Some serial killers have one victim who is more famous than the others. This victim makes a regular appearance in books about the killer, and gets the most screen time in films about them. Sometimes they are “the one that got away”, or the last victim. But in other cases, such as this one, they have a gruesome, unusual story attatched to their demise.
With John Wayne Gacy, there was Robert Piest, whose abduction and susequent murder led the police to Gacy. With Hindley and Brady, there was Lesley Ann Downey, whose screams and pleas for her mother were tape-recorded.
And with Dahmer, there was Konerak “Kolak” Sinthasomphone.
Konerak has the dubious distinction (along with Stephen Hicks) of having the most promient role of all the victims in the two major Dahmer film biographies-in Dahmer he appeared as Khamtay, and before that in The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer as Sounthome. But it is probable (I’ve yet to see the films) that neither portray him as a human being with any life beyond being an apartment decoration for his killer. Why would they? It is Jeff’s story. It has always been his story. Even when, in Dahmer, we see “Khamtay” crawling out of Jeff’s curiously red-tinted flat with a small hole in his head, it is still the murderer’s story, even though a whole film could be made about the courage and determination it must have taken to drag himself out of that terrible flat, blinded by pain and unable to see straight.
But there is an interesting tale here, for those who care to peruse it.
Konerak Sinthasomphone was born on the first of December, 1976, in a small country called Laos. Laos (pronounced Low, as in “how”) is located right beside China, which incidentially was Communist at the time and wanted its neighbours to be Communists too. When Konerak was three, his father built a canoe, put his family in it and sent it across the river to a nearby refugee camp. Mr.Sinthasomphone swam across himself a couple of days later. The youngest children had been drugged for the crossing, so that their crying would not alert the Communist soldiers.
They settled in America some time later. They chose Milwaukee because of the strong Lao presence, and because relatives were already living there.
Konerak was the youngest of eight children. His older brother was molested at the age of sixteen. Konerak would’ve been around twelve. The familty was reassured by the police that the man responsible would be locked up for a long, long time, and so they didn’t feel the need to go to court. They never even saw the offender. The only family member who would’ve recognised him would have been the molested boy.
But he was not there when Konerak met him in the Grand Avenue Mall during, 1991.
Konerak (or Kolak, as his family called him) was the baby of the Sinthasomphone family. He liked Lamborghini cars, drawing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and playing football with his friends.As a matter of fact, he went down to the local park to play soccer almost every day. He appears to have been a generally upbeat kid-always smiling and joking around. He also enjoyed swimming and Tom and Jerry cartoons.
On the twenty-seventh of May, 1991, he left the park where he was playing soccer and decided to swing by the Grand Avenue Mall. Cue Jeffrey Dahmer, who was later described as “a Nazi stalking the mall” by witnesses (most probably for his stiff posture and ominous presence, and not for weariing swastikas or a regrettably Hitleresque mustache). He struck up a conversation with Konerak, and at some point he offered him fifty dollars to come back to his flat with him. Konerak, who was friendly, agreed and went back with him, where Dahmer, who was not, drugged him.
Then, he drilled a hole in his head and injected the muriatic acid.
When Konerak did not wake up, as Errol Lindsey had, Dahmer deemed the “experiment” a failure and went out to a local bar (this was around eleven o’clock in the evening). he drank in that bar for about two or three hours, and then made his way back to his private chamber of horrors/flat. As he was walking along the street, he saw that Konerak had escaped and was sitting on the pavement, naked. With him were a couple of African-American girls. Dahmer apparently attempted to drag the wretched boy back to the flat, but Konerak managed to fight him off.
Then, a small bevy of police officers pulled up. Dahmer took over. Masterfully concealing his drunkeness, he explained to the officers that the small, bruised boy who was trembling as he crouched on the sidewalk was John Hmong, his “house guest” who had been staying with him for the past two weeks. He informed them that “John” had gotten spooked after drinking too much (pot, meet the blacking tin). He laughed condescendingly and said that it had happened before. The policemen, ignoring the virulent protests of the girls, accepted Dahmer’s explanation with all the skeptical doubt and professionalism of children blindly swallowing bleach, and allowed him to take Konerak back. But Konerak, being a brave, clever little soul, point-blank refused to get up. So two of the cops grabbed him by the upper arms and marched him back to the flat.
They went inside. Allow me to repeat that-they went inside.
And not one of them thought that anything was wrong.
Konerak sat on the sofa in silence. He was under heavy influence of drugs used in the treatment of anxiety. He didn’t groan or rock. He didn’t move at all.
The cops left in a hurry. In the squad car, they made horrible jokes about the incident.
It was as they were making these horrible jokes that Konerak, the fourteen-year-old child, was killed by another shot of acid to the brain.
There are a lot of things said about Konerak Sinthasomphone, but here is one that is never said: he was impossibly, incredibly tough and resilient.
Think about it. He wakes up in a strange, foul-smelling flat. It is dark. His head hurts and he’s disorientated. He can barely see, never mind walk. Maybe he stumbles around, coming across the decomposing corpse of Tony Hughes on the floor in the bedroom. Perhaps he opens the fridge and sees the body parts of earlier victims.
He manages to escape the apartments-a trip that would’ve included navigating several flights of stairs. He runs into his would-be killer in the street, but fights him off, even though it takes nearly all of his energy to stay standing.
And then those damn cops take him back, where he is injected with acid while conscious.
Konerak Sinthasomphone suffered a horrible, horrible death, one that even the most sadistic killers have found hard to equal. And his death became the one thing he was known for-not his love of sports, not his (probably awesome) drawings, not the politeness he reserved for his elders. He died of acid to his frontal lobe and that’s all that matters.
But whatever about Dahmer, Konerak was still a kid with interests, goals, hopes and dreams. Maybe he had his mind set on a particular job and was workng hard to get it. Maybe he had a crush on a girl at school, and daydreamed of marrying her. Konerak Sinthasomphone was a million other things than the incident on the twenty-seventh of may, 1991, but that fact was lost in the swirl of material devoted to Dahmer.
Rest in peace, Konerak, you courageous kid.