Aileen Wuornos was an American serial killer who killed seven men in Florida in 1989 and 1990, claiming they raped or attempted to rape her while she was working as a prostitute. She was convicted and sentenced to death for six of the murders and executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
The Early Life of Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos was born as Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan, on February 29, 1956. Her mother, Diane Wuornos, was 15 years old when she married Aileen’s father, Leo Dale Pittman, on June 3, 1954. Less than two years later, and two months before Aileen was born, Diane filed for divorce. Aileen had an older brother named Keith, who was born in February 1955.
Wuornos never met her father, because he was in prison for the rape and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl when she was born. Leo Pittman was considered to be a schizophrenic, and was convicted of sex crimes against children, was in and out of prison, and hanged himself in prison in 1969. In January 1960, when Aileen was almost 4 years old, Diane abandoned her children, leaving them with their maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos, who legally adopted Keith and Aileen on March 18, 1960.
At age 11, Aileen Wuornos engaged in sexual activities in school in exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food. She had also engaged in sexual activities with her own brother. Wuornos claimed that she was sexually assaulted and beaten as a child by her grandfather, an alcoholic. According to her accusations, before beating her, he would force her to strip out of her clothes. In 1970, at age 14, she became pregnant, having been raped by a friend of her grandfather. Wuornos gave birth at a home for unwed mothers, and the child was placed for adoption. A few months after her baby was born, Wuornos dropped out of school at about the time that her grandmother died of liver failure. Aileen Wuornos, and her brother, subsequently became wards of the court. When she was 15, her grandfather threw her out of the house, and she began supporting herself as a prostitute and living in the woods near her old home.
The Early Criminal Career of Aileen Wuornos
On 27 May 1974, Aileen Wuornos was arrested in Jefferson County, Colorado, for driving under the influence (DUI), disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. She was later charged with failure to appear (FTA).
In 1976, Wuornos hitchhiked to Florida, where she met 69-year-old yacht club president Lewis Gratz Fell. They married that same year, and the announcement of their nuptials was printed in the society pages of the local newspaper. However, Aileen continually involved herself in confrontations at their local bar and eventually went to jail for assault. She also hit Fell with his own cane, leading him to get a restraining order against her. She returned to Michigan where, on 14 July 1976, Wuornos was arrested in Antrim County, Michigan, and charged with assault and disturbing the peace for throwing a cue ball at a bartender’s head. On July 17, her brother Keith died of esophageal cancer and Wuornos received $10,000 from his life insurance. Aileen Wuornos and Fell annulled their marriage on July 21st, after only nine weeks of marriage.
On 20 May 1981, Aileen Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida, for the armed robbery of a convenience store, where she stole $35 and two packs of cigarettes. She was sentenced to prison on May 4th 1982, and released on the 30th of June, 1983. On May 1st, 1984, Wuornos was arrested for attempting to pass forged checks at a bank in Key West. On November 30th, 1985, she was named as a suspect in the theft of a revolver and ammunition in Pasco County.
On January 4th, 1986, Aileen Wuornos was arrested in Miami and charged with grand theft auto, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice for providing identification with her aunt’s name. Miami police officers found a .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition in the stolen car. On June 2 1986, Volusia County, Florida deputy sheriffs detained 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 under the passenger seat she had occupied.
Enter Tyria Moore
Around this time, Aileen Wuornos met Tyria Moore, a hotel maid, at a Daytona gay bar. They moved in together, and Wuornos supported them with her prostitution earnings. On July 4th, in 1987, Daytona Beach police detained Wuornos and Moore at a bar for questioning regarding an incident in which they were accused of assault and battery with a beer bottle. On March 12, 1988, Wuornos accused a Daytona Beach bus driver of assault. She claimed that he pushed her off the bus following a confrontation. Moore was listed as a witness to the incident.
The Murders of Aileen Wuornos
Richard Mallory, age 51, 30 November 1989—Electronics store owner in Clearwater, Florida. Wuornos’ first victim was a convicted rapist whom she claimed to have killed in self-defense. Two days later, a Volusia County, Florida, Deputy Sheriff found Mallory’s abandoned vehicle. On December 13th, Mallory’s body was found several miles away in a wooded area. He had been shot several times, but two bullets to the left lung were found to have been the cause of death. It was on this murder that Aileen Wuornos would eventually be condemned.
The Victims of Aileen Wuornos
- David Spears, age 43—Construction worker in Winter Garden, Florida. On June 1st, 1990, his nude body was found along Highway 19 in Citrus County, Florida. He had been shot six times.
Charles Carskaddon, age 40, 31 May 1990—Part-time rodeo worker. On June 6th, 1990, his body was found in Pasco County, Florida. He had been shot nine times with a small-caliber weapon.
- Peter Siems, age 65—In June 1990, Siems left Jupiter, Florida, for New Jersey. On July 4th, 1990, his car was found in Orange Springs, Florida. Moore and Wuornos were seen abandoning the car, and Wuornos’ palm print was found on the interior door handle. His body was never found.
Troy Burress, age 50—Sausage salesman from Ocala, Florida. On 31 July 1990, he was reported missing. On August 4th, 1990, his body was found in a wooded area along State Road 19 in Marion County, Florida. He had been shot twice.
- Charles “Dick” Humphreys, age 56, 11 September 1990—Retired U.S. Air Force Major, former State Child Abuse Investigator, and former Chief of Police. On September 12th 1990, his body was found in Marion County, Florida. He was fully clothed and had been shot six times in the head and torso. His car was found in Suwannee County, Florida.
Walter Jeno Antonio, age 62—Police Reservist. On 19 November 1990, Antonio’s nearly nude body was found near a remote logging road in Dixie County, Florida. He had been shot four times. Five days later, his car was found in Brevard County, Florida.
Apprehension and Sentencing of Aileen Wuornos
On July 4th,1990, Aileen Wuornos and Moore abandoned Peter Siems’s car after they were involved in an accident. Witnesses who had seen the women driving the victims’ cars provided police with their names and descriptions, resulting in a media campaign to locate them. Police also found some of the victims’ belongings in pawnshops and retrieved fingerprints matching those found in the victims’ cars. Wuornos had a criminal justice record in Florida, and her fingerprints were on file.
On January 9th, 1991, Aileen Wuornos was arrested on an outstanding warrant at The Last Resort, a biker bar in Volusia County. Police located Moore the next day in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She agreed to elicit a confession from Wuornos in exchange for prosecutorial immunity. Moore returned with police to Florida, where she was put up in a motel. Under police guidance, Moore made numerous telephone calls to Wuornos, pleading for help in clearing her name. Three days later, on 16 January 1991, Aileen Wuornos confessed to the murders. She claimed the men had tried to rape her and she killed them in self-defense.
The Trial of Aileen Wuornos
On January 14th 1992, Wuornos went to trial for the murder of Richard Mallory. Prior bad acts are normally inadmissible in criminal trials, but under Florida’s Williams Rule, the prosecution was allowed to introduce evidence related to her other crimes to show a pattern of illegal activity. On 27 January 1992, Wuornos was convicted of Richard Mallory’s murder with help from Moore’s testimony. At her sentencing, psychiatrists for the defense testified that Aileen Wuornos was mentally unstable and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Four days later, she was sentenced to death.
On March 31st, 1992, Aileen Wuornos plead 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 stated, “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.” On 15 May 1992, Wuornos was given three more death sentences.
In June 1992, Aileen plead guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon; in November 1992, she received her fifth death sentence. The defense made efforts during the trial to introduce evidence that Mallory had been tried for intent to commit rape in Maryland and that he had been committed to a maximum security correctional facility in Maryland that provided remediation to sexual offenders. Records obtained from that institution reflected that, from 1958 to 1962, Mallory was committed for treatment and observation resulting from a criminal charge of assault with intent to rape and received an over-all eight years of treatment from the facility. In 1961, “it was observed of Mr. Mallory that he possessed strong sociopathic trends”. The judge refused to allow this to be admitted in court as evidence and denied Wuornos’ request for a retrial.
Yet Another Guilty Plea by Aileen Wuornos
In February 1993, Wuornos plead guilty to the murder of Walter Jeno Antonio and was sentenced to death again. No charges were brought against her for the murder of Peter Siems, as his body was never found. In all, she received six death sentences.
Aileen Wuornos told several inconsistent stories about the killings. She claimed initially that all seven men had raped her while she was working as a prostitute but later recanted the claim of self-defense. During an interview with filmmaker Nick Broomfield, when she thought the cameras were off, she told him that it was, in fact, self-defense, but she could not stand being on death row—where she had been for 12 years at that point—and wanted to die.
The Execution of Aileen Wuornos
Wuornos’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in 1996. In 2001, she announced that she would not issue any further appeals against her death sentence. 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.” A defense attorney argued that she was in no state for them to honor such a request.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush instructed three psychiatrists to give Aileen Wuornos a 15-minute interview. The test for competency requires the psychiatrist(s) to be convinced that the condemned person understands that she will die and for which crime(s) she is being executed. All three judged her mentally fit to be executed.
Aileen Wuornos later started accusing the prison matrons 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 claimed overhearing conversations about “trying to get me so pushed over the brink by them I’d wind up committing suicide before the [execution]” and “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, frequent window checks by matrons, 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 specific officers were on duty. “In the meantime, my stomach’s growling away and I’m taking showers through the sink of my cell.”
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 her final interview shortly before her execution she claimed that her mind was being controlled by “sonic pressure” to make her appear crazy and described her impending death as being taken away by angels on a space ship. Aileen Wuornos said to Broomfield, “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.” Her final words in the on-camera interview were “Thanks a lot, society, for railroading my ass.” Broomfield later met Dawn Botkins, a childhood 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.”
The Death Chamber
Wuornos was brought into the death chamber on October 9, 2002. She had had KFC as her last meal and was given a $20 budget. Her last words before the execution were “Yes, I would 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 mother ship and all, I’ll be back, I’ll be back.”
At 9:47 A.M. EDT, Aileen Wuornos died of lethal injection. She was the tenth woman in the United States to be executed since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on capital punishment in 1976, and the second woman ever executed in Florida.
credit murderpedia / wikipedia