CHICAGO, NOV. 28 -- Jeffrey L. Dahmer, whose grotesque rampage of murder, necrophilia and cannibalism shocked the nation when it was discovered in 1991, was beaten to death today in a prison bathroom at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wis.

Dahmer, 34, savagely beaten in the head, was discovered in the staff bathroom of the prison gymnasium he had been assigned to clean shortly after 8 a.m. and was pronounced dead an hour later at Divine Savior Hospital in Portage.

At a news conference in Madison, Wisconsin Corrections Secretary Michael J. Sullivan said law enforcement authorities were questioning another inmate in connection with Dahmer's death and an assault on a second inmate, Jesse Anderson, who was found badly injured this morning in a separate bathroom of the gymnasium he had been cleaning. He said Anderson was in critical condition in a University of Wisconsin hospital.

Sullivan identified the suspect only as a convicted murderer from Milwaukee County who was also on janitorial duty and was the only other inmate in the gymnasium. But authorities later identified the suspect as Christopher J. Scarver, who is serving a life sentence. They would not speculate on a motive.

This morning's assault brought to a sudden and violent end the life of one of America's most notorious serial killers and led Dahmer's prosecutor to question whether he had received adequate protection inside the maximum security section of the facility, about 40 miles north of Madison.

Sullivan said that during his first year at the prison, Dahmer was kept in "protective custody" and isolated from other prisoners. He said the prison staff eventually concluded, and Dahmer agreed, that he could be allowed to live in a cellblock with other inmates without "undue risk." Sullivan added: "Never did Mr. Dahmer disagree with our assessment of his situation."

Dahmer's classification did not change even after what Sullivan described as "an isolated incident" in July when another inmate unsuccessfully attempted to slit Dahmer's throat with a homemade plastic knife during a prison chapel service. While Dahmer is notorious outside the prison system, Sullivan said, "within the confines of Columbia Correctional Institution, there are numbers of inmates who have committed first-degree murder, some of them multiple murders. In that context, he's not considered to be so notorious."

But Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, who prosecuted Dahmer, said in a telephone interview that the convicted serial murderer was always a marked man. During Dahmer's trial, McCann said, Milwaukee County jail officials were concerned about the attitude of black prisoners who considered Dahmer "a racist killer" because most of his victims were young, gay black men.

"Killing a police officer is one thing in the culture of a prison, but drugging people, killing them and sodomizing them certainly wouldn't endear him to the prison population," McCann said.

McCann said Anderson, the other inmate who was attacked today, was also a high-profile convicted murderer. Anderson, a white man from a wealthy area north of Milwaukee, stabbed his wife to death and claimed that two unidentified young black men had been the assailants.

Scarver was convicted in 1992 of murdering Steve Lohman, who was shot in the head at the Milwaukee office of the Wisconsin Conservation Corps, where he worked. Scarver isn't eligible for parole until 2042.

Sullivan declined to discuss the race of the suspect but said, "In my opinion, at this point in time, race is not a factor." He said a bloody broom handle was found in the gymnasium but was not confirmed as the weapon used in the two assaults.

Jeffrey Dahmer's shadowy, nightmarish life burst into public view on July 22, 1991, when police entered his dingy second-floor apartment just west of downtown Milwaukee and found severed heads and other body parts of 11 of his victims. His trial early the next year disclosed searing details of his ghoulish behavior.

According to the testimony, Dahmer had sex with the bodies of his victims, skinned and dismembered them and attempted to perform a crude lobotomy on at least one of his victims, a 14-year-old boy. Two Milwaukee police detectives said Dahmer told them he had cleaned and spray painted his victims' skulls, preserved body parts in formaldehyde so he could "look at them and masturbate," and kept preserved human hearts in the freezer of his refrigerator.

Judith Becker, a University of Arizona psychologist who examined Dahmer, testified that he planned to use the skulls and reconstructed skeletons of some of his victims as a "temple" honoring himself in his apartment.

"He ate body parts, the purpose of which {was} so that these poor people he killed became alive again in him," Dahmer's defense lawyer, Gerald P. Boyle, told the jury.

In all, Dahmer confessed to killing 17 young men and boys, most of whom he lured to his apartment. The first murder occurred in 1978 near his home in Ohio. The body of his second victim, Steven Tuomi, 28, was not found and he was not charged.

In the 15 Wisconsin cases, Dahmer pleaded guilty to charges of murder but entered a separate plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. His defense centered on a claim that he could not control his impulse to have sex with the dead.

But after a two-week trial, a jury found Dahmer was legally sane and he was automatically sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the murders. Wisconsin does not have capital punishment. Dahmer pleaded guilty to the Ohio murder in a separate proceeding.

Wisconsin prison authorities provided few details about today's attack. Joe Scislowicz, a Corrections Department spokesman, told the Associated Press that Dahmer suffered "very severe, extensive head injuries" and that "there was a great deal of blood in the area of the attack."

The bizarre nature of Dahmer's crimes made him an object of both fascination and revulsion, not just to the public at large but to his fellow inmates, said Norval R. Morris, a University of Chicago Law School professor and an expert on prisons. The fact that some of Dahmer's victims were boys in their teens might only add to that sense, Morris added.

"It's the same as on the outside," Morris said. "The same emotions move them {inmates} as move you. ... We feel a little more protective toward youth and a little more outraged."

McCann said that while in prison, Dahmer received about $12,000 in gifts from people apparently captivated by his grotesque murder spree.

"I just hope that some guy doesn't emerge as the self-proclaimed folk hero" for killing Dahmer, the prosecutor said. "Some damn fool may pay him for an interview.

"This is a sad ending to a very sad story," McCann said. "He was the most prolific killer in the history of Wisconsin. Tragically, his family will now suffer the same pain suffered by the families of the young men he killed. He lived violently, he died violently."

Dahmer's stepmother, Shari Dahmer, told Cable News Network, "He never expressed fear. Jeff, from the day he was arrested, felt he deserved everything that he got."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

"I hope God has forgiven me. I know society will never be able to forgive me. I know the families of the victims will never be able to forgive me for what I have done."

-- Jeffrey L. Dahmer

1960

May 21

Jeffrey is born in Milwaukee to Lionel Dahmer, a research chemist, and Joyce Dahmer, a telephone company instructor.

1978

June 18

Dahmer commits his first murder, of an 18-year-old hitchhiker, near his boyhood home of Bath, Ohio.

1980s

Dahmer moves in with his grandmother in Milwaukee in 1981, works in a chocolate factory. About September 1987, he slays and dismembers a 24-year-old Milwaukee man, an event that starts a four-year spree of mutilation murders and sex violation and cannibalization of the corpses.

1991

July 22

Dahmer is arrested after a young man flees his Milwaukee apartment and flags down a police car. Youth takes police to apartment, where they find remains of 11 victims. Within days, Dahmer admits he has killed 17 people since 1978. Bail set at $1 million, later increased to $5 million.

July 26

Three Milwaukee police officers suspended with pay after authorities learn they were at Dahmer's apartment May 27 and allowed 14-year-old, naked, bleeding Laotian boy to remain with Dahmer, who later killed him. In September, two of the officers are fired, the third is placed on probation.

Sept. 10

Dahmer pleads innocent and innocent by reason of mental disease or defect to 15 murder counts in Wisconsin.

Sept. 24

Prosecutors in Summit County, Ohio, charge Dahmer in 1978 killing there after police, using a map drawn by Dahmer, find the victim's bone fragments at Dahmer's boyhood home.

1992

Jan. 13

Dahmer changes plea to guilty but insane for 15 Milwaukee County murders.

Feb. 15

Dahmer found sane on all 15 counts, making him eligible for mandatory life sentence for each. Dahmer says in later TV interviews in prison he still feels compulsions that made him kill.

1994

May 13

Dahmer is baptized in a whirlpool at Columbia Correctional Institute in Portage, Wis., after telling a minister he wanted his sins to be washed away.

July 3

Prison inmate tries to slash Dahmer's throat, but he suffers only minor scratch.

Nov. 28

Dahmer, 34, is attacked in prison and killed.

SOURCE: Staff reports, Associated Press, news reports