Thomas M. Jacobson, the former Milwaukee attorney who represented eight of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims’ families and fought to prevent the serial killer from profiting from his murders, feels Ryan Murphy’s statements regarding funding a memorial is not only too little, too late for the emotional damage his Netflix series cost the families, but absolutely the wrong move.
“The memorial contribution for the Dahmer victims by Ryan Murphy seems likes an afterthought,” Jacobson told TheWrap. “Milwaukee wanted Dahmer memory to disappear so not wanting any remembrance of his mayhem in the community is a given.”
He offered the following alternative: “The only meaningful Dahmer victim family action on Murphy’s part would be a monetary consideration from the Netflix profits for their exploitation and continuing trauma.”
Murphy on Thursday claimed the production, Netflix’s highly viewed “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” had reached out to victims’ families and friends and got no response (though many family members have said no one tried contacting them about the series). He then went on to suggest he’d fund the building of a memorial in Milwaukee.
“Anything that we could do to get that to happen, you know, I would even be happy to pay for it myself,” Murphy said. “I think there should be something. And we’re trying to get a hold of people to talk about that. I think there’s some resistance because they think the park would attract people who are interested in paying homage to the macabre… but I think something should be done.”
After representing eight of the 11 victims’ families after Dahmer’s trial in 1992, Jacobson worked diligently to see that Dahmer or his estate never profited from his crimes and it’s appalling to him that Netflix and Murphy are profiting from the story while re-traumatizing the victims’ families.
“All my efforts on behalf of the Dahmer victim families were consistent with my belief that network TV series, books, movies, trading cards, comic books, action figures, any and all Dahmer victim exploitation commercially, all profits need to be shared with the victims and their families,” Jacobson told TheWrap in an email.
He added, “Netflix receives the gain, the Dahmer victim families the pain. This is not just, this is not fair, this is not right.”
Read Jacobson’s full letter to TheWrap below.
The message has been edited for style and clarity
I viewed the Netflix series, “Monster – The Jeffrey Dahmer Murders” and your reporting of the reaction to portions of the series by Dahmer victim family member Rita Isbell. I was the attorney for eight Dahmer victim families after the murders of their loved ones, including Rita Isbell’s family, receiving judgements on their behalf against Jeffrey Dahmer personally in excess of $80 million. Taking the serial murderer’s deposition at the Columbia Correctional Prison, limited to questioning him only about assets available to satisfy the judgements, I came away with three sources to obtain victim family compensation.
The first was my suggestion to Jeff to write and video record his first person story, assigning the victim families all rights thereto, and all sale proceeds therefrom, to be shared equally with each victim family. I obtained a minimum million-dollar contract from a book publisher and video recorder for these rights, which Jeff refused to sign.
Lionel Dahmer wrote “A Father’s story” receiving a $150,000 advance from William Morrow & Co. The forward to the book is dedicated to two named Dahmer victims and their families. Lionel stated: “I intend to donate a portion of the proceeds from this book to benefit victim families.” Exploiting the Dahmer victim families in this manner to curry favor for favorable book reviews and personal profit, Lionel Dahmer never contributed one dime from the book proceeds to any victim families. I sued Lionel on behalf of victim families for any book profits made from this unauthorized exploitation.
The second was the discovery that Dahmer received over $12,000 in monetary gifts from people around the world. This money was in his prison bank account, not just the 12 cents per hour received for his laundry work, the money used to purchase myriad personal items for himself. I garnisheed this Dahmer bank account numerous times, the money equally divided by the victim families.
The third was my suggestion to Jeff to turn over the rights to all his personal non-exempt assets to be sold and the proceeds shared equally with all the victim families. Refusing to do so voluntarily, I attached all Dahmer’s non-exempt assets from both his prison cell after his murder, and from Dahmer’s apartment, property seized by the Milwaukee police department after his arrest. After obtaining the rights to this Dahmer property, I announced the intention to hold a Jeffrey Dahmer auction to sell off all the items to the highest bidder.
Joe Zilber, a Milwaukee real estate philanthropist, contacted me to purchase all the property to destroy to avoid the need to have such a horrendous spectacle with unforeseen negative consequences. I demanded $1 million dollars, non-negotiable, for all the the items, eventually the victim families agreed to $407,225. Eleven victim families shared approximately $32,000 per family. My $85,000 legal fee was donated in equal shares to eight victim families, and over $28,000 to community-based charities, accepted in the memory of the victims of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. I did not take one cent of the settlement for my legal efforts.
All my efforts on behalf of the Dahmer victim families were consistent with my belief that Network TV series, books, movies. trading cards, comic books, action figures, any and all Dahmer victim exploitation commercially, all profits need to be shared with the victims and their families. I join Rita Isbell in her criticism of the Netflix Dahmer victim exploitation and call upon Netflix from their extremely commercially successful endeavor, to share a portion of the profits with the Dahmer victim families.
Netflix receives the gain, the Dahmer victim families the pain. This is not just, this is not fair, this is not right.
– Thomas M. Jacobson