Netflix’s new limited series Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story shines a light on the grisly crimes of one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men before he was arrested in Milwaukee in 1991. His grim reign of terror might have been stopped sooner if police had listened to the warnings of his neighbor, Glenda Cleveland.
[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.]
Niecy Nash plays Jeffrey’s Dahmer’s neighbor in ‘Dahmer – Monster’
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Dahmer – Monster comes to Netflix from creator Ryan Murphy. It’s a look at Dahmer (played by Evan Peters) and his unsettling crimes, as well as his many victims. The show also draws attention to Glenda Cleveland, a woman who tried to warn the police that something was not right with her neighbor.
The series opens shortly before Dahmer’s arrest in July 1991. Cleveland, played by Niecy Nash, hears some strange sounds coming from her neighbor Jeffrey’s apartment. Moments later, she confronts him in the hallway. She complains about a terrible smell coming from his unit. He blames it on rotten meat and his dead tropical fish. Later, when Dahmer is arrested following a failed attempt to kill a man named Tracy Edwards, Cleveland berates police officers.
“I called y’all,” she says. “And I told you over and over a million times that something was going on and you know what you did? Y’all did nothing.”
Nash’s character is based on a real person who attempted to warn the police about Dahmer. Episode 7, “Cassandra,” highlights an incident from May 1991, when Cleveland’s daughter and niece discovered a drugged and disoriented Konerak Sinthasomphone outside the Oxford Apartments where Dahmer lived. They called the police, but officers returned the 14-year-old to Dahmer. They believed the killer’s story that the boy was his 19-year-old lover.
In that episode, Cleveland also approaches the building manager with her concerns about a missing neighbor. She also complains about terrible smells emanating from Dahmer’s apartment. Dahmer is threatened with eviction, and he approaches Cleveland to try to get her to take back the complaint. He brings her a sandwich, which he says is made of pulled pork. She refuses to eat it.
Cleveland is also shown meeting with Reverend Jesse Jackson (Nigel Gibbs). The two discuss her repeated calls to the police about Dahmer and their refusal to listen to her concerns. (Many of Dahmer’s victims were Black, and some family members argued that if the race of perpetrator and victim had been reversed, Dahmer would have been caught much sooner, noted a 1992 report from the Associated Press.)
The real Glenda Cleveland did not live in the Oxford Apartments
Cleveland was a real person who contacted the police about Dahmer. Specifically, she reached out repeatedly after her daughter and her niece’s troubling encounter with the killer and Sinthasomphone, including after she spotted a photo of a missing child in a newspaper and realized it was the same boy. She even called the FBI with her concerns, according to a 2011 article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. But she was ignored. Dahmer went on to kill five more men before he was finally caught. She also met with Jesse Jackson after Dahmer’s crimes were discovered.
However, the Netflix series changes a number of aspects of Cleveland’s story. Notably, she did not live in the apartment next to Dahmer, or even in the same building, according to the Journal-Sentinel. Instead, she lived in a building next door to the Oxford Apartments. Several incidents seen in Monster – Dahmer are fictionalized or perhaps inspired by the killer’s encounters with his other neighbors, who did complain about odors and say they heard screams.
According to the paper, some aspects of Cleveland’s story may have been merged with that of Pamela Bass, a neighbor who lived in Dahmer’s building. That includes the scene where Dahmer visits Cleveland and offers her a suspicious sandwich. Bass said in the 2013 documentary The Jeffrey Dahmer Files that he would make his neighbors sandwiches.
“If someone asked you to write a horror story, this would be some of the stuff you would write,” she says in a trailer for the film (via YouTube).
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