Joseph Zilber: Why Did He Destroy Dahmer’s Belongings? Is He Dead or Alive?

Image Credit: WISN 12 News/YouTube

Netflix’s ‘Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ showcases how prolific serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer killed around 17 men and boys between the years of 1978 to 1991. Towards the end of his reign of terror, Jeffrey’s killings reportedly turned even more grotesque as he allegedly resorted to cannibalism. Moreover, the serial killer was obsessed with building a macabre shrine and often collected his victims’ skulls, heads, and other body parts, which he kept in his apartment. In order to carry out such gruesome acts of murder, Jeffrey Dahmer used several instruments, tools, and utensils, which were seized after his arrest and bought by Joseph Zilber. If you are curious as to what happened to Jeffrey’s belongings and if Joseph is still alive, we have you covered!

Who was Joseph Zilber?

Joseph Zilber was a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who was born to Russian immigrant parents in 1917 and grew up on the city’s north side. In fact, at the time of Jeffrey Dahmer’s arrest, he was a real estate magnate and the leader of the Milwaukee Civic Pride Fund. Incidentally, Milwaukee-based serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, struck for the last time on July 19, 1991, when he took Joseph Arthur Bradehoft to his apartment and murdered him in cold blood. However, desperate to find more victims, Jeffrey went on the hunt and came across Tracy Edwards and his two friends. He even managed to get Tracy back to his apartment, but the intended victim escaped and alerted authorities, leading to Jeffrey’s arrest.

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Like the rest of Milwaukee, Joseph Zilber was horrified when concrete evidence of Jeffrey’s crime was made public by the police. However, he was determined not to let fear prevail and tried his best to spread a positive message in his community. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Dahmer was found guilty of 16 counts of first-degree murder (15 in Wisconsin and 1 in Ohio), which netted him a total of sixteen life sentences along with a few additional years for other charges in 1992.

Why Did Joseph Zilber Destroy Jeffrey Dahmer’s Belongings?

In November 1994, Jeffrey was bludgeoned to death by fellow-inmate Christopher Scarver while serving time at Columbia Correctional Institution. Following his death, the families of eleven of Jeffrey’s victims petitioned the court, asking for the law to turn over the victim’s belongings to them. If their petition was successful, the families hoped to auction off those items and accept the money as compensation for their loss. Incidentally, the court did agree to the petition and handed over a refrigerator, a drill, knives, saw blades, and gargoyle figurines, among other possessions.

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However, when Joseph Zilbar heard of such a proceeding, he was horrified, as he did not want Jeffrey to gain any publicity through the auction. Moreover, he wanted the city of Milwaukee to leave such a horrible history in the past and did not want the objects to be given any importance. Hence, he raised around $407,225, which he used to buy every single one of Jeffrey’s belongings from the victim’s families before putting the items in a dump truck and destroying them permanently. Meanwhile, the sale benefitted each of the eleven families as they received around $32,500 before lawyer fees.

Is Joseph Zilber Dead or Alive?

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Joseph Zilber is primarily known as a business tycoon who dedicated his life to building a real estate empire. In fact, he contributed massively to Milwaukee’s development and even took on significant property development projects. However, unbeknown to many, Joseph was also an incredible philanthropist, who gave away millions of dollars to charity, and was involved in improving communities both in Milwaukee as well as other American cities. Towards the end of his lifetime, Joseph primarily resided in Hawaii and battled severe bouts of pneumonia for over a year. Eventually, on March 19, 2010, Joseph was being treated at the Zilber Hospice in Wauwatosa, Hawaii, when he passed away at the age of 92.

Read More: How Did Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer Get Caught?