Pastor who baptized Jeffrey Dahmer surprised at first meeting

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By Mark Ellis –

 Jeffrey Dahmer became known as the Milwaukee Monster because of his notorious,

Jeffrey Dahmer mugshot taken by Milwaukee police in 1991

gruesome murder spree, killing 17 men between 1978 and 1991. The homosexual serial killer lured young men to his apartment (or grandmother’s home) after meeting them in gay bars and offering them money in exchange for posing nude.

He often drugged them by lacing their drinks with sedatives, then strangled them or bludgeoned them to death while incapacitated. But what caused his infamy was his necrophilia, and further dismemberment of the bodies, preserving parts in his refrigerator and freezer, and later consuming them – earning his other moniker: the Milwaukee Cannibal.

On the day he was arrested, he had been playing The Exorcist III during an attempted murder gone awry. (He later confessed he often watched the movie before selecting his victims) In his apartment, officers found four severed heads in the kitchen and a torso in the freezer, seven skulls elsewhere in the apartment, two complete skeletons, and other body parts in various stages of decomposition or preservation.

In trials that took place in Wisconsin and Ohio, Dahmer was judged to be sane at the time of the murders and sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment. The death penalty was not an option because Wisconsin had abolished capital punishment.

Dahmer’s father became a strong Christian later in life, along with Jeffrey’s brother, and Dahmer himself attended church with his parents until he was four or five-years-old, but the family stopped attending due to marital discord.

In 1993, Stone Philips interviewed Dahmer in prison for the program Dateline. “He pressed Jeff as to why he committed his crimes and Jeff said he had these evil urges. He couldn’t control himself,” Pastor Roy Ratcliff recounted to God Reports. Pastor Roy baptized Dahmer in prison and met with him weekly in the ensuing months, establishing an unusual friendship.

screenshot of Dahmer in interview with Stone Philips

“Jeff, when he committed his crimes claimed he was an atheist and an evolutionist. And his father, who was a devout Christian argued with him quite a bit on that subject, and never could quite get an answer. And younger brother, David, when he went to college, he got in involved in church and became a Christian,” Pastor Roy notes.

Two other pastors who watched the Stone Philips interview decided to send Bible correspondence courses to Dahmer. Dahmer’s father, Lionel, also sent his son creationist material supplied by the Institute for Creation Research.

“Jeff would later on say that (creationist) material is what changed his mind,” Pastor Roy says. After Dahmer finished his Bible correspondence courses, he wrote back to the two pastors and asked them to find someone to baptize him.

They reached a pastor in Milwaukee, but he was too busy to meet with Dahmer.

“He (the Milwaukee pastor) called me and said, ‘There’s a prisoner who wants to be baptized. Would you go baptize him?’

“Okay; I’ve never done a baptism in prison,” Roy replied. “But sure, what’s the prisoners name?”

“Do you want to sit down for this? His name is Jeffrey Dahmer.”

When Pastor Roy recovered from the shock, he agreed to meet with Dahmer, because he lived relatively close to the prison, about 45-minutes away.

“I had never been to a prison before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect,” he says.

First meeting with Jeffrey Dahmer

He didn’t know if he would speak to Dahmer through a glass partition or by phone. “I was quite surprised when they escorted me to a room about 10 by 12 feet square with table and chairs and I sat down. And after a few minutes, Jeff shows up, closes the door, shakes my hand, and sits across from me.

“I’m alone in a room with the guy that’s murdered other people. There’s a moment I had a little bit of a panic there. But then, I thought well, what am I here for? I’m here to talk about his baptism.”

Pastor Roy began by asking Dahmer why he wanted to be baptized. “He started quoting to me Scriptures that I was very familiar with that talk about baptism. I was surprised that he knew the Scriptures because I really didn’t know what his background was at all. It became pretty clear to me that he had a pretty good understanding of what baptism was all about. It sounded like he understands this has to do with salvation.”

“Do you have any kind of religious background?” Pastor Roy asked Dahmer.

Pastor Roy received a huge surprise with his answer. “It was a big shock because his religious background was the same as mine. He family comes from the same church denomination that I was a part of, the ‘a capella’ Church of Christ.”

Distinctives of the Church of Christ include the necessity of baptism for salvation and the prohibition of instruments in worship. The practice of a cappella singing is the norm in worship, based on their interpretation of Ephesians 5:19.

When Pastor Roy discovered Dahmer stopped attending church when he was four or five-years-old, he couldn’t help but wonder if Dahmer’s tragic life would have been different if the family maintained their church involvement.

Later, Pastor Roy met Dahmer’s father, Lionel and learned about the family during Dahmer’s childhood. “His going to church with Jeff made her (Jeff’s mother Joyce) feel guilty. And so she was arguing about it with Lionel bitterly, and Lionel doesn’t handle confrontations very well. So his conclusion was okay, to avoid the (arguments) I’ll just quit going to church altogether. Period. And that’s pretty much why he quit going to church.”

Lionel sat next to his son during the Stone Philips interview

Since Pastor Roy equates baptism with being born-again, he stated that Dahmer was not born again until his baptism. “We attribute baptism to a born-again experience,” he explained. “When I met with him, he was hoping to be baptized, hoping to have his sins washed away. That was the language he used. It was one of the Scriptures He quoted to me. He was looking to get rid of the spiritual guilt, not the guilt the state put upon him.”

“How was he going to face God having done the things he’s done? The only way he could do that was to say, ‘Okay, I repented. I’m sorry. And I believe on Jesus now.’”

Pastor Roy likes a Max Lucado story about a girl who asks the question, “Is Heaven for little girls like me?”

“Jeff dared to ask the question, ‘Is Heaven for little boys like me?’ And the point I’ve amazed with is that many people are angry that I dared to ask the question.

“As we know God, we know the answer is going to be yes, if you will believe on Jesus, Heaven is for little boys like you. And that summarizes the whole story of Jeffrey Dahmer right there. If you will believe that, then your sins will be taken away and God will save you.”

Pastor Roy is convinced there was genuine repentance in Dahmer and that he turned to Jesus as his Lord and Savior. “There’s no question in my mind about that,” he contends.

He likens scoffers who have trouble believing Dahmer was saved to the older brother in the prodigal son story. “They’re incapable of comprehending a remorse or repentance on his part, because they would not have repented themselves.

“We tend to limit grace in our own minds. We say well, how big is the sin? Oh, that’s too big. There’s not enough grace to cover that sin. Sorry, you don’t understand what grace is all about. If you think that, you just don’t understand that the heart of God is bigger than we can even imagine. So it doesn’t really matter how big or how gross or how horrible the sin is. God has a heart to forgive. And that’s what we’re counting on.”

Pastor Roy estimates his initial meeting with Dahmer lasted 30-45 minutes. He made arrangements for him to be baptized in a whirlpool tub used by prisoners with back injuries.

The Baptism

On the day of the baptism, May 10th, 1994, Pastor Roy arrived and found the chaplain’s wife had produced a polyester white garment Dahmer could wear instead of his prison attire.

“We met together and I asked for his confession, and he was glad to confess, He’s confessed several times, but no one ever believed him before. He confessed in Jesus.”

Pastor Roy is uncertain why the prison chaplain, a Lutheran, did not want to baptize Dahmer. He speculates it may have something to do with his tradition, which involves sprinkling rather than immersion.

“The chaplain and two guards escorted Jeff and myself from where we met in the chaplain’s office to a medical area where they had this tub. Jeff and one of the officers went inside, where Jeff changed his clothes.”

Then Pastor Roy received another surprise. “I walked inside and Jeff had already climbed into the tub, and all that was sticking up out of the water was his head.”

Pastor Roy approached the former serial killer and said, “Based on Acts 28. I baptized you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Then he pushed Dahmer’s head under the water.

When his head came back up, Pastor Roy announced: “Welcome to the family of God!”

“Oh, thank you, thank you. I appreciate that,” Dahmer gushed, as he got out of the water.

Later, Dahmer questioned Pastor Roy about whether he should have baptized him in the name of Jesus alone. They argued a bit about it, but Dahmer backed off.

“I just wanted to be sure you did it right,” Dahmer told him, “Because I did everything wrong in my life before this. I want to make sure things are right this time.”

Weekly meetings

Pastor Roy received permission from the chaplain to begin meeting with Dahmer every Wednesday for an hour, “because he’s just a newborn basically, and he doesn’t know anything about his faith.”

Against the advice of other prison ministries, Pastor Roy encouraged Dahmer to attend worship services in the prison. “I said, ‘Yes, I think you should meet with them, because you need to show them your faith, and you need to experience their faith as much as you possibly can.”

In the two men’s initial weekly meetings, Pastor Roy fielded questions from Dahmer about the correct version of the Bible (Dahmer favored the King James; Roy the NIV), how often to observe communion, the use of musical instruments in worship, and Dahmer’s concerns about Bible prophecies, particularly related to the book of Daniel.

Dahmer wanted to study Revelation, but Pastor Roy convinced him they should begin with Hebrews before diving into Revelation.

“I remember in the book of Hebrews that we got into a chapter talking about the deceitfulness of sin. He never talked about his crimes, but occasionally, a little window would open.”

As they discussed the delusionary power of sin, Dahmer told him, “I felt that when I was committing my crimes as if I could hide the evidence from myself. I didn’t have to think about it, and I could live my normal life.”

In Pastor Roy’s mind, this helped establish Dahmer’s sanity at the time of the killings. “He knew what he was doing was wrong. But as long as he hid it from himself, he didn’t have to think about it.”

Pastor Roy and Jeffrey Dahmer had been studying Revelation, the chapter about the abyss opening, when Dahmer was bludgeoned to death with a metal bar by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver.

Scarver was serving a life sentence for murder himself. After Scarver returned to his cell after killing Dahmer in the shower, he informed a prison guard: “God told me to do it.”

Grappling for answers

Pastor Roy’s discipleship training was relatively brief. “My whole relationship with him was

Thanksgiving card

about seven months from the time I was baptized till he was murdered in November. In fact, the last time that I saw him was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day, and he gave me a Thanksgiving card. underlining how thankful he was that I was his friend. And that’s a treasured piece of property for me, that he thought of me as his friend, because I was there to talk with him.

“I don’t think Jeff had any real friends other than me,” he adds.

After Pastor Roy began meeting with Dahmer, people asked him if he knew why Dahmer committed his crimes. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he would reply, “but all I can say is when there’s no place for God in your heart, there’s no limit to the evil that you can do.

“There’s a path that if you start walking down it, the further you go down that path, there’s just no limit to how far you can go. Because there’s no belief in God that stops you and says do not do that, stay away from that.”

In Pastor Roy’s opinion, one of the underlying issues in Dahmer’s life was abandonment. “Abandonment was a big part of the whole thing, with his parents not being able to connect with each other and they weren’t able to connect with him either.”

In Lionel’s book, he makes the case that he was deceived by his son. But Pastor Roy believes Lionel missed the point. “As Lionel tells the story in his book, Jeff got into alcoholism very early in life. He got into homosexuality, which Lionel doesn’t address much in his book, but the drunkenness became a problem.

“When Jeff gets out of high school. Lionel then commands Jeff to go to the University of Ohio. So Jeff goes to the University of Ohio, where he continues the drinking until he flunks out of school because of drunkenness, so Lionel says now you gotta go in the army, so he goes in the army and he gets dishonorably discharged because of his drinking.

“Lionel handled every problem by shipping Jeff away.”

“Jeff had no real friendship with anyone, no one he was close to,” he continues. “No one cared about him. And so he just goes deeper and deeper (into sin).

“We all lose our minds from time to time. And when we’ve lost our mind, we don’t know that we’ve lost our mind. We think we’re thinking clearly, we think we’re thinking rationally. And we don’t realize we lost our mind until we start asking ourselves, why did I do that?

“The prodigal son came to his senses after he was embarrassed, he sensed something was wrong. You have another story of a demon possessed man who once the demons are cast out, people come and see him and he’s in his right mind. Now he acts differently. He lost his mind and now he’s come back to it.

“I think Jeff lost his mind. But I think he started walking into sin and sin took hold of him. And there’s a power in that James passage when the power of evil is greater than our power to resist. He had urges, he couldn’t control the urges.”

Pastor Roy discounts the idea that demonic possession was involved in Dahmer’s life. “I have no real understanding of that. I know that in the biblical times there was demon possession. And there are some people that claim that it’s still here. But I didn’t see any of that in Jeff. I don’t think he sensed that there were demons or anything. It was just an evil power they got a hold of him. And he didn’t know how to deal with it. And when he came to faith, that was overcome.”

Pastor Roy, 76, is currently working as a janitor. When he was 68, his elders met with him

Pastor Roy Ratcliff

and asked him to retire. 

“I’m not ready to retire,” he told them.

“Well, you’re gonna be retired at the end of the year, whether you’re ready or not.”

He faced an unexpected transition. “It was evident they thought I wasn’t attracting enough young people to the church. And they thought a younger person would attract more young people. They were fearful of the church getting grayer and blaming me. That’s my guess.”

Financially, he had not planned to retire that soon. “I had to go find something else to do then. So I searched around and finally found a job as a janitor. So that’s what I do, so I can still eat and feed my family and pay my bills. 

“Where I work now you can retire after 20 years. I’ve got eight years in so far. So, if I can last another 12 years (to age 88), I’ll have an official retirement.”

Jeffrey Dahmer’s father, Lionel, passed away December 5, 2023. “When I was meeting with Lionel, we were dealing with planning Jeff’s memorial service because of his murder. Lionel had not come back to church, because Jeff’s younger brother was telling him to go back to church.

“There was a moment he (Lionel) said, ‘Wow, I really messed up quitting my faith a long time ago. And so one of the things he said at the service was don’t give up on your faith, because that was the lesson he learned out of the whole thing.

“Faith has an effect on the rest of your family. Faith is contagious. We absorb faith from other people. And we believe because they believe. It’s sort of a borrowed faith at first. But eventually, if you keep at it, it becomes your own faith and becomes genuine, very real for you. For many people, that’s how it starts.”

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. It seems to me that this pastor is wrong about Jeffrey having demons. He seems to think this sort of thing was only during Bible times, like the cessationists who think healing and the things of the Spirit ceased after the time of the apostles. Another thing that strikes me is that nothing is said about Jeffrey having been sexually abused as a young person. For someone to turn out as he did, it’s most likely that he was molested as a child. I’m not saying that is the case, just that it’s very likely.

  2. God bless him for being the friend that Jeff needed, but seriously, if he doesn’t believe demons were involved in what Jeff did – what has to happen before he DOES believe it!! Even Jeff said, he felt out of control when doing those things, and although I’m not one who sees demons in every situation, I’ve done enough deliverances through the power of Jesus’ Name in different people, to say unequivocally that Jeff had allowed himself to cross a barrier, where many wicked spirits inhabited him.
    As a recipient of much grace and mercy myself for past sins, some of which were terrible and brought me to the edge of hell, I can only bow my head in awe at our mighty Saviour who saved Jeff – and me.
    “He who knew NO sin became sin for us, that we through Him, might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21
    He willingly took Jeff’s sins upon Himself – knowing them all – so that Jeff coukd be saved.
    “Through his knowledge (of our sins,) My righteous servant justified many!” Isaiah 53
    Jesus is God in flesh!
    The only God.
    The man who bludgeoned him to death was told by the devil to kill Jeff – not God.

    Thank you “God Reports” for this story of much grace.

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