MILWAUKEE -- The sister of one of Jeffrey Dahmer's 17 victims joined others in protesting a Milwaukee walking tour of the serial killer's haunts Saturday, calling out to tour organizers that they were "just as evil" as Dahmer himself.
Janie Hagen's brother, 25-year-old Richard Guerrero, disappeared in 1988 and was one of the first young men Dahmer is known to have murdered. On Saturday, Hagen criticized the new walking tour as merely an attempt to make money by turning her brother's murder into macabre entertainment.
"This whole thing opens up a lot of old wounds, a lot of painful memories," Hagen said while holding a sign calling tour-organizer Bam Media and Marketing heartless. "It's that same hurt all over again."
The new walking tour of places where Dahmer trolled for victims drew attention this week after criticism prompted online deal-maker Groupon to take down a promotion for discounted tickets. But Bam Media said it would not cancel what it calls a legitimate exploration of criminal history.
Hagen was one of about 20 protesters who followed the first small tour group of four customers Saturday. The protesters chanted, "Stop the tour," but generally kept their distance.
Tour guide Nicholas Vollmann wasn't dissuaded. He led the group up and down the street for about an hour, stopping at buildings that used to house the gay bars where Dahmer cruised for his victims. Reading from notecards, he named the victims whom Dahmer met at each place, detailed their sexual activity and described how Dahmer killed and disposed of the victims.
Afterward he said sympathized with the protesters, but believed the tours would go on.
"The protests are not likely to continue," he said.
Dahmer, a chocolate factory worker, spent years frequenting Milwaukee-area gay bars. He was arrested in 1991 and admitted killing 17 young men, some of whom he mutilated and cannibalized. He was serving life prison sentences when a fellow inmate beat him to death in 1994.
The apartment building where Dahmer stored body parts eventually was razed. The area now sits in the middle of a revitalized section of Milwaukee, with new restaurants and bars in remodeled buildings that once housed the bars where Dahmer went.
A number of police cars drove past Saturday as the tour group and protesters crossed paths. The two sides generally avoided conversation, except for occasional protesters calling on the tour group to desist.
"You're just as evil as he was!" Hagen shouted. "You're putting Milwaukee to shame!"
One protester held a sign that said, "You may not care but we do."
Several tour participants said they found the experience interesting and educational. One sightseer who identified himself as Paul Smith, 26, of Waukesha, said there's a difference between hearing about a serial killer and seeing firsthand where he actually stalked his victims.
"You look at it now and it's all these nice buildings," he said. "You really wouldn't think all these horrific things happened here."
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.