“Are you sure?”
At the end of Episode Two of Netflix’s true crime series “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” the audio of a real 911 phone call made to the Milwaukee police department plays.
The voice on the phone is Glenda Cleveland, played by Niecy Nash in the show. Cleveland was a real woman — and had the officers on the other line had listened to her during that 1991 phone call, they potentially could have caught serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer sooner.
Dahmer was convicted of murdering 15 boys and men between the years of 1978 and 1991, and admitted to killing two more. He died in prison in 1994. Dahmer murdered five people after Cleveland’s first 911 phone call.
Though Cleveland did place that phone call, “Monster” takes liberties with her proximity to Dahmer.
Here’s what to know about the real Cleveland, including what happened to her.
Glenda Cleveland wasn’t actually Jeffrey Dahmer’s next door neighbor. He offered a meat sandwich to another person
Glenda lives next door to Dahmer in the Netflix show, but the real Cleveland actually lived in an adjacent building, per her obituary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Dahmer’s actual next door neighbor at Milwaukee’s Oxford apartments was a couple named Pamela and Vernell Bass.
Pamela, in a 1991 story in the Baltimore Sun, described “stuffing towels under her door” to keep out the stench emanating from Dahmer’s apartment (another neighbor, Nanetta Lowery, moved out of the building after a month).
Dahmer’s explanation for the smell, according to Pamela? “He told me his freezer had gone off and that his meat in there had rotted and he was going to get rid of it,” she said in 1991, per the L.A. Times.
Vernall, in a story from the Associated Press, said he was “weird.” Pamela said, “I used to hear him over there, talking to himself, cussing to himself, talking real loud, and I knew he didn’t have anyone over there.”
In the documentary “The Jeffrey Dahmer Files,” Bass said that she once accepted a meat sandwich from Dahmer, with meat of untold origins.
“I have probably eaten someone’s body part,” Bass said.
The building where Dahmer lived and committed murders was torn down in 1992, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
But Cleveland did place 911 calls about Konerak Sinthasomphone. Cleveland’s niece recalls the story
On May 27, 1991, Cleveland’s daughter, Sandra Smith, and her niece, Nicole Childress, encountered a delirious, staggering naked 14-year-old boy in the streets of Milwaukee.
That boy was 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone, a Laotian immigrant who Dahmer would go on to kill. In 1989, Dahmer had been found guilty of second-degree assault for molesting Sinthasomphone’s brother, and served a year at a work release camp, released in 1990, per the FBI. He was also placed under five years probation.
Childress recounted the experience in detail in her book “Divine Providence: Finding Purpose in the in Between.” Telling Smith to stay with the boy (Sinthasomphone), Childress ran to the pay phone and made the first call to the police, saying she had encountered a young man who was “butt naked” and “(needed) some help.”
From the distance, she saw a man “trying to take the naked boy,” remarking that “it just did not look right to me, feel right to me, or sound right to me at all.” The man she saw was Dahmer.
When the officers came, Childress said she could “tell the officers were against (her).” Dahmer told them she was “crazy.”
“They accepted Dahmer’s casual assurance that the Laotian boy was 19. He was really 14. Assuming they were dealing with a homosexual lovers’ quarrel, they returned the boy to Dahmer’s apartment,” the Chicago Tribune summarized in a 1991 article.
A police officer dispatched the following back to headquarters, according to reports at the time: “Intoxicated Asian, naked male. Was returned to his sober boyfriend.”
After remaining silent and watching the officers “hold pleasant conversation” with Dahmer, Childress wrote that she went to her aunt’s apartment and pleaded for her to call the police again. “I told her, ‘Something real bad is about to happen to this boy outside. I’ve tried to tell the policemen outside, but they won’t listen to me.”
During Cleveland’s phone call, officers rebuffed Cleveland’s claims, calling it a “boyfriend-boyfriend thing,” and assuring her that this was no boy at all, but a 19-year-old man.
Initially, Childress said her aunt was skeptical of her account, too. “The officers assured my aunt that the naked boy was not a naked boy and that everything was fine. I didn’t hear the conversation but when (my aunt) got off the phone, she said to me, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. I sounded like a damn foot listening to you. I should have known better,” Childress wrote.
In fact, after the first 911 call, Cleveland called the police multiple times, including after Sinthasomphone was reported missing.
Two months later, when Dahmer was arrested, Cleveland invited Childress over to her house and broke the news, showing her photos of Dahmer’s victims — including Sinthasomphone. Childress said she carried a sense of guilt.
“Thoughts of Jeffrey Dahmer’s actions were flashing with the pictures of the dead body of the naked boy. What had been done to all those males by that man I saw? I felt that I had got the boy killed,” Childress wrote.
TODAY has reached out to Childress for comment.
Where is Glenda Cleveland now?
Dahmer’s 1991 arrest thrust Cleveland into the spotlight.
She said during a 1991 interview that officers had let down Sinthasomphone by dismissing her calls. “He was let down as low as he could get. And that was to his grave. You can’t get much lower than that.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal obituary recounted that Cleveland was “formally honored” by the county board, and was called a “model citizen” by Mayor John Norquist. She also received awards — including one from the Milwaukee Police Department.
“She became a symbol of good at a time of so much bad in our city. She got involved. She tried to help. She spoke a life-or-death truth and was ignored. Then she handled the crush of media attention with patience and dignity,” the obituary, written by Jim Stingl, read.
Cleveland died in 2011 at the age of 56. She remained in the neighborhood her entire life, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The publication also said that she stayed in touch with the Sinthasomphone family and attended one of the son’s weddings.