Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous Milwaukee Monster, was on probation for sexual molestation when he killed Konerak Sinthasomphone, which reportedly could have been prevented had the responding officers stayed longer outside his apartment.
Sinthasomphone’s gruesome murder was featured in the second episode of the Netflix limited-series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” which follows the life of the Milwaukee serial killer who took the lives of 17 men and boys.
Who was Konerak Sinthasomphone?
Sinthasomphone and his family fled Laos in March 1979 after the ruling communist party threatened to take away the family’s rice farm, Kongpheth Vonghasouk, Sounthone Sinthasomphone’s son-in-law, told The New York Times in July 1991.
The Sinthasomphone family spent a year living in a refugee camp in Thailand before immigrating to Wisconsin with the help of the Catholic archdiocese in Milwaukee. Having become accustomed to their new life in the United States, some older siblings found jobs as welders, machinists and assembly line workers to support the family.
Anouke Sinthasomphone told The New York Times that while their lives had not been easy, the family felt that moving to the U.S. provided them a better quality of life than they had in Laos.
Encounters with the Milwaukee Cannibal
The family first encountered Dahmer when the man approached Konerak’s older brother, Somsack Sinthasomphone, in September 1988, offering him money in exchange for nude pictures. The boy was only 13 when the first incident occurred.
Dahmer took the boy into his apartment, where he drugged and sexually abused him. Somsack managed to escape the man, which led to Dahmer’s arrest on Sept. 27, 1988. Dahmer pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault in January 1989.
In the Netflix documentary “Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” it was revealed that Dahmer claimed that he “had no knife” and had “no intention of injuring him.”
Although the documentary and other reports at the time did not name Somsack as the victim and only referred to him as Konerak’s older brother, the Netflix limited series identified him by his name. Somsack’s name reportedly appeared in the family’s lawsuit against Milwaukee in 1992.
Dahmer was initially sentenced to eight years in prison, but his sentence was cut short by State Judge William Gardner after he wrote a remorseful letter apologizing for his crime. He was released in early 1990 and put on five-year probation after serving one year in prison.
The nightmare would continue on May 27, 1991, when Dahmer made the same offer to the younger Sinthasomphone. It was reported that the killer was unaware of the two boys’ relationship, as revealed in the Netflix documentary.
After bringing him to his apartment, Dahmer reportedly drugged Sinthasomphone and proceeded to beat the boy, drilled a hole into his skull and poured hydrochloric acid into it. He also took pictures of the boy in the process.
Sinthasomphone managed to regain consciousness after Dahmer left the apartment to buy beer. After fleeing the apartment, the boy was spotted by neighbors Sandra Smith, Tina Spivey and Nicole Childress, who immediately notified the police.
Responding officers John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish arrived at the scene and found the boy bleeding, naked and heavily drugged. Speaking to the cops, Dahmer claimed that Konerak was his 19-year-old lover.
The authorities later escorted the two, with Sinthasomphone leaning over Dahmer’s shoulder, back to the latter’s apartment. The police were unaware that the body of another victim was still inside Dahmer’s apartment when they accompanied them back.
Dahmer killed Konerak about half an hour after the police left the apartment. Sinthasomphone’s body was among the 11 dismembered bodies found inside Dahmer’s apartment. He was Dahmer’s 13th victim.
Dahmer was eventually arrested in July 1991 and confessed to the 17 murders. He was sentenced to 15 life terms and died in a prison incident on Nov. 28, 1994.
The news of Sinthasomphone’s death reverberated among the community, igniting a protest and triggering an investigation into how the police officers handled the case.
Balcerzak and Gabrish were fired in December 1992 following a four-week hearing that involved interviewing 27 witnesses, listening to 90 hours of testimony and reviewing 1,000 pages of evidence, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The commission reportedly did not buy the officers’ argument that they were being sensitive to “a caring homosexual relationship” when Dahmer introduced Sinthasomphone to the police as “John Hmong.”
In the 52-page report, the commission noted how the two officers, highly regarded as “the iron men,” had violated police rules 15 times during their investigation into the case, which only lasted for 16 minutes.
Among the violations included how Balcerzak and Gabrish failed to perform a records check on Dahmer, verify the age, name and address of “John Hmong” and get a medical assessment of the victim’s physical condition. The two officers even reportedly waved off an emergency medical team.
The two officers were also accused of failing to evaluate the information provided by Glenda Cleveland, the mother of one of the women who called 911. She spoke to Balcerzak later that night and informed him that Sinthasomphone played with her children once as a child.
Although the Netflix series only showed two officers responding to the case, in reality, a third officer, identified as Richard Porubcan, later joined Balcerzak and Gabrish. Porubcan was only suspended following Sinthasomphone’s death.
A few years after the commission probe, Reserve Judge Robert Parins ruled that Balcerzak and Gabrish’s firing was too severe and instead reinstated the former officers into the force with a $55,000 back pay each.