It was shortly after midnight in 1991 when Cola Styles and her cousin were outside the family’s Milwaukee apartment and they saw a dazed and injured naked boy.
The child was Konerak Sinthasomphone, a member of a Laotian family who, 10 years ago, fled their country in hopes of achieving the American Dream. However, no one could have anticipated the horrific nightmare that awaited them.
Styles, who for decades was reluctant in sharing her story, is coming forward in a new documentary titled “Jeffrey Dahmer: Mind of a Monster.” The Investigation Discovery (ID) special is part of “ID Presents: Nine at 9,” which offers new shows running nightly at 9 p.m. on the true-crime network.
Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer and cannibal whose gruesome crimes continue to shock the world since his 1991 arrest, was bludgeoned to death by a fellow inmate at age 34 in 1994. At the time, Dahmer was in a Wisconsin prison where he was serving 15 consecutive life sentences.
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Sinthasomphone was one of Dahmer’s victims. In 1989, Dahmer was convicted of second-degree sexual assault for fondling Sinthasomphone’s brother, who was 13 at the time.
According to court records, Dahmer offered the child $50 to pose nude for photos at his home. The former candy factory worker was freed after spending 10 months in jail and was placed on five years of probation.
Dahmer insisted he would become a productive member of society upon his release and avoid committing any more “deplorable” crimes.
“I could tell [Konerak] was injured,” Styles, who was 17 at the time, recalled to Fox News. “At first I thought it was a gang initiation. It was clear that he needed help. He couldn’t stand and was very lethargic. There were cuts and scrapes all over his body. Then I saw a thin stream of blood running down his thighs. When he saw me, it was like a prayer had been answered. He looked at me as if I knew him. He came and reached out to me like a child and fell. I held on to him on the ground.”
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“I tried talking to him but he couldn’t respond,” Styles continued. “But he had a look in his eyes like he was thankful. I kept wiping his head because he was sweating so much. I didn’t know if it was from drugs or what exactly. But I kept saying it was all going to be OK. I don’t know what came over me, but nothing held me back in caressing and comforting him at that moment.”
As the women called police, Styles said they noticed a man who approached them, insisting there was no need. He said the boy’s name was Jim, a houseguest, who was drunk.
Styles said she didn’t buy it.
“When I told him we dialed 911, he joked that Jim had wandered off from being drunk,” she said. “But then the name kept changing from Jim. And when he saw I wasn’t buying it, I did see a streak of evil in him. And then he was handling the boy in a rough way, trying to take him away. There was a lot of yanking and twisting his arm, just being really aggressive.”
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According to Styles, she struggled with Dahmer, who was trying to snatch the boy away from her.
“I just couldn’t understand why he was giving me such a hard time knowing help was on the way,” she said. “I just didn’t have a good feeling. And at that point, he was telling me to mind my business. He kept saying, ‘This has nothing to do with you. This is my friend.’ And when I kept asking for his friend’s name, the answer would change.”
When police finally arrived, Dahmer told them that Sinthasomphone was 19 years old and a lover who had too much to drink. Sinthasomphone was actually 14.
They believed him.
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When Styles and her cousin tried to tell the officers Sinthasomphone was actually in trouble, she claimed they refused to listen. According to the New York Times, the officers went with Dahmer to his apartment nearby with Sinthasomphone. Styles never saw the child again.
The women quickly told Styles’ aunt about the encounter, the Chicago Tribune reported. When the matriarch called the station to check in on the boy, police said it was nothing more than a lover’s quarrel.
According to the outlet, when Styles’ aunt read in the newspaper that Sinthasomphone was reported missing days later, she called police again. They told her someone would contact her. But, according to the family, no one ever did.
Dahmer met most of his victims at bus stops, bars, malls and adult bookstores in Chicago and Milwaukee, the New York Times reported. He would lure them to his home with promises of beer or money in exchange for posing nude.
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Dahmer would then spike their drinks, strangle and stab them while they were unconscious, the outlet noted. He would go on to consume some of their remains and store the parts of several others in his refrigerator and various containers.
The murderer was finally arrested in 1991 after one victim broke free and ran into the street with handcuffs still dangling from his wrist.
Dahmer later described how, after drugging some of his victims, he would drill a tiny hole in their skulls and inject hydrochloric acid to induce a “zombie-like state.” The killer testified he had already injected diluted acid into Sinthasomphone’s skull when he was discovered wandering naked in a daze.
Dahmer also revealed that after officers left his home on that fateful day, he gave the youth another injection – one that would kill him.
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In 1993, Sinthasomphone’s family sued the city and three police officers, including two who were fired over the incident. The third cop, a rookie, was put on probation.
Styles said Sinthasomphone’s death left her “completely messed up.”
“All the police had to do was listen to me,” she said nearly in tears. “I did what you’re supposed to do, which is to help someone in need. I was devastated by what happened to Konerak. He had made it out. He had his freedom. I wrote [Dahmer] a letter, but I’m not sure if he ever got it. And when he died, I didn’t feel anything. But I was angry with the police – just literally sick with them. For years, I felt like I failed.”
Today, Styles said she’s grateful cellphones now allow citizens to document incidents involving police, which can be instantly shared on social media — something that didn’t exist at the time. But the guilt still lingers.
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“I just feel like I could have done more,” she said. “If I could go back in time, I would have done things differently. I would have just put him in the car and drove to the nearest hospital. There is no victory here. I knew in my heart, he felt that he was going to make it, that everything would be OK. I just hope he isn’t forgotten.”
“Jeffrey Dahmer: Mind of a Monster” airs Monday, May 25 at 9 p.m. on ID. The Associated Press contributed to this report.