Glenda Cleveland – How She Tried To Stop Jeffrey Dahmer

Glenda Cleveland was a neighbor to Jeffrey Dahmer and she tried to warn the police that the serial killer possibly had a hand in a young man's disappearance.

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

jeffrey dahmer glenda cleveland

Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story is the Ryan Murphy 10-episode Netflix series that tells the horrific story of Jeffrey Dahmer, played brilliantly by Evan Peters, the cannibalistic serial killer and sex offender who killed 17 boys and men between 1978 and 1991. The series not only delved into Dahmer’s horrific crimes, but his childhood and what led him down that brutal path. It also focused on how Dahmer was almost caught a number of times and how one neighbor, Glenda Cleveland, tried desperately to bring Dahmer to justice.


Most people know about Jeffrey Dahmer, with his life story being the focus of a number of TV movies and feature films as well as countless special reports, documentaries, and books. One name that is always brought up in each of these instances is Glenda Cleveland, the neighbor who almost brought him down. It wasn’t for her lack of trying.

Glenda Cleveland lived in an adjacent building to Dahmer’s apartment, unlike what was portrayed in the Netflix series. At the time of Dahmer’s reign of terror, Cleveland lived with her daughter, Sandra Smith. Dahmer was finally apprehended on July 22, 1991, but Cleveland remained in her apartment for 18 more years before moving a couple of blocks away.

What is known, is this: If the police in Milwaukee had taken Cleveland seriously, five lives could have been spared. As it was, Dahmer continued to kill for two months after Cleveland made her initial phone call to the police.

It happened on the night of May 27, 1991. Glenda Cleveland’s daughter Sandra and her cousin, Nicole Childress, both 18 at the time, were on the street together when they saw a boy staggering outside Dahmer’s apartment building. The boy was naked, bleeding from his buttocks, and trying to get away from Dahmer.

The boy was unable to speak, only able to mumble words the young ladies could not understand. “My cousin stopped him [Dahmer] and said, ‘Stay away from that boy.’ There was a confrontation, and my cousin said she was going to call the police,” Smith described the scene at the time. “He said, ‘The police don’t need to be involved. This is my friend.'”

Glenda Cleveland’s daughter wasn’t having any of it, so she stood with the boy while her cousin went and called the police. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well when the police arrived. “We tried to give the policemen our names, but he just told us to butt out,” Smith said. “I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want our names. I said, ‘What are you going to do about this? This is a boy.'”

The police, though, were not interested in what Sandra or Nicole had to say. Instead, they listened to Dahmer, who explained to the officers that the “boy” was actually 19 years old and that they were boyfriends. He explained that the two lived together.

Despite the pleas from Sandra and Nicole, the police were “listening to Jeff: he wasn’t listening to me,” Childress said. “He wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. He told us to get lost or he would take us downtown.”

So, the teens finally made it back to Glenda Cleveland’s apartment, distraught. After listening to her daughter’s story, Cleveland waited an hour before calling police headquarters. It took some time, but she was finally able to talk to one of the officers who had responded to the call.

Glenda Cleveland was told that the victim was not a child, that he was an adult, and that what her daughter and niece saw was a domestic argument between two homosexuals. The teens didn’t buy the story and neither did Glenda Cleveland. “Are you sure?” is what Cleveland kept asking the officer, who kept trying to reassure her that he was.

That young boy was actually 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone. The police gave him a blanket, then escorted Dahmer and Sinthasomphone back to Dahmer’s apartment. In an effort to prove to the police that he and Sinthasomphone were lovers, Dahmer provided them with pictures he took earlier of the two with little clothing on.

The officers did note that there was a strange odor coming from the apartment but didn’t conduct any further searching of the apartment. The young man, Sinthasomphone lost his life that night. Four more young men would also lose their lives before Dahmer was brought to justice.

The incident didn’t end for Glenda Cleveland that night. A few days later, she saw Sinthasomphone’s picture in the newspaper, which included an article about the young teenager’s disappearance. She tried calling the police who she spoke to initially, but they never called her back.

She tried calling them again, but she got the same results. Then she decided if the police weren’t going to do anything or at least call her back, she would have to try a different way – she called the FBI. Sadly, she got nowhere with them either.

It took Dahmer’s arrest for Glenda Cleveland to finally get some recognition, though it was too little too late. The Reverend Jesse Jackson even visited Cleveland’s town to meet with her. “Police chose the word of a killer over an innocent woman,” he said.

glenda cleveland niecy nash

The role of Glenda Cleveland was played by Niecy Nash. She appeared in seven of the 10 episodes and said via her Instagram that “Dahmer was my most challenging job to date …. Had to lean into my joy HARD during the filming process. Thank you Evan.”


Sadly, Glenda Cleveland lost her life in 2011 at the young age of 56. Per her obituary, Cleveland suffered from heart disease and high blood pressure. Before passing away, Cleveland was honored numerous times for trying to do what was right.

The Common Council and County Board honored Glenda Cleveland formally with then-Mayor John Norquist calling her a model citizen. Local women’s groups gave her awards and, believe it or not, she was also given an award by the Milwaukee Police Department. If only they had listened.


Jeffrey Dahmer’s story and Glenda Cleveland’s attempt to help capture him will not be the last time Monster will be heard from. Although Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story was meant to be a one-time series on Netflix, the streamer recently announced that Monster was renewed as a Ryan Murphy anthology series. Two more editions will be produced by Netflix, though they have yet to announce which “monstrous figures” they will focus on next.