Her story really was the stuff of movies. American Aileen Wuornos (February 29, 1956 – October 9, 2002) has been described as many things – from vigilant hero to a monster.
Born to Diane and Leo Pittman, Wuornos never met her father and at aged 4 was abandoned by her mother. She was then adopted along with her older brother Keith by her maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos.
By age 10 Aileen and her older brother were having a sexual relationship and Aileen began exchanging sex for cigarettes, drugs and food at school when she was only 11 year old.
At 14 years of age she was raped by her grandfather’s friend and gave birth to a son who was placed into adoption. Conflicting reports suggest that the child’s father was actually her brother. During this period she also accused her grandfather of sexual assault and by the age of 15 moved into the woods near her old home supporting herself through prostitution.
In 1976 Aileen hitchhiked to Florida where her life further unravelled, committing a long string of criminal offences including burglary, assault, drunk driving, car theft, armed robbery and resisting arrest. During this time Aileen spent 9 weeks married to 69 year old yacht club president Lewis Gratz Fell before the marriage was annulled.
In 1984 Aileen met Tyria Moore, a barmaid at a Daytona gay bar, falling in love and moving in together, with Aileen supporting the couple with her meagre prostitution earnings.
In 1989 this tragic story of a woman with nothing to lose worsens as she embarks on a seemingly unprovoked killing spree. No single trigger in her life time of horror can account for the sudden killing spree Wuornos then unleashed. During 1989 to 1990 Wuornos killed men shooting dead her first victim, a client named Richard Mallory whom she had picked up on the infamous Florida Highway. He was later found to be a convicted rapist.. In December 1989 the corpse of Richard Mallory was found in woodlands near Daytona Beach. He had multiple gun-shot wounds.
A tip off from 4 anonymous callers alerted police to the whereabouts of Aileen’s lover, Tyria Moore who was staying at a relative’s house. Claiming not to have been an accessory to her lover’s offences, Tyria pleaded for Aileen’s help.
In exchange for Tyria’s immunity from prosecution, Aileen walked into the local police station and confessed to the six killings, claiming that she had acted in self-defense.
Although her sanity was questioned and there was the belief she suffered a mental illness such as personality disorder, Aileen was sentenced to death by lethal injection and October 9, 2002 her life was ended.
The selling of Aileen’s sensation story- that of “American’s First Female Serial Killer”, “The Damsel of Death”, “Florida’s Hitch-hiker Murderer” was inevitable, with Aileen reported to have sold off movie rights only two weeks following her arrest. Perhaps showing an intelligence and presence mind one may not expect from such a person.
Her story has inspired many books and TV shows & documentaries and, her life, with all of its sickening truths, was portrayed by Charlize Theron in her 2002 Academy Award Winning role as Wuornos in the movie, Monster.
Upon the initial reporting of Aileen’s killing spree, there was in fact public support for her actions that seemingly liberated women and those who had experienced violence, assault and abuse at the hands of men.
Every 2 minutes in the United States a woman is raped and one out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Nine out of ten victims is a woman and therefore the sensational rise of the Wuornos case was understandably unstoppable, with a nation empathetic to her claims of self-defence.
As the more horrifying details of Aileen’s spree unfolded during the trial and her aggressive behaviours were unveiled on the stand, many advocates for her cause quickly lost faith in her truth as they questioned her motive of self-defence. Perhaps, after all, her killings were unprovoked.
Even with the damning evidence and current day speculation that Aileen was in fact mentally ill and therefore immune from prosecution, her story is one that needs to be told.
She was a woman that endured a horrendous childhood and as an adult became a monster. The question beckons- Was Wuornos to blame for her monstrous actions as an adult?
With some compelling evidence that Wuornos was mentally unstable at the time of the murders, her story also arouses the Capital Punishment debate given the death penalty is currently a legal sentence for murders by “mentally competent adults” in 31 states of America.
Interesting Facts about Aileen Wuornos:
- Her last meal was a cup of coffee.
- Her middle name was Carol.
- There was a comic book made about Aileen’s life called ‘True Crime’
- Aileen was formally adopted by a born again christian just before her execution.