Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer stalked the streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1978 through 1991, murdering at least 17 young men, some of which were subjected to his horrific experiments as he sought to make them his sex slaves. Others, like the victims of the chilling character (Dr. Hannibal Lecter) that Anthony Hopkins so brutally brought to life in the film "Silence of the Lambs," were eaten by Dahmer along the way. Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted of his crimes and sent to jail for 957 years in 1992, but he only lived two years before he was killed by a fellow prison inmate. Now Milwaukee has another killer stalking its streets, someone who has murdered at least seven women since 1986, and he's apparently still out there, still stalking yet new victims. Half way across the country the LAPD still actively seeks to identify and arrest "the Grim Sleeper," the name given to the local serial killer in "the City of Angels" believed by police to be responsible for the murders of at least a dozen or more victims since 1988.
In the case of "the Grim Sleeper" and the Milwaukee serial killer still awaiting a moniker, DNA and other forensic evidence has allowed police to link victims to the same killer localized killer. Most of the Milwaukee killer's victims were initially viewed like those of Washington State's "Green River Killer," Gary Ridgway. He bragged of killing 48 victims but is suspected of killing two times this number, choosing his victims from those engaged in high risk activities, to include drug abuse and prostitution, usually in high risk areas, a sure receipt for murder. In Milwaukee, police have matched the DNA of the killer of seven or more women, but so far the killer's DNA has failed to appear in any state or federal DNA data base, suggesting he has not been arrested for a felony that would have allowed his DNA to taken and be entered in such data banks. Meanwhile the DNA found on other murder victims in the Milwaukee area is being compared to the killers, with the possibility that yet other victims will be linked to the same murderer; someone who has identified, stalked and killed women in that city for at least 21 years.
Over two dozen prostitutes are known to have been murdered in and around Milwaukee in the past 20+ years, although less than one-third of their murders have been solved. One of the many challenges with such investigations is that many women who engage in prostitution are not necessarily accountable to someone who would report them missing if they fail to come home, therefore many victims are never accounted for, or if found, their activities left them vulnerable to many potential abusers and killers.
A serial killer task force has been formed in the Milwaukee area consisting of local, state and federal investigators, all dedicated to linking crimes and stopping the unknown killer before he strikes again, a tall order noting that without his DNA to compare to that of his victims, it will be hard to link him to these crimes. Like in the case of LA's "Grim Sleeper," forensic experts may begin looking at familial DNA in an attempt to identify the elusive killer. Familial DNA assumes that about 40% of violent criminals have a blood relative in jail, therefore a close, but not identical match could be made that could lead to the killer's family tree and eventually to him.
Most serial killers do not stop of their own volition, Wichita, Kansas' "BTK Killer," Dennis Rader, being a prime exception to the rule. Buffalo had its "Bike Path Killer," Altemio Sanchez who murdered three and raped over two dozen women from 1981 through 2006, while other killers continue to operate across the country on a daily basis. With over 16,000 known homicide victims every year, the U.S. counts a number of serial killers among its citizens, some of which, like those killers before them, will continue to kill until caught or locked up for some other reason. Some, like "BTK," quit killing but just can't stay out of the lime light, while others, even if locked up for another crime, may someday return to the streets to stalk and kill again.
"Eventually," say Milwaukee police of their current serial killer, "he'll slip up." Until that time, though, a killer is loose on the streets and he could have even identified his next victim. Police in Milwaukee and LA had better move quickly as their local serial killer does not appear ready to take a vacation from murder.
UPDATE: A serial killer task force in Milwaukee has arrested 49-year-old Walter E. Ellis in connection with nine of these murders. Ellis' DNA has allegedly been matched to unidentified DNA found on the bodies of his suspected victims. If the linking forensic evidence is correct, Ellis began his currently killing spree as early as 1986, this when he would have been 26 years old. One of the many questions awaiting answers is why Ellis' DNA wasn't previously linked to the murders of these victims, all of whom were 16 to 41 years of age.
Police who acknowledge these murders took place over a 21-year period, indicate they looked at 2,000 arrests that took place in the same geographic area of the murders, reviewed 15,000 reports of sexual assault over the past 23 years, and searched the Wisconsin DNA data bank of 125,000 individuals as well as the FBI's national DNA data bank containing the names and DNA of over 6 million people.
It now appears that "CSI" failed for almost a quarter century to surface Ellis as a logical suspect, perhaps one linked by DNA, noting that he was arrested 12 times between 1981 and 1998 and had served time in prison on five different occasions. Wisconsin initiated it's DNA database in 1996, but somehow no match was made until this month. Of further investigative note is the fact that no linked murders took place when Ellis was serving time in prison. Police now acknowledge his DNA was taken at least in 2001 while he was serving time in prison for reckless endangerment. That critical sample, one that could have identified him as the serial killer and saved the life of one or more victims, was somehow lost in transit when it was mailed to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Without this match to its database, police would waste precious months searching for a serial killer they then had to believe had never been in contact with the law. How wrong they were...