Earlier this year there were reports of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home being put up for sale. Located in the quiet township of Bath near Akron, Ohio, this 3 bed 2½ bath 2,170-square foot single-family home was bought by Dahmer’s parents in 1968, when the erstwhile serial killer was 8 years old. The property comes with a 1.5 acre private wooded lot.
A large part of the home’s notoriety comes from the fact that it is the site of Dahmer’s first murder. In 1978 an 18 year old Dahmer killed and dismembered hitchhiker Steven Hicks and buried him in the woods surrounding the house. Even before this there were reports of a young Dahmer dissecting dead animal he found in the woods around his home.
Dahmer went on to kill 16 more people, all young men of various ethnicities, in and around Milwaukee before being caught in a botched attempt to kill his latest victim in 1991. Anyone old enough to remember the trial will recall it being a major media circus at the time. The horrifying details of Dahmer’s crimes were described in grisly detail by the news media – gory tidbits of acid-filled vats of corpses, a shrine of severed heads, cannibalism, necrophilia and attempted zombification of victims were breathlessly reported to a voracious public.
Dahmer’s trial lasted just two weeks, a surprisingly short time for such a high profile case. Milwaukee’s most famous cannibal was found guilty of 15 counts of murder and sentenced to 957 years in prison – the maximum possible penalty in Wisconsin, a state with no death penalty. Dahmer’s story ends in 1994 at the maximum security Columbia Correctional Institution, when he and another prisoner were bludgeoned to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver.
As far as real-estate properties go, Dahmer’s childhood home isn’t a bad prospect for someone looking for outdoorsy country-style living in a secluded corner of Northern Ohio. Built in 1952, the ranch-style house was featured in a 1953 issue of Akron’s Beacon Journal for its modern (at the time) open-layout design that included floor-to-ceiling window views of the surrounding lush woodland.
The home’s last owner, musician Chris Butler, was something of a minor celebrity in his own right. Butler was the lead guitarist and songwriter for the 80s new-wave band The Waitresses, and penned the group’s 1982 hit “I Know What Boys Like.” Butler bought the property in 2005, attracted by its low price and its remoteness which made it the ideal place for his band to practice their music without disturbing the neighbors. In a 2009 interview with NPR’s All Things Considered, Butler states that he was initially unaware of the home’s grisly reputation, until he was informed of it by his realtor.
How This Affects You
Butler’s experience brings up a good question: is your real estate agent legally obligated to tell you of a home’s “questionable” past? It varies from state to state. Luckily California has one of the strongest real-estate disclosure laws in the nation, requiring sellers to inform potential buyers of “anything material” that could affect a property’s value. According to NOLO this can mean anything from leaky roofs, deaths that occurred in the past three years, barking dogs in the neighborhood, potential hazards from floods, earthquakes, fires, other environmental hazards and even if there are registered sex offenders living nearby.
For a detailed look into California’s real estate, you can download the “Disclosures in Real Property Transactions” PDF file from the California Department of Real Estate.
Educate yourself about real estate disclosure laws in your area, so you don’t end up like the Colorado couple who unwittingly bought the 5-acre property where convicted serial killer Scott Lee Kimball lived and murdered at least four of his victims.
On the Plus Side…
Buying homes with questionable or distasteful pasts does have one advantage though; they are usually much cheaper than comparable properties in the same neighborhood! Here are some properties that have sold for a lot less due to their notoriety:
The Los Angeles townhouse where O.J. Simpson allegedly killed his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman sold for a mere $590,000 in 1996, two years after the fatal stabbings. The sale price was $200,000 less than the asking price. The 3,700 square-foot four bedroom 3½ bath house underwent extensive remodeling and was sold again for a little under $1.7 million in 2006 – still an incredible bargain compared to other homes in the area.
The infamous Amityville horror house, where Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his parents and four siblings inspired a bestselling book and several movies. The five bedroom, 3½ bath Dutch Colonial home was on the market for as much as $1.2 million in November 2008. The house sold, according to Zillow, for $950,000 in late 2010. Fans of the Amityville movies will be disappointed to learn that the home’s iconic arched windows have long been replaced.
At the time of posting this article, the Dahmer family home remains unsold at $329,000 – a great bargain for the right buyer?
Jeffrey Dahmer’s Childhood Home and How it Affects You