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ONLINE DOCUMENT: $400,000 RAISED FOR DAHMER ITEMS

With $400,000 in hand, a group of Milwaukee business leaders announced plans on Monday to raise enough money to buy - and destroy - Jeffrey Dahmer's belongings.

Joseph Zilber, the real estate magnate heading the group, has personally contributed $100,000 for the effort and has collected another $300,000 from other, anonymous business leaders.He is asking the public to contribute, at a minimum of $10, so that they can avoid having the serial killer's items sold at a public auction. They've set a goal of May 27 to have the deal done, said Zilber spokesman Michael Mervis.

"They are motivated by a combination of anger, disgust and dismay combined with a strong sense of civic pride," Mervis said.

Asked about the irony of creating a flurry of media coverage in an effort to raise money to avoid the public spectacle of an auction, Mervis said that is the sign of "a society that doesn't compensate the victims of crime."

Tom Jacobson, a Milwaukee lawyer representing eight of the 11 families who have put in claims against Dahmer's estate, has said that he would be willing to accept $1 million for the belongings.

"I'm firm on that," Jacobson said Monday.

But those working with him said they are hoping to convince him to take less.

Mervis was careful not to say that the group was trying to reach a goal of $1 million.

"That's Mr. Jacobson's goal, not ours," he said. "We have only one desire, and that is to not have an auction. Period."

Zilber, who is in Hawaii, said in a statement released Monday: "The proposal we intend to make, we believe, will be viewed by the victims' families as being just and acceptable."

Last month, a judge ordered that Dahmer's assets be liquidated and the proceeds distributed to the families of his victims. Eleven families have put in claims, including eight represented by Jacobson. All families will split evenly the proceeds of Dahmer's estate.

The items include the tools Dahmer used to torture and kill many of his victims.

Mervis said that if the group is successful in halting the auction, the inventory, which he described as a litany of "terrible, terrible items," would be destroyed, most likely by fire.

Several foundries have offered their help, Mervis said.

"Our goal is to destroy this once and for all," Mervis said. "They will not be stored. They will not be buried. We will settle for nothing short of their destruction - forever."

Dahmer, a Milwaukee chocolate factory worker, was killed in prison in November 1994 while serving time for the slayings of 15 men and boys in Wisconsin. He was convicted in Ohio of another death, and was accused of killing a 17th person but was not convicted in that death.

Some involved in the negotiations said they hope Jacobson would accept whatever sum they are able to finally raise. Should Jacobson turn down an amount, say $600,000, and then put the items to an auction and get only $300,000 or $400,000, he would look foolish, said one person who is involved in the negotiations but does not want to be identified. On the other hand, Jacobson might get more than $1 million, if the demand for such items is that great.

"My own read is that the auction would get us more," Jacobson said Monday of the $1 million price tag.

"It's not going to be settled for anything less," Jacobson said.

Donations can be made to the Westown Association, c/o Milwaukee Civic Pride Fund, Norwest Bank, N.A., Dept. 3956, P.O. Box 2088, Milwaukee, WI 53201-2088. Donations may be tax-deductible, depending on the person's income tax bracket, Mervis said.

"Westown Association is a registered non-profit organization," Mervis said. "We have been told to advise people to check with their tax advisers as to whether they can deduct such a donation from their taxes," he said.

Jacobson said he was pleased to learn of the $400,000 having been raised.

Robert Steuer, who was appointed as the lawyer for Dahmer's estate, said he too hopes that the group can raise enough money and avoid the auction.

"I think that's wonderful," Steuer said. "I hope they are successful with the balance."

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)