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Who were Jeffrey Dahmer’s family? What Joyce, Lionel and David Dahmer knew about his horrific crimes

His mother claimed he was 'not a monster', but his brother changed his name to escape the serial killer's legacy.
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Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was the American serial killer at the heart of the new and highly controversial Netflix series Dahmer, but what do we know about his family?

The show has drawn criticism from the families of some of Dahmer’s 17 victims, with critics also slamming the series for dramatizing the already gruesome murders.

But the killer’s two living family members, father Lionel and brother David, have remained silent about the shocking show, where actor Evan Peters portrays their violent relative.

David has changed his name in a bid to live apart from his brother’s brutal legacy, while Lionel has struggled to come to terms with his son’s crimes and Jeffrey’s mother, Joyce, died in 2000.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Jeffrey Dahmer’s immediate family.

Who is Jeffrey Dahmer’s mother, Joyce Dahmer?

Joyce Annette Dahmer spoke about her son’s killings to the press before her death.

(Image: Hard Copy/YouTube)

Jeffrey Dahmer was born May 21, 1960 to Joyce Annette Dahmer, a teletype machine instructor who would go on to have one other child, another son named David.

Joyce struggled with addiction and mental health issues during Jeffrey’s childhood, her husband Lionel claiming in his memoir that she was dependent on prescription drugs.

She attempted suicide once during Jeffrey’s childhood and in 1977 she and Jeffrey’s father Lionel divorced after he discovered an affair.

Her history of mental illness also made the news of Jeffrey’s crimes even harder to bear when they came to light in 1991, and she attempted suicide again.

WATCH: Jeffrey Dahmer speaks about his arrest. Story continues after video.

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Joyce survived and later said she was grateful her attempt was unsuccessful, even going on to defend her son.

“I know this sounds strange but he did not mean to hurt anyone. I still love my son. I never stopped loving my son. Jeff was a victim of a compulsion. An obsession,” she told Hard Copy.

“He’s not a monster. He’s a human being and I think he deserves some help.”

She wanted Jeffrey’s brain to be donated for scientific studies after his death in prison in 1994, as she believed there may have been a biological cause for his crimes. She did not succeed.

Joyce died on November 27, 2000 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 64 years old.

Who is Jeffrey Dahmer’s father, Lionel Dahmer?

Lionel Herbert Dahmer was studying chemistry when Jeffrey was born.

(Image: Getty)

Lionel Herbert Dahmer is a research chemist who was studying chemistry at Marquette University when his first son, Jeffrey, was born in 1960.

His studies often kept him away from the home and when he did spend time with his family, much of it was dedicated to wife Joyce and managing her mental illnesses.

In a 2020 documentary Lionel claimed he “had a very close relationship” with Jeffrey, however other sources suggest the boy felt neglected by his parents.

Lionel and Joyce divorced in 1977 and he later met and married Shari Dahmer, who became Jeffrey’s stepmother.

Lionel at his son’s trial with his second wife, Shari.

(Image: Getty)

Though he noticed his son had an “odd” interest in animal bones as a child and a drinking problem in his teen years, it wasn’t until 1991 that Lionel learned of his crimes.

In the years after Jeffrey’s trial and conviction, Lionel would go on to write a memoir and regularly speak to the press about his son.

In 1994 he told Oprah Winfrey that he often wondered why his son became a killer and “considered all kinds of things”, including medication he claimed Joyce took while pregnant.

“My ex-wife had been taking about 26 tablets of different medications about one month after becoming pregnant,” he said in another interview with CBS Inside Edition.

WATCH: Jeffrey Dahmer speaks about his killings. Story continues after video.

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That same year he published his book A Father’s Story, delving into his complicated relationship with his son and warring feelings about his crimes.

He visited his son in prison until his death in 1994, when Lionel said: “When I found out that Jeff was murdered, it was just devastating. It affected me very gravely.”

Lionel continued to speak to the press about his son after his death and gave a recent interview in 2020, though he hasn’t addressed the new Netflix series.

It’s understood that he’s still married to Shari and lives in Ohio.

Who is Jeffrey Dahmer’s brother, David Dahmer?

Jeffrey Dahmer (pictured) had a younger brother, but he changed his name.

(Image: Getty)

Jeffrey Dahmer had a younger brother named David, though little is known about his life today as he has worked hard to distance himself from his brother’s horrific legacy.

Born in 1966, David’s name was actually chosen by his older brother, though Jeffrey reportedly came to “resent” his young brother, who he felt got more from their parents.

David moved out with Joyce when their parents divorced while Jeffrey, who was 18, lived with his father and then grandmother and used alcohol to cope.

The split meant that David grew up away from his brother and his crimes and had even completed his university studies by the time Jeffrey was arrested in 1991.

WATCH: Dahmer family’s home video footage. Story continues after video.

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Wanting to “cut all ties” with his brother, David did not attend Jeffrey’s trial and later changed his name from Dahmer, though his new name was not made public.

“He’s very happy,” stepmother Shari told Larry King of David in 2004, though not much else is known about his life today.

It’s believed that David is married, with a career and at least two children, per Women’s Health.

Who is Shari Dahmer?

Shari Dahmer (right) with Lionel. She was his second wife and stepmother to Jeffrey.

(Image: Getty)

Shari Dahmer was Lionel’s second wife and stepmother to Jeffrey and David. She had a limited relationship with Jeffrey but said she worried about his drinking.

“What I wanted to do, and what most people wanted to do, was mother him,” she said in a 2017 documentary of the first time she met him.

“He was just vulnerable. Even if I wasn’t his stepmother all his life, as a mother you sense those things.”

Shari said she never had any inkling that her stepson was a murderer but said in a 2004 TV interview that “no one allows us to forget about” their link to the serial killer.

Shari is believed to still be married to Lionel today and living with him in Ohio.

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