Micro Disasters: The Case of Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey M. Jentzen
ABSTRACT: Disasters are commonly experienced as major devastating events that exceed the resources of an agency to respond, with effects emanating throughout a community or region. There are, however, those events that are more measured, more subtle, and with few actual deaths, which still distract investigators from their daily duties and routines and project long lasting and crippling effects to a community or nation. Disasters can occur from natural forces or be the result of human activity. Most forensic pathologists who practice over a significant time will encounter one or the other types of disaster, sometimes more than a few. In my own career, I have witnessed large-scale disasters, such as hundreds of deaths occurring as the result of a major heat wave, to small-scale disasters such as factory explosions or small airplane crashes at sea—each with their own challenges. In addition to the extent of the initial disaster, many require the detailed, exhaustive evidentiary recovery and examination of a crime scene. The Jeffrey Dahmer case, although only involving 11 actual victims, required a major disaster response, and continues to influence and affect a community over 25 years later.