment to pose for nude pictures, which the child reluctantly agreed to. Coincidentally and unbeknownst to Sinthasomphone, Dahmer was a probationer convicted of second-degree sexual assault for drugging and molesting a thirteen year old boy in 1988. His victim? Sinthasomphone’s older brother, Keison Sinthasomphone. According to his family, Konerak wouldn’t have been able to recognize Dahmer as the man who wreaked havoc on his family only three years before, as the family never directly saw his face. Indeed, they were assured by police that Dahmer’s punishment would be severe, and didn’t find it necessary to visit the court the day Dahmer was tried and sentenced to one year of work release and five years of probation. “We never saw him. Police officers told us they were going to put him away for good. We never thought he was going to be out,” said Anoukone Sinthasomphone, Konerak’s oldest brother.3 Dahmer and Sinthasomphone proceeded together to his apartment. Konerak posed for Polaroid pictures in his underwear, the young boy oblivious to the horrific hidden agenda of the man behind the camera. After a while, Dahmer offered Sinthasomphone a drink laced with Halcion, a medication used to treat insomnia.4 Konerak quickly lost consciousness, rendering him vulnerable at the hands of the “Milwaukee Monster.”

Like a fly caught in a spider’s web, once Konerak was unconscious, Dahmer put his twisted plan into action. According to his disposition testimony, he drilled a small hole in the back of Sinthasomphone’s cranium and injected hydrochloric acid into the frontal lobes of his brain. Hydrochloric acid is an extremely corrosive acid that can have irreversible and even fatal effects if used improperly. Dahmer did this to induce a “zombie-like” state in his victims. He experimented with hydrochloric acid in hopes of creating a submissive, mindless sex slave. When confronted about his crimes, Dahmer claimed “the only motive that there ever was was to completely control a person … and keep them with me as long as possible.”5 Like most serial killers, Dahmer’s childhood wasn’t the happiest. He grew up in a deteriorating and dysfunctional home, and his father was often absent from home addressing work-related matters while his mother often spent time in the hospital for psychiatric reasons during his early childhood.6 As a young boy, Dahmer held a unique fascination for dead insects and animals. He kept a collection of their remains or, as he called them, “fiddlesticks” in a shed behind the family home. On one occasion, upon discovering a decomposing dead dog along the road, he disemboweled and decapitated the animal before impaling its head on a stick.7 When Dahmer was fifteen, he stole a mannequin on display at a local retail store. He rested with the dummy in his bed when his parents weren’t home, fueling his necrophilic desires. Dahmer’s senior year in high school only brought increased tension to his character, as his parents tragically divided the family home, no longer able to maintain a functional and healthy marriage. Following a bitter divorce with a custody battle revolving around Dahmer’s twelve year old brother, Dahmer developed a reliance on alcohol and, with a decline in emotional resources, he fell into withdrawal and depression. “It was this time when I began having fantasies of killing people; these fantasies overcame my feelings of frustration and emptiness.”8 Dahmer grew from an adolescent boy to an adult, but his sadistic and necrophilic fantasies followed. After his arrest, he reported about his first murder victim, Steven Hicks, “the guy wanted to leave and I didn’t want him to leave.” In another interview, he explained that “it was better to have them with me dead, than to have them leave.”9 A childhood of social isolation and neglect had left Dahmer a psychotic killer who craved nothing more than a submissive, mindless sex slave incapable of the abandonment and neglect he faced as a child, and he was determined to mold Sinthasomphone into this by any means necessary.

Jeffrey Dahmer: The Milwaukee Murderer | Courtesy of biography.com

However, no less than a day later, Dahmer’s plan went completely awry. On the morning of May 27, 1991, Dahmer left a drugged and unconscious Konerak Sinthasomphone in his apartment while he went to a local store to buy beer. Miraculously, the young boy escaped Dahmer’s apartment and made his way into the streets of Milwaukee, where he was seen by Sandra Smith and Nicole Childress. Smith saw, as she described, a Chinese boy running naked towards an alley next to her mother’s apartment on North 25th Street. The boy, who she suspected to be eleven or twelve, collapsed on the ground. Upon closer inspection, she noted that Sinthasomphone had scrapes on his knees, buttocks, and right shoulder. She also noticed that there was a thin stream of blood running down his inner thigh from his rectum. Smith turned to Childress and urgently told her to call the police. It was then that Dahmer appeared, calmly attempting to dissolve the situation, claiming Sinthasomphone was a friend of his who merely had a habit of drinking too much on the weekends. Smith, suspicious of Dahmer and his motives, stood between him and the boy, but eventually allowed Dahmer to lead Sinthasomphone away, noting that the boy appeared to be trying to break away. The police arrived then; Officers Gabrish and Balcerzak were sent to assess the scene. Gabrish was ordered to question Sinthasomphone while Balcerzak was sent to get a statement from Dahmer. Sinthasomphone, presumably because of the drugs he was given or the hole drilled into his head, was unresponsive and deemed uncooperative. After failing to communicate with him, Gabrish merely assumed the young boy couldn’t speak English. Dahmer, on the other hand, was trying desperately to avoid detection and did his best to appear cooperative and polite. He gave Balcerzak his name, date of birth, and employment identification. He claimed Sinthasomphone was his house guest named John Mung who drank too much. He also told officers Sinthasomphone was between 18 or 20 years old, which, standing 5’3 and weighing 110 pounds, seemed almost too ridiculous to believe—but they did. Just as Dahmer was beginning to feel like the situation was back under his control, a second squad car arrived on the scene. Officers Porubcan and Mozejewski got out of the vehicle and informed an uneasy Dahmer that they were simply providing “informal backup.”10 Gibrish and Porubcan, despite Sinthasomphone’s constant stumbling and resistance, calmly escorted him back to Dahmer’s apartment. The apartment portrayed no signs of conflict or a struggle, but there were a variety of nude photographs of Sinthasomphone strewn around the room, suggesting a consensual romantic relationship. The officers, convinced this was nothing more than a lovers’ quarrel, left Dahmer and Sinthasomphone to their own devices. The door closed behind them, and helpless Sinthasomphone was once again left alone in the hands of a sadistic killer, only this time there was no chance of escape.11

Reactions to Sinthasomphone’s death | Courtesy of ThaiVisa

Konerak Sinthasomphone was killed by Jeffrey Dahmer some thirty minutes after he was returned back into his possession. Dahmer injected another dosage of hydrochloric acid into his cranium; this time, it was lethal enough to kill the young boy. Sandra Smith, the woman who discovered Sinthasomphone in the streets, revealed that she had tried explaining to the officers that Dahmer had referred to Sinthasomphone by different names and that he appeared to be trying to break free from Dahmer. The officers insisted that Dahmer was trying to help him walk, and threatened her with arrest. As a result, Smith fled the scene. Backlash against the officers and the Milwaukee Police Department would follow Dahmer’s arrest just a few months later, when the truth finally came out about the young Laotian boy. Many were rightfully infuriated at the officer’s negligence. A quick background check on Dahmer would have revealed that he was a registered sex offender on probation for molesting Sinthasomphone’s older brother. On top of it all, Balcerzak and Gabrish sent away the ambulance scheduled to arrive on the scene minutes before it did, insisting that it wasn’t needed despite failing to thoroughly check Sinthasomphone for any injuries. And, lastly, they ignored and dismissed the women who, until their arrival, worked to protect the victim from further harm. In the early 1990s, racial tensions still had their grip on society. Many believe the officer’s negligence was the result of underlying racism and homophobia. Dahmer’s neighbors have maintained that Sandra Smith and Nicole Childress were dismissed by the officers because of their African descent. They believe that the Laotian boy was returned to Dahmer because Dahmer, like the officers, was white. Belcerzak and Gabrish not only failed to aid an injured and naked young boy, but dismissed every suspicious and alarming detail about the situation as nothing more than “a squabble between homosexuals.” An audio log released shortly after the event revealed the officers making homophobic remarks after leaving the scene. “The intoxicated Asian naked male (laughter in background) was returned to his sober boyfriend (more laughter).”12 When ordered to investigate another scene, one officer joked about washing off after visiting the homosexuals, stating that “my partner is going to get deloused at the station.13 Their actions faced a great amount of public scrutiny, and they were terminated shortly after the Sinthasomphone situation. However, despite all this, the officers were never brought up on legal charges. Gabrish later addressed the incident claiming, “God as my witness, I just didn’t dump a little boy in the hands of a murderer. That’s not what happened. We’re trained to be observant and spot things,” he said. “There was just nothing that stood out, or we would have seen it. I’ve been doing this for a while, and usually if something stands out, you’ll spot it. There just wasn’t anything there.”14 Both officers later appealed their termination and were reinstated in 1994, going on to lead successful careers within the police force despite being tied to the grisly murder of a young boy just three years prior.

Konerak’s Grave | Courtesy of FindAGrave.com

In Konerak Sinthasomphone’s case, Gabrish and Belcerzak’s negligence was just as deadly as a murder weapon. However, let’s not forget the real monster that lurked the streets of Milwaukee in 1991: Jeffrey Dahmer. A necrophilic, sadistic, and cannibalistic pedophile that brought the world so much pain with every life that he took. Konerak Sinthasomphone was just one example of the seventeen cases of innocent men brutally murdered at the selfish hands of the infamous Milwaukee Monster.

  1. Richard W. Jaeger and Marv Balousek, Massacre in Milwaukee: The Macabre Case of Jeffrey Dahmer (Oregon: Waubesa Press, 1991), 9-12.
  2. Rogers Washington, “Boy’s Death Leave Kin Sad, Angry,” Chicago Tribune, August 1991, 5.
  3. Rogers Washington, “Boy’s Death Leave Kin Sad, Angry,” Chicago Tribune, August 1991, 5.
  4. “Estate of Sinthasomphone v. City of Milwaukee, 838 F. Supp. 1320 (E.D. Wis. 1993),” November 1993, Justia US Law, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/838/1320/2255276/.
  5. Marianne Eloise, “Why Do So Many People Sympathise with Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer?,” Vice Magazine, February 2017, 4.
  6. Catherine E. Purcell and Bruce A. Arrigo, The Psychology of Lust Murder: Paraphilia, Sexual Killing, and Serial Homicide (Amsterdam: Academic Press, 2006), 74.
  7. Catherine E. Purcell and Bruce A. Arrigo, The Psychology of Lust Murder: Paraphilia, Sexual Killing, and Serial Homicide (Amsterdam: Academic Press, 2006), 73.
  8. Catherine E. Purcell and Bruce A. Arrigo, The Psychology of Lust Murder: Paraphilia, Sexual Killing, and Serial Homicide (Amsterdam: Academic Press, 2006), 75-76.
  9. Catherine E. Purcell and Bruce A. Arrigo, The Psychology of Lust Murder: Paraphilia, Sexual Killing, and Serial Homicide (Amsterdam: Academic Press, 2006), 80.
  10. “Estate of Sinthasomphone v. City of Milwaukee, 838 F. Supp. 1320 (E.D. Wis. 1993),” November 1993, Justia US Law, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/838/1320/2255276/.
  11. “Estate of Sinthasomphone v. City of Milwaukee, 838 F. Supp. 1320 (E.D. Wis. 1993),” November 1993, Justia US Law, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/838/1320/2255276/.
  12. Tobin Beck, “Tape: Police thought boy was Dahmer’s adult lover,” United Press International, August 1991.
  13. Tobin Beck, “Tape: Police thought boy was Dahmer’s adult lover,” United Press International, August 1991.
  14. “Officer Defends Giving Boy Back To Dahmer,” Associated Press, August 1991.

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This Post Has 70 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Celeste Loera

    This story makes me so angry and sad, because of racism and homophobia a little boy was killed. Because of the police officers and their biases they couldn’t see how weird and off the situation was and they did not even listen to the witness. His death could have been so avoided if they got rid of their biases and realized what was happening is never supposed to happen, you do not randomly see a preteen naked in public while bleeding and think they are fine.

  2. Avatar
    Mohammed Hani Shaik

    It is incredibly well written and there is a decent try to understand what could have caused him to carry out these vulgar acts. Stories like this must be told and I believe that every victim deserves to have their story told so the world can understand the trauma the families and those close to the victim would have faced. Especially, this story where the victim could easily have been saved if not for the negligence of the police officers and the underlying homophobia and racism.

  3. Hailey Lechuga
    Hailey Lechuga

    This was an extremely well written article, and it truly portrayed the tragedy in a death that could have been avoided. Jeffrey was a sick man and his actions will never be forgotten for their inconceivable abhorrence, but the story of Konerak Sinthasomphone involves a great deal of some of America’s worst defects: the negligence in the forces of law and order displayed through homophobia, xenophobia, and racism. This story is extremely tragic, and I think the outcome would have differed drastically had the murderer been a person of color, and had the witnesses and victim been white. White offenders are offered with the benefit of doubt and more lenient/forgiving sentences, while people of color are burdened with the fear of encountering the law, face much harsher punishments, and are more often wrongfully convicted.

  4. Avatar

    The fact that none of the officers were charged for what they did and that “There was just nothing that stood out” was a good enough excuse for them to get off without facing consequences is absolutely despicable and it just shows what’s wrong with the police system. Something needs to change.

  5. Avatar
    Do Better

    “A childhood of social isolation and neglect had left Dahmer a psychotic killer who craved nothing more than a submissive, mindless sex slave incapable of the abandonment and neglect he faced as a child”

    This is an abhorrent line. I wish it would be removed. You don’t become a serial killer, cannibal, rapist because of social isolation and ‘neglect’. He was a psychopath, sick, and deranged. Don’t sensationalize a story that needs no additional flair.

    1. Avatar

      yes there is more to becoming a mentally unstable serial killer these are just some of the reasons he became what he was. instead of just saying “remove the line” just say it in a kinder way. these also could be the reasons why he became what it was. you wouldnt know what caused him to do all of this. your comment is ignorant. stop being a Karen and get educated pls

    2. Avatar

      I agree. They make it seem like it wasn’t his fault that he murdered people😕

  6. Avatar
    Vianka Medina

    This is incredibly sad to know this actually happened. The fact that they had a bleeding and drugged up child who never got the chance to speak for himself, was thrown back into the hands of this sadistic killer who was known to have drugged a teenager in 1988. This kid did not have to die, I don’t see how the cops could have not found it suspicious that Dahmer was basically talking for this kid, not letting him have a voice, there was a lot more that could have been done.

  7. Avatar
    Alison Morales-Aguilar

    This is a heartbreaking article and you’re completely right, Konerak Sinthasomphone did not need to die. I am so incredibly frustrated at those police officers for doing literally nothing when a little boy is disoriented and imagine my surprise when they got reinstated. I’m just lying, of course, they would when have you heard of cops being punished for wrong-doings in these criminal cases? I just can’t imagine why anyone would just look at Dahmer and say, “Oh yeah, I believe this guy over the child and women who said he was not who he said he was.” I’m disgusted by them and hope they get the bad karma they deserve.

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