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Aileen Wuornos

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Aileen Carol Wuornos (born Aileen Carol Pittman) (February 29th, 1956, October 9th, 2002) was an American serial killer 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. Later she would deny her claims. She was put to death via lethal injection in 2002.

Contents

The early years

Born in Rochester, Michigan, Wuornos had what was, by most accounts, a traumatic childhood. Her father, Leo Dale Pittman, with whom she never had contact, was a psychopathic child molester who served time in Kansas and Michigan mental hospitals. He later committed suicide by hanging in prison, in 1969. Wuornos' mother, Diane Wuornos, married Pittman when she was 15 and bore him two children in Rochester, Michigan. Aileen Wuornos' older brother, Keith, was born in 1955. Diane divorced Pittman a few months before Aileen was born - less than two years into their marriage. Diane was in fear of Pittman with good reasons. Diane abandoned Aileen and her brother Keith 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 later said that Lauri physically and sexually abused her as a child and that Britta was an abusive alcoholic. In Lethal Intent, Sue Russell wrote that Wuornos was whipped with a belt by Lauri: "When she was made to pull down her shorts and bend over the wooden table in the middle of the kitchen, when the doubled-over belt flew down onto her bare buttocks, little Aileen railed against her father, petrified and crying noisily. Sometimes she lay face down, spread-eagled naked on the bed, for her whippings." Wuornos and her brother Keith found out that Lauri and Britta were not their actual parents when she was twelve. She also claimed to have had sex with multiple partners, including her brother Keith, at a young age.

Wuornos became pregnant at age fourteen which supported her claim of early sexual activities. She was thrown out of her home, disowned by her family and the community after having the baby at a Detroit maternity home on March 23, 1971. The baby boy was put up for adoption immediately after birth. Wuornos was forced to live in an abandoned car in the woods in the snow and rain. She was later sent to a home for unwed mothers. Britta died in July 1971 (officially of liver failure, although Wuornos' mother later accused Lauri of killing her). After Britta's death, Wuornos and her brother became wards of the court. She began dropping out of school to prostitute herself full-time on the streets. In May 1974, Wuornos began using the alias Sandra Kretsch. She was jailed in Jefferson County, Colorado for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. Additional charges of failure to appear in court were also filed when she skipped town ahead of her trial. She returned to Michigan.

In Michigan on July 13, 1976, Wuornos was arrested in Antrim County on simple assault and disturbing the peace charges, after she had an altercation where she threw a cue ball at a bartender's head. She was also served outstanding warrants from Troy, Michigan, for charges of driving without a license and consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle. Wuornos paid the $105 fine that was imposed on her on August 4, 1976. She obtained the money when her brother died from throat cancer on July 17, 1976. She inherited Keith's life insurance payment of $10,000. She squandered the money within two months on luxuries that included a new car (which Wuornos later wrecked).

In late September, Wuornos hitchhiked to Florida. While hitchhiking, she was picked up by a wealthy 69 year-old yacht club president named Lewis Fell. He fell in love with her and they married in 1976. The news of their nuptials was printed in the local newspaper's society pages. Although the marriage to Fell was a stroke of luck, Wuornos was too destructive to understand when things were good for her. Wuornos treated Fell badly, getting into fights at the local bar and eventually being sent to jail for assault. A month or so into the marriage, Fell realized his mistake and had their marriage annulled.

The middle years

Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida, for armed robbery of a convenience store on May 20, 1981. She was sentenced to prison on May 4, 1982 and was released thirteen months later, on June 30, 1983. Her next arrest came on May 1, 1984 for trying 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 Grody (Wuornos) for driving without a valid license.

On January 4, 1986, Wuornos was arrested in Miami under her own name, 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 on her person, and a .22 pistol was discovered beneath the passenger seat she occupied. Wuornos was ticketed for speeding in Jefferson County, Florida just a week later. This time she had begun using a new alias, Susan Blahovec. The citation given to her included a telling observation: Attitude Poor. A few days after the Jefferson County incident, Wuornos met 24-year-old Tyria Moore at a Daytona gay bar. They soon became lovers. Moore loved Wuornos and was loyal to her. Moore quit her job as a motel maid and allowed Wuornos to support them with her prostitution earnings. Despite their financial issues, Moore followed Wuornos from cheap motel to cheap motel, and endured overnights in old barns or in the woods. Their romance fizzled out within in a year or so but they remained close friends and traveling companions. They 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. Once again, their citation noted the now familiar Attitude Poor line.

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, it was evident that Wuornos' demeanor was increasingly erratic and belligerent. She would go out of her way to provoke confrontations and seldom traveled without a loaded pistol in her purse. She worked the bars and truck stops and supplemented her income from prostitution with theft whenever she could. Increasingly with Moore, she talked about the many troubles in her life and yearned desperately for revenge. By this time, Moore and Wuornos had run into more financial issues. It was getting harder to maintain even their meager existence when Wuornos was having difficulties bringing in money from her prostitution gigs.

The later years

Murders and arrest

A store owner in Palm Harbor, Florida named Richard Mallory took a ride with Wuornos on November 30, 1989 and became her first victim. Over the next two years, five subsequent victims were found; one of the other men is still missing. Her other identified victims, with the date their bodies were found are listed below:

  • David Spears, June 1, 1990
  • Charles Carskaddon, June 6, 1990
  • Peter Siems, July 4, 1990 (car found, body was never found)
  • Troy Burress, August 4, 1990
  • Dick Humphreys, September 12, 1990
  • Walter Jeno (Gino) Antonio, November 19, 1990

Wuornos was eventually identified when she and Moore had 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 shouted at the jury: "I'm innocent! I was raped! I hope you get raped! Scumbags of America!" In November of the same year, Dateline NBC reporter Michele Gillens uncovered that Mallory had served 10 years for violent rape in another state. Despite this, Wuornos was never given a re-trial.

On March 31, 1992 Wournos 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." She also announced to an Assistant State Attorney, "I hope your wife and children get raped in the ass!" In June of 1992, she pleaded guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon and received her fifth death sentence. In February of 1993, she pleaded 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 [1]. Still later she is said to have recanted her recantations during an interview with Nick Broomfield, when she believed that the cameras were off.

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.

Execution and last words

After her first death sentence, Wuornos often said she wanted it all to be over. In 2001 she began fighting to be executed as soon as possible. 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.[2] Some have argued that she was in no state for them to honor such a request.

Florida governor Jeb Bush had three psychiatrists give Wuornos a fifteen-minute interview from which they judged her mnd of Aileen, 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. [3].

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. [4]

Wuornos declined the traditional last meal, which could have been anything she wanted for under $20 and instead, was given a cup of coffee.

Wuornos was executed by lethal injection, which she requested instead of the electric chair) at 9:47 a.m., Wednesday, 9 October 2002. Her last words were:

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.

After her execution, she was cremated, and her ashes were taken to her native Michigan and spread around a tree. She had requested that Natalie Merchant's (from the group 10,000 Maniacs) song "Carnival" be played at her funeral. Natalie Merchant commented on this when asked why her song was run 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 in Florida's history to be executed. Some objected to her execution, claiming that she was not fit to be executed due to her mental state.


Fiction

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. Touted as "the first female serial killer" (which she was not), Wuornos' life has been documented in numerous books and portrayed in several films and television shows.

Documentaries

Nick Broomfield directed two documentaries about her:

  • Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992)
  • Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003).

Broomfield conducted the last media interview with Wuornos on the day before her execution.

Literature

Movies

  • The 2003 movie Monster, starring Charlize Theron, tells Wuornos' story from the moment she met Selby Wall, the first person in her life who showed some kindness towards her. The Wall character was 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' forty-eighth 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.

Music

  • Diamanda Gal├ís, who calls Wuornos "a huge hero" [5], dedicated the song Iron Lady (published in the album Malediction and Prayer) to Wuornos.

TV

  • 1992 TV movie Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story, starring Jean Smart as Wuornos, was first broadcast in 1992. Wuornos has also been featured on 60 Minutes, Television channel A&E, and Court TV.

External links

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