Anne E. Schwartz has worn a lot of hats during her career. Some in Milwaukee remember her as the face of the Milwaukee Police Department, where she served for eight years as their public information officer. Others know her from her government work as communications director for then Attorney General Brad Schemmel, or from her current gig as a consultant with the State Department, providing training to developing democracies in Europe.
But the one assignment on Schwartz’s long resume that stands out from the TV, print and even OnMilwaukee freelancing over the years – was what earned her a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize: Schwartz was the first reporter on the scene when infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in 1991.
Covering the story for the Milwaukee Journal and publishing a book about the murders shortly thereafter, it became an unlikely touchpoint for Schwartz – one that has followed her for 30 years.
And now, she’s published a new book on that grisly time in Milwaukee’s history called “Monster: The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders.” Schwartz says it’s not a sequel as much as it is an update.
“It gives you a real sense of where everybody is now,” says Schwartz, who is beginning the promote the book she was invited to write by Sterling Publishing. “One of the most surprising things to me was to find out that one of the most veteran detectives who worked on this case are still very affected by working on the case. The things that those officers saw in that apartment that night, the things that some of the detectives heard when they were questioning Dahmer … those things have stayed with them these 30 years later.”
Schwartz says the way journalists talked gender and sexuality was different in 1991 – and back then, as a police reporter, she wrote that way, too – so this book gave her a chance to approach this macabre cultural phenomenon in a more sensitive way to change some of the things that “didn’t stand the test of time."
Says Schwartz, “In the first book, which you do not find in this book, is a listing of all the victims, their race and their criminal records, because there was this theory that people become homicide victims sometimes when they put themselves in a position to be vulnerable … it’s victim blaming at its worst.”
By comparison, Schwartz’s focus this time on the 17 lost sons, fathers, husbands and children, 17 families. “They not only found out that their loved one was murdered by a serial killer, but for some of them, they found out that their son or their brother had a secret life that they knew nothing about. Some of these victims never even had the chance to come out to their families.”
The book also covers Dahmer’s murders in prison – Schwartz actually met him there after he was convicted. “It certainly gives you a front row seat to what it was like to cover that story and to go back 30 years later, to see how it affected all the people involved,” she says.
Schwarz, herself, admits that she’s sometimes puzzled why interest in Dahmer remains high – there’s a 13-part series coming to Netflix, as well as several Hollywood projects in motion – but she says the attention to the true crime genre just wasn’t there 30 years ago.
And even though Schwartz’ career has taken her way past Dahmer – she recently completed assignments in Macedonia and Albania for the State Department – this story, obviously, lives on with her.
After all, she was just a 30-year-old reporter walking into that crime scene.
"I showed up really before detectives were even there,” she recalls. “It was so early. And I don't think any of the cops really noticed me because they were in the apartment, looking at all the Polaroid photographs that had been taken by Dahmer of some of his victims. I walked up to the door of the apartment, stepped over the threshold a little bit to peek in and see what it looked like. This was unlike anything the police had ever seen.”
The police were stunned and shocked, she says, but so was Schwartz. "In a million years, I never imagined that I would be inexorably linked with this story,” she says.
Still, Schwartz says she is honored that people are reading and buying the book, which is making its way up the charts in the Amazon crime category. She’s currently being booked to speak at universities in sociology classes and criminology classes, as well as book signings in independent bookstores.
“As long as we're asking questions about it, as long as we're talking about it, I think that we are in a place where we're trying to figure out how it happened,” says Schwartz. “I don't think we're ever going to answer the question why.”
“Monster: The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders” is on sale now at bookshops and on amazon.com.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.