We All Know the Story of Jeffrey Dahmer, But What About His Mother, Joyce Dahmer?

Of all the series available on Netflix today, none are more popular than Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. With more than 700 million hours viewed, the series is officially the second most-watched Netflix series of all time, behind the fourth season of Stranger Things.

The series stars Evan Peters as Dahmer, as well as Niecy Nash, Richard Jenkins, Molly Ringwald, and Michael Learned. The 10-episode series tells the story of how Dahmer was able to go on a horrific killing spree between 1978 and 1991, killing 17 boys and men in the process.

It’s a story that almost everyone has heard about, in some way, but the Netflix series takes a deeper dive into the motives for killing, the methods of killing, and the incompetence of the police at the time. It also explores the lives of some of Dahmer’s family members. 

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Dahmer’s father, Lionel Dahmer, has opened up about his son in the past – even writing a book about being the father of a serial killer. With that said, the public has largely been kept in the dark about his mother, Joyce Dahmer. Don’t worry, we’ll get you caught up. 

Lionel and Joyce tied the knot in August 1959 and gave birth to Jeffrey Dahmer in May 1960. During her pregnancy, she received Phenobarbital and morphine injections to ease the nausea and muscle stiffness. The couple wondered if those injections caused their son’s behavior.

The two gave birth to a second son, David, in 1966, but later divorced in 1978. After the trial, Joyce was given custody of David, and Lionel was given custody of Jeffrey. At the time, Jeffrey was almost done with high school. Not long after the divorce, Jeffrey started to kill. 

Dahmer was convicted in 1992 and was killed in prison two years later. 

What Happened to Joyce Dahmer After Jeffrey Dahmer Was Killed?

We All Know the Story of Jeffrey Dahmer, But What About His Mother, Joyce Dahmer?
JOCA_PH / Shutterstock

In the two years after her son was sent to prison, Joyce Dahmer kept in close contact with her son – speaking to him weekly over the phone. She opened up about her conversations with Jeffrey in a 1995 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

“I said to him, I asked him, ‘Do you still have these urges?’ He said, ‘Yes, Mom, I’m so glad I’m locked up. I’d be afraid of what I’d do if I weren’t locked up,’” she told the Sentinel. “When I think of what Jeff did, I stop breathing.”

The last the public heard of Joyce was in a 1995 fight with Lionel. Their son passed away the year prior after being attacked by an inmate. His body was cremated, as per his wishes, but the brain was preserved. Joyce wanted the brain examined, while Lionel wanted it cremated.

Lionel ended up winning that fight when a judge ordered the brain to be cremated and we haven’t heard from Joyce since – as she chose to stay out of the public light. We do, however, know what happened to her in the five years after. 

In 1996, Joyce started an HIV community center called “The Living Room.” She used her master’s degree in counseling to help those diagnosed with HIV. Not only that, but she worked with the Central Valley AIDS Center as a case manager for four years. 

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After a battle with breast cancer, Joyce passed away in 2000. “She was enthusiastic, and she was compassionate, and she turned her own tragedy into being able to have a great deal of empathy for people with HIV,” said the executive director of ‘The Living Room.’

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