This is a face that needs no introduction, we all recognise the mugshot of a woman almost smirking at the camera with little remorse for the seven murders that she’d committed to get there.
Wuornos was born Aileen Carol Pittman on 29th February 1956 in Troy, Michigan. Her mother Diane Wuornos was 14-years-old when she married Leo Dale Pittman Wuornos’ father, through the marriage Diane had Wuornos’ older brother Keith on 14th March 1955, but Wuornos’ parents divorced a year later, just two months before Wuornos was born.
Wuornos never met her father as he was incarcerated by the time she was born, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was convicted of sex crimes against children, he eventually committed suicide in prison on 30th January 1969. Earlier in January 1960 Wuornos also lost her mother, Denise abandoned both of her children and left them with their grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos, who legally adopted Keith and Aileen on 18th March 1960.
At the age of 11 Wuornos started to act out, she would engage in sexual activities in school for cigarettes, drugs and food, it is also reported that at this time she engaged in sexual activities with her brother as well. Wuornos spoke after arrest about the abuse she endured from her grandfather, she said that he was sexually assaulting and beating her through her childhood and would order her to take off her clothes. In 1970 at the age of 14 Wuornos fell pregnant after she was raped by a friend of her grandfather, who would help him abuse her. She gave birth to a son after being sent to a home for unwed mothers and the baby was placed up for adoption straight after birth.
Wuornos dropped out of school a few months after her son was born, around the same time he grandmother died of liver failure. When Wuornos was 15 her grandfather threw her out of the house, and she began living in the woods near her old home and supporting herself by working as a prostitute.
Wuornos was arrested for the first time on 27th May 1974 at the age of 18, she was arrested in Jefferson County, Colorado for driving under the influence (DUI) and for firing a .22 calibre pistol from a moving vehicle, she was later charged with failure to appear.
Wuornos left for Florida in 1976 by hitchhiking, this is when she met her first husband Lewis Gratz Fell, he was a 69-year-old yacht club president. They married the year they met, and the announcement of their marriage was printed in a local newspaper’s society pages. During the marriage Wuornos would regularly get into confrontations in their local bar and this eventually landed her in jail for assault, it is reported that she was also violent with Fell, in one incident she hit him with his cane, this then led Fell to get a restraining order against Wuornos. She returned to Michigan after their split and was arrested on 14th July 1976 in Antrim County for assault and disturbing the peace, because she threw a cue ball at a bartender’s head. Three days after her arrest on 17th July 1976 her brother Keith passed away of oesophageal cancer, his life insurance was left to Wuornos and she received $10,000, her marriage to Fell was then annulled on 21st July 1976 making the marriage around nine weeks long in total.
Wuornos was picked up again for drunk driving in August 1976, she received a $105 fine, she used her inheritance to pay for this and allegedly blew through the rest in two months spending on luxuries such as a new car, which she wrecked not long after buying it.
Wuornos’ trouble with law got much worse when she was arrested for armed robbery of a convenience store in Edgewater, Florida on 20th May 1981, she stole $35 and two packs of cigarettes. She was sentenced to prison on 4th May 1982 but was released just over a year later, on 30th June 1983. On 1st May 1984 Wuornos was again arrested, this time for attempting to pass forged checks at a bank in Key West. On 30th November 1985, she became a suspect in the theft of a revolver and ammunition in Pasco County. The police caught up to Wuornos on 4th January 1986, she was arrested in Miami and charged with car theft, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice as she provided identification that was in her aunt’s name. The police officers searched the stolen car and found a .38 calibre revolver and a box of ammunition.
Wuornos was detained by Volusia County’s deputy sheriff on 2nd June 1986, she was questioned about an incident involving a male companion, the male companion accused Wuornos of pulling a gun on him in his car and demanding $200. Wuornos was found to be carrying spare ammunition at the time she was brought it for questioning, and upon searching the car she had occupied they found a .22 calibre pistol under the passenger seat.
Around the time of this incident Wuornos met Tyria Moore, she was a hotel maid at a Daytona Beach gay bar. They quickly moved in together and Wuornos supported them by working as a prostitute, the couple were detained on 4th July 1987, Daytona Beach police held Wuornos and Moore for questioning regarding an incident where they were accused of assault and battery with a beer bottle. Wuornos insisted that she loved Moore up until she was executed.
Before the murders began Wuornos seemed to be escalating her rage toward men when on 12th March 1988 Wuornos accused a Daytona bus driver of assault, she claimed that he pushed her off the bus after a confrontation, Moore was listed as a witness to this incident, but no charges were filed.
The first murder took place on 30th November 1989, the victim was 51-year-old Richard Mallory, he was an electronics store owner in Clearwater. Mallory was previously convicted of rape and Wuornos claimed that she killed him in self-defence. Two days after Mallory was killed his car was fond abandoned, then on 13th December 1989 his body was found several miles away in a wooded area, he had been shot multiple time with the cause of death being two bullets to the left lung, it was this murder that condemned Wuornos.
Wuornos targeted Charles Carskaddon, a 40-year-old part time rodeo worker next, his body was discovered in Pasco county, he had been shot nine times with small calibre weapon.
Next was David Spears a 43-year-old construction worker in Winter Garden, his body was found on 1st June 1990 along Florida State Road 19 in Citrus County, he had been shot six times, like Mallory’s murder, but when Spears was found he was naked.
Moore was allegedly involved in some capacity for the next murder, the murder of Peter Siems, 65-year-old Siems was a retired merchant seaman, who worked a lot with a Christian outreach ministry. He left Jupiter, Florida for Arkansas in June 1990 and was never seen again. Siems car was discovered on 4th July 1990, Moore and Wuornos were seen abandoning Siems’ car in Orange Springs, Florida after they were involved in an accident, witnesses who had seen them driving the car provided police with names and descriptions of them, this led to a media campaign to locate Wuornos and Moore. Police discovered that some of Siems’ belongings were in pawn shops, they retrieved fingerprints from the items and matched them to prints Wuornos had left in the car, with a criminal record already Wuornos’ fingerprints were on file.
On 31st July 1990, 50-year-old Troy Burress a sausage salesman from Ocala was reported missing, his body was later found on 4th August 1990 in a wooded area along State Road 19 in Marion County, he had been shot twice.
On 11th September 1990 the body of 56-year-old Charles “Dick” Humphreys a retired U.S. Air Force Major, former child abuse investigator and former Chief of Police, his body was found in Marion County, Humphreys had been shot six times in the head and torso, but his car was later found in Suwannee County.
The final victim was Walter Jeno Antonio, a 62-year-old trucker, security guard and police reservist, his nearly naked body was found near a logging road in Dixie County on 19th November 1990. Antonio had been shot four times, Wuornos again stole his car and it was later found in Brevard County.
Wuornos was arrested on 9th January 1991 on an outstanding warrant, she was staying at The Last Resort a biker bar in Volusia County at the time. The following day the police located Moore in Scranton, Pennsylvania, when questioned she agreed to elicit a confession from Wuornos in exchange for immunity from prosecution for her part in the murders. Moore returned to Florida and was put up in a motel with the police, she made numerous phone calls to Wuornos under police guidance, she pleaded for help in clearing her name. On 16th January 1991 Wuornos confessed to the murders, she claimed that the men she killed had tried to rape her, so she killed them in self-defence.
On 14th January 1992, a year after her arrest Wuornos went to trial for the murder of Mallory. Normally previous convictions are inadmissible in criminal trials, but in Wuornos’ trial they operated under Florida’s Williams Rule, this means that relevant evidence from previous crimes is admissible at a jury trial when it doesn’t prove “bad character” or “criminal propensity” of a defendant, but proves motive, intent, knowledge, modus operandi or lack of mistake, in Wuornos’ case the evidence related to her other crimes was used in court to show a pattern of illegal activity.
With the help of Moore, Wuornos was convicted of Mallory’s murder on 27th January 1992, court appointed psychiatrists for the defence at her sentencing hearing diagnosed Wuornos with borderline personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder, she was sentenced to death on 31st January 1992.
Wuornos pleaded no contest on 31st March 1992 in relation to the murders of Humphries, Burress and Spears saying she “wanted to get right with God”, she read statement in court that said “I want 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”. Wuornos was handed another three death sentences on 15th May 1992.
In June 1992, Wuornos went to court for the murder of Carskaddon, the defence made efforts during the trial to argue that Carskaddon had been tried for intent to commit rape in Maryland and that he had been committed to a maximum-security facility that provided remediation to sexual offenders. Records were obtained from the facility and they showed that from 1958 to 1962 Mallory had been committed for treatment and observation following a criminal charge of assault and intent to rape, he received a eight years of treatment from the facility and a report from 1961 stuck out it said “it was observed that Mr. Mallory possessed strong sociopathic trends”. This evidence was not allowed to be admitted in court and Wuornos’ request for retrial was denied. She was again sentenced to death, making this the fifth death sentence.
Wuornos pleaded guilty to Antonio’s murder in February 1993, she was again sentenced to death, bringing the total to six death sentences. No charges were filed for Siems’ murder as his body has never been found.
Over the years Wuornos’ stories about the killings have been inconsistent, she claimed that all seven men had raped her while she was working as a prostitute, but she recanted her self-defence claim and said that robbery was her motivation and that she didn’t want to leave a witness that could identify her. Wuornos was interviewed by filmmaker Nick Broomfield, during the interview when she thought the cameras were off, she told him that it was in fact self-defence, but she couldn’t cope on death row anymore and wanted to die. She had been on death row for ten years at the time of that interview.
While she awaited execution Wuornos was held at Florida Department of Corrections Broward Correctional Institution death row for women, she was later transferred to Florida State Prison for execution. She appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and denied in 1996. In 2001 she sent a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, she stated in it her intention to dismiss her legal counsel and terminate further appeals, she said “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 the “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.” Her attorneys however did argue that she was not mentally competent to make any requests, Wuornos continued to insist she knew what she was doing, and a court appointed panel of psychiatrist agreed.
In 2002, Wuornos accused prison staff of spiking her food with dirt, saliva and urine, she also claimed to have overheard conversations between staff saying they were “trying to get me so pushed over the brink by them I’d wind up committing suicide before execution” and “wishing to rape me before execution”. She further complained about strip searches, tight handcuffing, staff kicking her cell door, frequent window checks, low water pressure, mildew on her mattress and “cat calling in distaste and pure hatred toward me”. Wuornos threatened to boycott showers and food when certain officers were on duty, she said about this “in the meantime, my stomach’s growling away and I’m taking showers through the sink of my cell” her attorney stated in relation to her complaints “Ms. Wuornos really just wants to have proper treatment, humane treatment until the day she is executed” he then added “She believed what she’s written”.
Wuornos gave several interviews in the weeks leading up to her execution with Nick Broomfield she talked about “being taken away to meet God and Jesus and the angels and whatever is beyond the beyond”. In her final interview she once again claims that her mind was tortured at BCI, and that her head was crushed by “sonic pressure”. Wuornos said that the spiking and other abuses worsened when she complained with the goal to make her appear insane, or to drive her insane. She turned on Bloomfield during this interview and shouted “you sabotaged my ass! Society, and the cops, and the system! A raped woman got executed and was used for books and movies and shit!” with her final words on camera being “Thanks a lot, society, for railroading my ass”. A childhood friend of Wuornos Dawn Botkins had been present for this interview and later explained to Bloomfield that her verbal attack on him was aimed at society and media and aimed at him specifically.
On 9th October 2002 Wuornos was executed by lethal injection at 9:47am EDT. She declined a last meal and opted for a cup of coffee instead, her last words were “Yes I would 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 mother ship and all, I’ll be back, I’ll be back.” Wuornos was the second woman ever executed in Florida since the 1976 United States Supreme Court decision to restore capital punishment and she was the tenth woman in the US to be executed.
In some respect you have to have some sympathy for Wuornos, she suffered a lot throughout her life, all through her childhood she was surrounded by unreliable or abusive adults, she never had one person look after her, this would have started some of Wuornos’ mental illnesses as this would have made her feel like she is the one to blame for everything that happened or that she is somehow unworthy of people’s genuine affection, because she’d only ever suffered abuse, when she was put in a situation where she would be vulnerable to someone else she would lash out, this is apparent in her time in prison, I’m not saying her claims about staff were necessarily untrue, but in her mind she was vulnerable to these people, so if she acted up showing that she wasn’t scared to stand up to them and complain if she thought she was treating her unfairly then they might think twice about abusing her. This seems to be what initially drove Wuornos to commit her first murder, given his record it is possible that Mallory tried to rape her, being a prostitute that lives on the streets she would own a gun, in the moment he tried to rape her all the abuse she suffered at the hands of her family came flooding back leading her to lash out and shoot him multiple times. The fact Mallory had multiple bullet wounds with only two fatal wounds shows the attack was frenzied with personal emotion behind it, since she didn’t know Mallory as anything more than a client reveals that something else made her do it. When she’d killed Mallory I think the survival instinct that comes from her lifestyle took over, making her take his car and some items to pawn, with the easy money that comes with robbing someone it and the high she would have got from acting on her rage toward men like Mallory, she was never going to stop killing until she was caught.