Aileen Wuornos mug shot
|Birth name:||Aileen Carol Pittman|
|Also known as:|| Sandra Kretsch
Susan Lynn Blahovec
Cammie Marsh Greene
Lori Kristine Grody
Aileen Carol Wournos
|Born:||February 29, 1956
Rochester, Michigan, United States
|Died:||October 9, 2002 (aged 46)
Florida State Prison, Starke, Florida, United States
|Cause of death:||Lethal injection|
|Conviction:||6 counts 1st degree murder|
|Number of victims:||7|
|Span of killings:||November 30, 1989 – November 19, 1990|
|Date apprehended:||January 9, 1991|
Aileen Carol Wuornos (February 29, 1956 – October 9, 2002) was an American serial killer who killed seven men in Florida between 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 via lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
Wuornos was born as Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan. She had one older brother named Keith, who was born in February 1955. Her mother, Diane Pratt, was 15 years old when she married Leo Dale Pittman on June 3, 1954. Less than two years into marriage and two months before Wuornos was born, Pratt filed for divorce. Pittman was a child molester who spent most of his life in and out of prison. Wuornos never met her father, as he was imprisoned for the rape and attempted murder of an eight-year-old boy at the time of her birth. Leo Pittman was strangled in prison in 1969. In January 1960, Pratt abandoned her children, leaving them with their maternal grandparents – Lauri and Britta Wuornos. They were legally adopted on March 18, 1960 by the Wuornos family and took their surname.
From a young age, Wuornos engaged in sex with multiple partners, including her own brother. At the age of 13, she became pregnant, claiming the pregnancy was a result of being raped by an unknown man. Wuornos gave birth at a Detroit home for unwed mothers on March 23, 1971. The child, a son, was placed for adoption. On July 7, 1971 Britta Wuornos died of liver failure, after which Wuornos and her brother became wards of the court. At age 15, Wuornos' grandfather threw her out of the house, and she began supporting herself as a prostitute.
On May 27, 1974, Wuornos was arrested in Jefferson County, Colorado for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. She was later charged with failure to appear.
In 1976, Wuornos hitchhiked to Florida, where she met 70-year-old yacht club president Lewis Gratz Fell (June 28, 1907 — January 6, 2000). They married that same year, 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. She also hit Fell with his own cane, leading him to get a restraining order against her, after which she returned to Michigan. On July 14, 1976, Wuornos was arrested in Antrim County, Michigan and charged with assault and disturbing the peace following an incident in which she threw a cue ball at a bartender's head. On July 17, her brother Keith died of throat cancer and Wuornos acquired $10,000 from his life insurance. Wuornos and Fell divorced on July 21 after nine weeks of marriage.
On May 20, 1981, Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida for the armed robbery of a convenience store. She was consequently sentenced to prison on May 4, 1982 and released on June 30, 1983. On May 1, 1984, Wuornos was arrested 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 revolver and ammunition in Pasco County.
On January 4, 1986, Wuornos was arrested in Miami and charged with grand theft auto, resisting arrest and obstruction by false information (she provided identification with the name Lori Grody, her aunt). Miami police found a .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition in the stolen car. On June 2, 1986, Volusia County deputies 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 beneath the passenger seat she occupied.
Around this time, 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 4, 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.
Wuornos and Moore abandoned Peter Siems' car after they were involved in an accident on July 4, 1990, after which Wuornos' palm print was found. 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, which matched those found in the victims' cars and on Wuornos' arrest record.
On January 9, 1991, 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 get 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 January 16, 1991, Wuornos confessed to the murders. She claimed the men had tried to rape her and she killed them in self-defense.
Wuornos went to trial for the murder of Richard Mallory on January 14, 1992. 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 in order to show a pattern of illegal acts. Wuornos was convicted for Richard Mallory's murder on January 27, 1992 with help from Moore's testimony. At her sentencing, psychiatrists for the defense testified that Wuornos was mentally unstable and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She was sentenced to death on January 31, 1992.
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 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 May 15, 1992, Wuornos was given three more death sentences.
In June 1992, Wuornos pleaded guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon and received her fifth death sentence in November 1992. 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 which 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 overall 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.
In February 1993, Wuornos pleaded 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.
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 then later recanted the claim of self-defense. During an interview with filmmaker Nick Broomfield in which 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.
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 Wuornos a 15-minute interview. The test for competency requires the psychiatrist(s) to be convinced that the condemned person understands that they will die and for which crime(s) they are being executed. All three judged her mentally fit to be executed.
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 to being taken away by angels on a space ship. When Broomfield attempted to get her to speak about her earlier claims to have killed her victims in self-defense, Wuornos became livid, cursed Broomfield, and terminated the interview. She began her attack on Broomfield by saying, "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 on camera 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."
Wuornos was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002. 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. She declined a last meal and instead was given a cup of coffee. Her final statement before the execution was "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." 
After her execution, Wuornos was cremated. Her ashes were taken by Dawn Botkins to her native Michigan and spread beneath a tree. She 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.
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.
FBI profiler Robert K. Ressler mentioned Wuornos only briefly in his autobiographical history of his 20 years with the FBI. Writing in 1992, he said he often does not discuss female serial killers because they tend to kill in sprees instead of in a sequential fashion. He noted Wuornos as the sole exception. Ressler, who coined the phrase serial killer to describe murderers seeking personal gratification, does not apply it to women killing in postpartum psychosis or to any murderer acting solely for financial gain, such as women who have killed a series of boarders or spouses.
Filmmaker Nick Broomfield directed two documentaries about Wuornos:
The 2003 film Monster, starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci, tells Wuornos' story from the moment she met Selby Wall (based on Tyria Moore) until her first conviction for murder. Theron received the 2003 Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal.
Jean Smart portrayed Wuornos in the 1992 TV movie Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story.
An operatic adaptation of Wuornos' life events premiered at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on June 22, 2001. Entitled Wuornos, the opera was written by composer/librettist Carla Lucero, conducted by Mary Chun, and produced by the Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts.