A man who narrowly escaped death at the hands of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and led police to Dahmer's grisly house of horrors two decades ago has been arrested and charged with a homicide of his own.
Tracy Edwards was hailed as a hero on July 22, 1991 for leading police to discover Dahmer's 17 dismembered victims, ending a spree of cannibalistic homicides by one of the country's most notorious murderers.
Twenty years later almost to the day, Edwards was arrested on July 26, 2011 and accused of throwing a man to his death off a Milwaukee bridge.
If convicted, Edwards faces 60 years in prison, possibly the very same prison in which Dahmer spent his final years before he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.
"It's like Humpty Dumpty," said Edwards' defense attorney Paul Ksicinski, speaking of Edwards' life after the Dahmer trial. "It's like he was never able to put the pieces back together again."
At the time of his arrest, Edwards, now 52, was homeless and had been moving from shelter to shelter since at least 2002.
He was seen standing on a bridge over the Milwaukee River with two other homeless men, Timothy Carr and Jonny Jordan. A witness at a gas station across the street saw Edwards and Carr push Jordan some 20 feet into the river below and called the cops, according to police reports. By the time cops arrived, Jordan had drowned, police said.
Police have not released a motive for the crime.
Edwards first came to the public's notice in 1991 when he met Dahmer. They chatted for a while before Dahmer invited Edwards back to his house to drink beer and watch the "Exorcist."
When Edwards arrived, however, Dahmer's behavior changed, Edwards said later. Dahmer rested his head on Edwards' chest, chanted along with the movie, and then threatened to kill Edwards with a butcher knife and eat his heart. Edwards talked him down, allowing Dahmer to put handcuffs on just one of his wrists.
Edwards bargained with Dahmer for four hours before he was able bolt out of the house. He ran through the streets with the handcuffs dangling from his wrist until he flagged down a police car, told them that Dahmer had tried to kill him, and led them to Dahmer's house.
Inside, police discovered a serial killer. They recovered the body parts of 11 men, including four human heads stored in a refrigerator, boxes containing body parts, torsos in a barrel of acid, and photographs of several victims.
Edwards told police he escaped by gaining Dahmer's trust. "He underestimated me," Edwards said at the time."God sent me there to take care of the situation."
But almost immediately Edwards' fame began to cost him. He was recognized by police in Mississippi as a wanted felon and charged with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. He was extradited to face charges there.
When Edwards returned to Milwaukee, he filed a lawsuit against the city's police department for not following up on earlier tips about Dahmer that could have prevented other deaths and his own encounter with Dahmer. He sought $5 million, but the suit was thrown out of Milwaukee court. Edwards was not part of a class action suit that awarded restitution from Dahmer's estate to the families of his victims, totalling some $500,000.
In the following years, he began to rack up more police charges, including arrests for drug possession, theft, property damage, faiulre to pay child support, and bail jumping.
"He's always taken responsibility for the things he's done in the past," Kscicinksi said.
Now, the hero from 1991 awaits trial for the death of Jordan. His charges were upgraded from reckless endangerment to reckless homicide and, if convicted, Edwards faces up to 60 years in prison. He will enter a plea in December, and is scheduled to go to trial in January 2012.
Carr, who was only charged with recklessly endangering, pleaded guilty, and is awaiting sentencing.
- Jeffrey Dahmer
- Tracy Edwards