Town Square

Errol Lindsey’s sister criticizes ‘Dahmer’ Netflix series, says it forces family to relive painful memories

Rita Isbell, Errol Lindsey’s sister, said it was difficult to watch the scene of her in a courtroom attempting to charge at Jeffrey Dahmer.

Netflix

Listen

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/435071/435048" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
X

Netflix’s new series, Dahmer, follows the life of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and has received much praise for the casts’ acting, but others have criticized it, saying it was exploitative.

On Wednesday’s Town Square with Ernie Manouse, the host spoke to: Anne E. Schwartz, the reporter who broke the story; Dr. Jeff Temple, a psychologist with UTMB Health; Rita Isbell, the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims, whose impact statement caught national attention after she charged at Dahmer in court.

New interest in true crime

Schwartz said when she first broke the story, there was no social media or cell phones, or 24-hour news segments.

“The story is spreading to a new audience now, rather than the audience of the 1990s when the story first came out,” she said. “The surge of interest in true crime is huge.”

But Dr. Temple said there has always been an interest in true crime.

"As an undergrad in psychology many, many years ago, our favorite classes were abnormal psychology where we talked about psychopathology and serial killers," he said. "Everyone showed up to those classes, and people did better on those tests; it's intriguing and interesting, and gross, and scary."

Dr. Temple said the surge of interest in true crime is now part of society's zeitgeist.

Dr. Temple said the Netflix series provided a picture of racism at the time. However, he said the dramatization can also cause harm.

"There are some aspects that does no one any good except make money for Netflix and entertain people like me who admittedly has watched the show," he said.

Ryan Murphy, one of the creators of the Netflix series, said that he wanted to show the story through the lens of the victims. Dr. Temple believes a large part of the criticism for the series came because the victim's families did not receive any monetary funds.

How the victims and their families were treated

Rita Isbell was the sister of Errol Lindsey, one of Dahmer's victims. She admitted that she had not seen the new series, but did see a scene that many praised for its word-for-word accuracy and acting. In the scene, a visibly emotional Isbell yells and curses Dahmer and attempts to charge at him before security officers pull her back.

Isbell said the first time she saw the scene it was difficult to watch.

"It was ‘here we go again,'" she said. "It did affect me today just as much as it did yesterday. But as time went by and I'm older I can deal with it better. Where I can talk about it, be rational about it, my emotions are not so involved in it like it was back then."

When recalling the trial, Isbell said most of the rules put in place at the courtroom were directed toward the victim's families. She said they could not fall asleep, could not show emotion, and that seats were first come first serve. In contrast, Dahmer's parents had reserved seats for the trial, and the judge was dozing off.

"I was angry already ... it was a lot of stuff going on in the courtroom that I disagreed with," she said.

Isbell was the last family member to speak to Dahmer. She said as she listened to the other statements, everyone else was humble and nice to Dahmer when they approached him.

"‘Oh, Mr. Dahmer,' and one guy was like ‘God bless America.' I was like ‘to hell with this,'" she said. "This monster just butchered up our family members, no way was I going to get up there and be talking nice to him."

Isbell recalled saying she did not want her mother to ever have to experience the trial again, but the show makes her relive it.

"It's here again," she said. "Nobody ever asks me how my mother is doing. My mother actually thinks my brother Errol is at work to this day."

Isbell did not view the Dahmer series positively, and believes it should be banned.

"What's your point? Other than it's October, it's evil season," she said.

How race played a role in Dahmer's case

Many of Dahmer's victims were members of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Schwartz felt that race did not play as large of a role, and while it didn't hurt that Dahmer was a white male, he was a master manipulator.

"Dahmer was very careful about the kinds of victims that he selected. And he did select his victims, to have conversations with people at the bar to see whether or not they were still close with their families," Schawartz said.

But Temple countered that racism and homophobia were why Dahmer was able to get away with the murders for so long.

"I'm not saying that the cops themselves were racist, or the judge was racist, I'm saying the entire system itself was racist," Temple said. "So because he was white, that's why he was able to manipulate the system."

Isbell said tourists still go to Milwaukee to take pictures and knock on neighbor's doors. She believes that the whole city should be protesting, but feels that nobody cares.

"I always felt that the city of Milwaukee was full of racism," she said. "I've seen it play out time and time again and it's still going on today. ... It's just pure evil, it really is; and nobody cares."

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required