Who is Glenda Cleveland Heres the real story behind the

Who is Glenda Cleveland? Here’s the real story behind the woman who tried to stop Jeffrey Dahmer

Netflix’s latest true crime series, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, is a dramatization of the life and crimes of one of America’s most notorious serial killers. From 1978 to 1991, Dahmer murdered 17 boys and men before being arrested in 1992. The drama follows Dahmer, his victims and their families, and the many avoidable mistakes made by the American justice system in bringing his crimes to a close.

This isn’t the first adaptation or portrayal of Dahmer on screen, and this recent Netflix drama has received significant backlash for, among other things, the production’s failure to reach out to surviving individuals affected by Dahmer’s crimes. Family members of one of Dahmer’s victims have taken to social media about Netflix’s failure to consult with them about the show and the drama’s portrayal of events that traumatize them yet again.

One of the lesser-known figures who has been thrust back into the spotlight is Glenda Cleveland, Dahmer’s neighbor, whose persistent efforts to stop him were reportedly ignored by police. Cleveland, played by Niecy Nash in the Netflix adaptation, was pivotal in the Dahmer case, but there’s actually very little information about her history.

ALSO SEE: Netflix Removes LGBTQ Tag From “Dahmer”

Who is Glenda Cleveland?

One of nine children, according to USA Today, Cleveland was raised on a farm by “parents who emphasized the importance of speaking the truth and getting involved when someone needs help.”

According to USA Today, she worked in a data entry position in the city of Milwaukee while living with her 17-year-old daughter, Sandra Smith.

Cleveland was not Dahmer’s neighbor in the Oxford flats. She lived in an adjacent building, and in fact, Dahmer’s real neighbor was another black woman named Pamela Bass. After Dahmer was arrested, she lived alone in the 25th Street apartment until 2009, before moving to an apartment less than a mile away, according to USA Today.

Bass was the one Dahmer would offer sandwiches to, she told interviews in The Jeffery Dahmer Files. However, on the show, Bass appears to have been partially erased, and elements of her personality were apparently written into Cleveland’s character.

Police ignored Glenda Cleveland and others in the community

According to a 2020 interview with Cleveland’s niece, Nicole Childress, in May 1991, Childress and Smith, Cleveland’s daughter, encountered a dazed and confused 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone trying to flee Dahmer’s apartment building.

Despite being badly stunned and injured, Sinthasomphone regained consciousness and took to the streets for help.

When police arrived at the scene, they attributed the incident to a love affair, despite pleas from the women to help Sinthasomphone. The police and Dahmer took Sinthasomphone back to Dahmer’s apartment, where he was murdered shortly thereafter.

“We tried to tell the officers our names, but he just told us to back off,” Smith told the Associated Press at the time of Dahmer’s arrest. “I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want our names. I said, ‘What are you going to do about it? This is a boy.'”

Unlike in the Netflix adaptation, Cleveland was not present when her daughter and niece found Sinthasomphone, but she made repeated attempts to call the police, only to be turned away. In a now infamous phone call, Cleveland can be heard inquiring with a police officer about the Dahmer investigation.

Cleveland: “Yeah, uh, what happened? I mean my daughter and niece saw what was going on. Has anything been done about the situation? Do you need their names or information or anything from them?”

Officer: “No, not at all.”

Cleveland: “Isn’t it?”

Officer: “No. It was another friend’s drunk friend.”

Cleveland: “Well, how old was this kid?”

Officer: It wasn’t a child. It was an adult.”

Cleveland: “Are you sure?”

Officer: “Yes.”

According to USA Today, after discovering missing persons signs for Konerak Sinthasomphone, Cleveland repeatedly called the police — even the FBI — but no one answered her call. Dahmer killed five other victims after Cleveland tried to alert authorities.

Had Cleveland police investigated their suspicions, they would have found that Dahmer had been convicted of molesting Konerak Sinthasomphone’s older brother, Anouke, several years earlier.

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What happened to the cops who ignored Glenda Cleveland?

The officers who responded to Childress’ 911 call were John Balcerzak, Joseph Gabrish and Richard Porubcan. After Dahmer was convinced he and Sinthasomphone were having a domestic argument, the three officers escorted the two back to Dahmer’s apartment. Gabrish reportedly noticed a foul odor coming from the apartment at the time, but thought it was just a bowel movement.

Later that evening when Cleveland called, it was Balcerzak who answered. Balcerzak repeatedly dismissed Cleveland’s concerns, assuring her that Sinthasomphone was a legal adult and that the incident was a lovers’ dispute.

Following a public outcry following Dahmer’s arrest, two of the officers, Balcerzak and Gabrish, were fired, according to a Washington Post report at the time. Porubcan was released and placed on probation because of “his relative inexperience and because he was less culpable in handling the incident,” the Post reported. The report went on to say that Balcerzak and Gabrish were released for “acts of omission,” including failing to take the names of witnesses and failing to place an apparently incapacitated Sinthasomphone in protective custody.

In 1995, the city of Milwaukee agreed to pay Sinthasomphone’s family $850,000 in settlement, according to the Spokesman review.

A year earlier, however, the two fired officers appealed their terminations and were reinstated. According to Decider, both men received back-payments of $55,000 each, and in 2005 Balcerzak was elected president of the Milwaukee Police Association. Gabrish retired after serving as an interim chief of police for the Grafton Police Department in Wisconsin for a number of years.

What was the rest of Glenda Cleveland’s life like?

After Dahmer’s arrest, five months after Cleveland contacted police, she received a formal tribute from the Common Council and the County Board, and was feted by local women’s groups and even…the Milwaukee Police Department.

Reverend Jesse Jackson came to visit and speak to her, telling reporters at the time, “The police preferred the word of a murderer to an innocent woman.”

Despite the attention, Cleveland just wanted to “get back to normal.” It was a statement she’d repeated to many of the reporters who stopped by her door asking about Dahmer. She returned to her data entry position until her retirement, helping Smith look after their nine children.

According to her obituary, Cleveland died on December 24, 2010 at the age of 56. Coroners ruled it was a natural death caused by heart disease and high blood pressure.

Glenda Cleveland’s legacy is still evident.

“If anything, I want people to know that Glenda Cleveland is special. That was a special woman,” Niecy Nash said in an interview with Netflix. “For going on and on and on trying to get someone to do something, she deserves a lot more than a little cheesy plaque somewhere on the floor of a social room … And I want people to know that we all know or.” was or will be a Glenda Cleveland in this life. That’s for sure.”