Aileen Carol Wuornos (born Aileen Carol Pittman) (February 29, 1956 – October 9, 2002) was an American prostitute and convicted serial killer who was sentenced to death by the state of Florida in 1992. She ultimately received five additional death sentences. Wuornos admitted to killing seven men, in separate incidents, all of whom she claimed raped her (or attempted to) while she was working as a prostitute. She was put to death via lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
The early years[edit | edit source]
Aileen Carol Wuornos was born in Rochester, Michigan, to Diane Wuornos and Leo Dale Pittman. Her father, whom she never knew, was a psychopathic child molester who served time in Kansas and Michigan mental hospitals. He hanged himself in 1969 while in prison. Wuornos' mother, Diane, married Pittman when she was 15 and had two children. Aileen Wuornos's older brother, Keith, was born in 1955. Diane divorced Pittman less than two years into their marriage, a few months before her daughter was born. She abandoned her two children in 1960, leaving them in the care of their Finnish-born grandparents Lauri and Britta Wuornos, who raised them in Troy, Michigan. Lauri and Britta legally adopted the two children.
Wuornos claimed that her grandfather physically and sexually abused her as a child and her grandmother was an abusive alcoholic. In Lethal Intent, Sue Russell wrote that Wuornos was whipped with a belt by her grandmother. At the age of twelve, Wuornos and her brother Keith discovered that Lauri and Britta were not their biological parents.
Wuornos became pregnant at the age of fourteen. She also claimed to have had sex with multiple partners at a young age, including her brother. Upon giving birth to her child at a Detroit maternity home on March 23, 1971, she was banished from her family home and disowned by the community. The child was put up for adoption soon after birth. Wuornos was forced to take shelter in an abandoned car in the woods. Soon after she was sent to a home for unwed mothers.
Still at school, she began to work as a prostitute. She began using the alias Sandra Kretsch in May 1974. She was jailed in Jefferson County, Colorado for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. An additional charge of failing to appear in court was also filed when she left town ahead of her trial.
She returned to Michigan, where on July 13, 1976, after an incident in which she threw a cue ball at a bartender's head, she was arrested in Antrim County and charged with assault and disturbing the peace. She was also served outstanding warrants for driving without a license and drinking in a motor vehicle. She was fined $105.
On July 17, 1976, her brother Keith died of throat cancer and Wuornos acquired $10,000 from his life insurance. Wuornos subsequently paid the $105 fine that was imposed upon her on August 4, 1976 and squandered the remaining money within two months on luxuries that included a new car, which she later wrecked.
In late September 1976, Wuornos hitchhiked to Florida. She was escorted by a wealthy sixty-nine-year-old yacht club president named Lewis Fell. They married in 1976 and the news of their nuptials was printed in the local newspaper's society pages. However, Wuornos continually involved herself in confrontations at their local bar and was eventually sent to jail for assault. A month or so into their marriage, Fell had their marriage annulled.
The middle years[edit | edit source]
On May 20, 1981, Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida, for armed robbery. She was consequently sentenced to prison on May 4, 1982 and released on June 30, 1983. On May 1, 1984 she was sentenced for attempting to pass forged checks at a bank in Key West. On November 30, 1985 she was named as a suspect in the theft of a pistol and ammunition in Pasco County. At this time, Wuornos had begun borrowing the alias Lori Grody from an aunt in Michigan. In December 1985, eleven days later, the Florida Highway Patrol cited Lori Grody (Wuornos) for driving without a valid license.
On January 4, 1986 Wuornos was arrested in Miami under her own name and charged with grand theft auto, resisting arrest, and obstruction by false information. Miami police had found a .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition in the stolen car. On June 2, 1986 Volusia County deputies detained Lori Grody (Wuornos) for questioning after a male companion accused her of pulling a gun in his car and demanding $200. Wuornos was found to be carrying spare ammunition, and a .22 pistol was discovered beneath the passenger seat she occupied.
Wuornos, now using the alias Susan Blahovec, was ticketed for speeding in Jefferson County, Florida just a week later. A few days after the Jefferson County incident, Wuornos met twenty-four-year-old Tyria Moore at a Daytona gay bar. They soon became lovers. Moore quit her job as a motel maid and allowed Wuornos to support them with her prostitution earnings. Despite their financial problems, Moore followed Wuornos from one cheap motel to another, and endured nights in old barns. Their romance dissipated within a year though they remained close friends and were inseparable for the next four years.
In July 1987, Daytona Beach police had detained Moore and Susan Blahovec (Wuornos) for questioning on suspicion of hitting a man with a beer bottle. On December 18 that same year, Florida highway patrol cited Wuornos for walking on the interstate highway and possessing a suspended driver's license.
On March 12, 1988, under a new alias, Cammie Marsh Green, Wuornos accused a Daytona Beach bus driver of assault. She claimed that he had pushed her off the bus following an argument. Moore was listed as a witness to this incident.
On July 23, 1988, Moore and Wuornos (using the Susan Blahovec alias) were accused by their Daytona Beach landlord of vandalizing their apartment. He claimed that they had ripped out the apartment's carpets and painted the walls dark brown without his permission.
In November 1988, Susan Blahovec (Wuornos) launched a six-day campaign of threatening calls against a Zephyrhills supermarket, following an altercation over lottery tickets.
By 1989, Wuornos seldom traveled without a loaded pistol. She worked the bars and truck stops, supplementing her income from prostitution with theft. She allegedly began to talk with Moore about the many troubles in her life and her yearning for revenge. By this time, Moore and Wuornos were running into more financial problems.
The later years[edit | edit source]
The victims[edit | edit source]
Wuornos' first victim was store owner Richard Mallory in Palm Harbor, Florida, whom she murdered on November 30, 1989. Of the additional six victims, only five were found. Her other identified victims were
- David Spears, June 1, 1990
- Charles Carskaddon, June 6, 1990
- Peter Siems, July 4, 1990 (car found, body never found)
- Troy Burress, August 4, 1990
- Dick Humphreys, September 12, 1990
- Walter Jeno (Gino) Antonio, November 19, 1990
Apprehension and sentencing[edit | edit source]
Wuornos was eventually identified when she and Moore were involved in an accident while driving a victim's car. She was apprehended a few months later. Wuornos cited self-defense for Mallory's murder, maintaining that he had attempted to rape her. She was convicted for his murder in January 1992 with help from Moore's testimony. When Wuornos was found guilty of the murder of Richard Mallory, she exclaimed at the jury "I'm innocent! I was raped! I hope you get raped! Scumbags of America!"
On March 31, 1992, Wuornos pleaded no contest to the murders of Dick Humphreys, Troy Burress, and David Spears, saying she wanted to "get right with God." In her statement to the court, she averred "I wanted to confess to you that Richard Mallory did violently rape me as I've told you. But these others did not. [They] only began to start to." In June 1992, she pleaded guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon and received her fifth death sentence. In February 1993, she plead guilty to the murder of Walter Gino Antonio. No charges were brought against her for the murder of Peter Siems, since his body was never found. In all, she received six death sentences.
Wuornos told several inconsistent stories about the killings she had committed. She admitted to killing seven men, in separate incidents. She claimed initially that all seven had raped her while she was working as a prostitute. Later, she recanted the claim of self-defense.
During the trial, she was adopted by Arlene Pralle and her husband, after Pralle had a dream in which she was told to take care of Wuornos. According to Pralle, Jesus told her to write to Wuornos. Despite Pralle's help, her appeal to the Supreme Court was denied in 1996. The relationship was not to last, however, because Wuornos began to suspect that Pralle was only there for the publicity and the money. Wuornos told Nick Broomfield in an interview that Arlene Pralle and her then lawyer Steve Glazer were even telling her ways to kill herself in prison.
Execution[edit | edit source]
After her first death sentence, Wuornos often said she wanted "it all to be over." In 2001 she began fighting to be executed. She petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for the right to fire her legal counsel and stop all appeals, saying "I killed those men, robbed them as cold as ice. And I'd do it again, too. There's no chance in keeping me alive or anything, because I'd kill again. I have hate crawling through my system.... I am so sick of hearing this 'she's crazy' stuff. I've been evaluated so many times. I'm competent, sane, and I'm trying to tell the truth. I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again.". Some argued that she was in no state for them to honor such a request.
Florida governor Jeb Bush instructed three psychiatrists to give Wuornos a fifteen-minute interview, from which all three judged her mentally fit to be executed. The test for competency requires that the psychiatrists are convinced that the condemned person  understands that he or she will die, and  understands what crimes he or she is being executed for.
Wuornos later started accusing the prison guards of abusing her. She accused them of tainting her food, spitting on it, serving her potatoes cooked in dirt, and her food arriving with urine. She also accused them of overhearing conversations in "trying to get me so pushed over the brink by them I'd wind up committing suicide before the [execution]" and conversations "wishing to rape me before execution." She also complained of strip searches, being handcuffed so tightly that her wrists bruised any time she left her cell, door kicking and frequent window checks by guards, low water pressure, mildew on her mattress and "cat calling ... in distaste and a pure hatred towards me." Wuornos threatened to boycott showers and food trays when the eight officers are on duty. "In the meantime, my stomach's growling away and I'm taking showers through the cell of my sink."
Her attorney stated that "Ms. Wuornos really just wants to have proper treatment, humane treatment until the day she's executed," and "If the allegations don't have any truth to them, she's clearly delusional. She believes what she's written." 
During the final stages of the appeal process, she gave a series of interviews to Broomfield. In one interview, when she was not aware that the camera and sound equipment were recording her, Wuornos claimed that she was recanting her previous claims of self-defense because she "wanted to get it over with" and be executed. In her final interview, shortly before her execution, she claimed that her mind was being controlled by "sonic pressure" (presumably radio waves) to make her appear crazy, and that she would be taken away by angels on a space ship . When Broomfield attempted to get her to speak about how she had earlier claimed to have killed her victims in self-defense, Wuornos became livid, cursed Broomfield and terminated the interview. Broomfield later received a phone call from a friend of Wuornos', who told him, "She's sorry, Nick. She didn't give you the finger. She gave the media the finger, and then the attorneys the finger. And she knew if she said much more, it could make a difference on her execution tomorrow, so she just decided not to.".
Wuornos had Kentucky Fried Chicken and fries for her last meal, according to Broomfield.
- I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the Rock and I'll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mothership and all. I'll be back.
Post-mortem[edit | edit source]
After her execution, Aileen was cremated, and her ashes were taken by her childhood friend/ secret lover Dawn Botkins to her native Michigan and spread beneath a tree.
She had requested that Natalie Merchant's song "Carnival" be played at her funeral. Natalie Merchant commented on this when asked why her song was played during the credits of the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.
- When director Nick Broomfield sent a working edit of the film, I was so disturbed by the subject matter that I couldn't even watch it. Aileen Wuornos led a tortured, torturing life that is beyond my worst nightmares. It wasn't until I was told that Aileen spent many hours listening to my album Tigerlily while on death row and requested 'Carnival' be played at her funeral that I gave permission for the use of the song. It's very odd to think of the places my music can go once it leaves my hands. If it gave her some solace, I have to be grateful.
Wuornos was the tenth woman in the U.S. to be executed since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976 and the second woman ever executed in Florida.
Broomfield later stated:
- I think this anger developed inside her. And she was working as a prostitute. I think she had a lot of awful encounters on the roads. And I think this anger just spilled out from inside her. And finally exploded. Into incredible violence. That was her way of surviving... I think Aileen really believed that she had killed in self-defense. I think someone who's deeply psychotic can't really tell the difference between something that is life threatening and something that is a minor disagreement; that you could say something that she didn't agree with, she would get into a screaming black temper about it. And I think that's what had caused these things to happen. And at the same time, when she wasn't in those extreme moods, there was an incredible humanity to her.".
Publicity[edit | edit source]
Within weeks of her arrest, Wuornos had engaged agents to sell the rights to her story as well as three of the law enforcement agents who were tracking her down. Inaccurately touted as "the first female serial killer," Wuornos' life has been documented in numerous books and portrayed in several films and television shows.
- Books: Lethal Intent (2002), ISBN 0-7860-1518-7, by Sue Russell
- Documentaries: Nick Broomfield directed two documentaries: Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992), and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003). Broomfield conducted the last media interview with Wuornos on the day before her execution.
- Movies: The 2003 movie Monster, starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci, tells Wuornos' story from the moment she met Selby Wall (based on Wuornos' lover and four-year companion, Tyria Moore) until her first conviction for murder. For her performance as Wuornos, Theron received the Academy Award for Best Actress. This award was given on what would have been Wuornos' 48th birthday, although this was not mentioned in Theron's acceptance speech. Theron donned prosthetic teeth, wore spray-on freckles and gained thirty pounds to play Wuornos.
- Television: 1992 made-for-television movie Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story, starring Jean Smart as Wuornos, was first broadcast in 1992. Wuornos has also been featured on 60 Minutes, A&E, and Court TV.
- Music: Diamanda Galás, who calls Wuornos "a huge hero", dedicated to her the song Iron Lady on the album Malediction and Prayer. In 2006, Bitch released the sympathetic song Aileen Wuornos on the album Make This/Break This. Also, Portland punk band Harum Scarum sampled a quote from Wuornos' documentary preceding the song "Systematic Death" on their debut record Mental Health (Tribal War Records). The album jacket contains articles and editorials about Wuornos.
- New York-based metalcore band It Dies Today's song "Sixth Of June" was based on Wuornos' last words. The song can be heard on their album called "Sirens."
- Detroit rapper Obie Trice, referenced Wuornos (or more specifically her portrayal in the movie Monster) in his song "Wake Up" from his sophomore album Second Round's on Me, with the line "They say he was a monster from birth, so/ Fuck it, I'll just Aileen Wuornos them hoes."
References[edit | edit source]
- "Lady killer", The Guardian, 2001-08-02. Retrieved on 2006-08-12.
- Zarrella, John. "Wuornos' last words: 'I'll be back'", CNN, 2002-10-15. Retrieved on 2006-08-12.
- Broomfield, Nick. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (Film Summary). Retrieved on 2006-08-12.
- Fuchs, Cynthia (2004-02-12). A Lot of Illegalness Going On. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2006-08-12.
- Transcript interview Nick Broomfield on Paula Zahn NOW. Voxant (2004-02-26). Retrieved on 2006-08-12.
- Interview with Diamanda Galas. Terrorizer Magazine. Archived from the original on 2005-02-05. Retrieved on 2006-08-12.
[edit | edit source]
- The Crime Library: Aileen Wuornos, includes extensive details on Aileen's younger years.
- About Lethal Intent
- Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer Official Website
- FAQ about Wuornos's life and the 2003 film.
- CourtTV.Com In-depth: Aileen Wuornos
- Biography of Aileen Wuornos. Site by Andrea Aherns, who has done extensive work on serial killers.
- CTV-The death of a serial killer
- Aileen: The Early Years WTPARNELL.com
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