MILWAUKEE, AUG. 3 -- An intense fear of loneliness that goes back to his parents' divorce led Jeffrey L. Dahmer to kill homosexual men he lured to his apartment and keep their dismembered remains, a police investigator said today.

That intense fear of being alone apparently surfaced each time one of the men wanted to leave his apartment, causing Dahmer to kill and dismember the victim, the investigator said.

"He didn't want anybody else to leave him," said the officer, who asked not to be named. "His childhood situation contributed a lot," the investigator asserted, describing what he said Dahmer has stated in interviews.

Police say Dahmer, a 31-year-old Army veteran and former chocolate factory worker, has admitted killing 17 people over 13 years, including one in Ohio and three at his grandmother's apartment in suburban Milwaukee.

Dahmer, who records show told his probation officer he felt guilty about being homosexual, did not hate the gay men he killed, as some of his acquaintances have suggested, the investigator said. "They were the easiest to get into his apartment," the officer said.

Police are investigating the possibility that Dahmer killed more than 17 people, according to the investigator. "It is possible he just doesn't remember any more. We are looking at it in that vein. We haven't stopped looking for victims."

Dahmer has admitted eating part of one victim and having sex with another after killing him because of "gratification, reliving the experience of knowing these people," the investigator said.

Dave Busby, a Milwaukee psychiatrist, said Dahmer's explanation as described by the investigator "makes sense" based on other cases of intense fear of loneliness. "They are very, very insecure and dependent and it just goes all to pieces when they are abandoned," he said.

Dahmer's statements to police indicate his killing spree was related to problems with loneliness that may have begun during his parents' divorce in 1977, the investigator said.

"He killed them so they wouldn't leave," the officer said. "He didn't just do {the killings} for the hell of it. The experience of his childhood probably had a lot to do with it."

John Liccione, a psychologist at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, said he was somewhat skeptical about the observations of an investigator with no formal psychological or psychiatric training.

Dahmer could be making everything up or saying things in an "eagerness to please," Liccione said.

"Anything is possible, but it sounds more like a third-rate playwright script in Hollywood. It sounds so simplistic and unprofessional," Liccione said. "The strange part of it is, it might be true."

Summoned by a man running down a street with a handcuff on one hand July 22, police went to Dahmer's apartment and found the remains of 10 mutilated men and one boy. He has been charged with four counts of murder, and additional charges may be filed Tuesday, police have said.

Dahmer's lawyer, Gerald Boyle, was not available for comment. There was no answer at the home of Dahmer's father, Lionel, in Medina, Ohio, and Dahmer's mother, Joyce Flint, of Fresno, Calif., does not have a listed telephone number.