Aileen Wuornos mug shot
|Born||Aileen Carol Pittman
February 29, 1956
Rochester, Michigan, United States
|Died||October 9, 2002
Florida State Prison, Bradford County, Florida, United States
|Cause of death||Lethal injection|
|Other names||Sandra Kretsch
Susan Lynn Blahovec
Cammie Marsh Greene
Lori Kristine Grody
|Spouse(s)||Lewis Gratz Fell (m. 1976; div. 1976)|
|Conviction(s)||6 counts of 1st degree murder|
Span of killings
|November 30, 1989–November 19, 1990|
|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. Wuornos claimed that her victims had either raped or attempted to rape her while she was working as a prostitute, and that all of the homicides were committed in self-defense.
Wuornos was born Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan, on February 29, 1956. Her Finnish-American mother, Diane Wuornos (born 1939), was 14 years old when she married Aileen's father, Leo Dale Pittman (1937–1969), on June 3, 1954. Less than two years later, and two months before Aileen was born, Diane filed for divorce. Aileen's older brother Keith was born on March 14, 1955.
Wuornos never met her father; he was incarcerated at the time of her birth. Leo Dale Pittman was diagnosed with schizophrenia, later convicted of sex crimes against children, and eventually hanged himself in prison on January 30, 1969. In January 1960, when Wuornos was almost four 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.
By the age of 11, Wuornos began engaging in sexual activities in school in exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food. She had also engaged in sexual activities with her brother. Wuornos claimed that her alcoholic grandfather had sexually assaulted and beaten her when she was a child; 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 to a boy at a home for unwed mothers on March 23, 1971, and the child was placed for adoption. A few months after her baby was born, she dropped out of school at about the time that her grandmother died of liver failure. When Wuornos 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.
Early criminal activity
On May 27, 1974, at age 18, 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.
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 local newspaper's society pages. However, Wuornos 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 July 14, 1976, she 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. Wuornos and Fell annulled their marriage on July 21 after only nine weeks. In August 1976, Wuornos was given a $105 fine for drunk driving. She used her inheritance money that she had received from her late brother Keith the previous month to pay the fine and spent the rest of her inheritance money within two months by using it to buy luxuries including a new car, which she wrecked shortly afterwards.
On May 20, 1981, 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 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 car theft, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice for providing identification bearing 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 her 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 police discovered a .22 pistol under the passenger seat she had 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.
- Richard Mallory, age 51, November 30, 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 13, Mallory's body was found several miles away in a wooded area; he had been shot several times, two bullets to the left lung were found to have been the cause of death. It was on this murder that Wuornos would initially be condemned.
- David Spears, age 43—Construction worker in Winter Garden, Florida. On June 1, 1990, his nude body was found along Highway 19 in Citrus County, Florida. He had been shot six times.
- Charles Carskaddon, age 40, May 31, 1990—Part-time rodeo worker. On June 6, 1990, his body was found in Pasco County, Florida. He had been shot nine times with a small-caliber weapon.
- Peter Siems, age 65—retired merchant seaman who devoted much of his time to a Christian outreach ministry. In June 1990, Siems left Jupiter, Florida, for Arkansas. On July 4, 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 July 31, 1990, he was reported missing. On August 4, 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, September 11, 1990—Retired U.S. Air Force Major, former State Child Abuse Investigator, and former Chief of Police. On September 12, 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—Trucker, security guard, and police reservist. On November 19, 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
On July 4, 1990, Wuornos and Moore abandoned Peter Siems' 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 pawn shops and retrieved fingerprints matching those found in the victims' cars. Wuornos had a criminal record in Florida, and her fingerprints were on file.
On January 9, 1991, Wuornos was arrested on an outstanding warrant at The Last Resort, a biker bar in Volusia County. The police located Wuornos' former lover Tyria Moore the next day in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She agreed to elicit a confession from Wuornos in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Moore returned with the police to Florida, where she was put up in a motel. Under police guidance, she 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.
On January 14, 1992, Wuornos went to trial for the murder of Richard Mallory; although previous convictions are normally inadmissible in criminal trials, 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 January 27, 1992, Wuornos was convicted of Mallory's murder 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 and antisocial personality disorder. Four days later, she was sentenced to death.
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 said, in part: "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; 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.
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 but later recanted the claim of self-defense, citing robbery and a desire to leave no witnesses as the reason for murder. 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 10 years at that point—and wanted to die.
Assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist, Wuornos scored 32/40. The checklist evaluates individuals on a 20-item list of antisocial and interpersonal behaviors, with each item being scored at zero, 1 or 2 and thus a maximum score of 40. Depending on location and research perspective, scores above 25 or 30 are consistent with a diagnosis of psychopathy.
Wuornos was incarcerated at the Florida Department of Corrections Broward Correctional Institution (BCI) death row for women, then transferred to the Florida State Prison for execution. Her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in 1996. In a 2001 petition to the Florida Supreme Court she stated her intention to dismiss her legal counsel and terminate all pending appeals. "I killed those men," she wrote, "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." While her attorneys argued that she was not mentally competent to make such a request, Wuornos insisted that she knew what she was doing, and a court-appointed panel of psychiatrists agreed.
In 2002, Wuornos began accusing prison matrons of tainting her food with saliva, dirt, and urine. She said she had overheard conversations among prison personnel "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, tight handcuffing, door kicking, frequent window checks, 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 certain 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." He added, "She believes what she's written."
In the weeks prior to her execution Wuornos gave a series of interviews to Broomfield. She depicts, "being taken away to meet God and Jesus and the angels and whatever is beyond the beyond". In her final interview she once again charged that her mind was "tortured" at BCI, and her head crushed by "sonic pressure". Food poisonings and other abuses worsened, she said, each time she complained, with the goal of making her appear insane, or to drive her insane. She also turned on her interviewer: "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 on-camera words were "Thanks a lot, society, for railroading my ass." Dawn Botkins, a childhood friend of Wuornos, later told Broomfield that her verbal abuse was directed at society and the media in general, not at him specifically.
Wuornos's execution took place on October 9, 2002. She died at 9:47 AM EDT. She requested "Kentucky Fried Chicken and french fries" as her last meal. Her last words 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." She was the tenth woman in the United States and the second in Florida to be executed since the 1976 Supreme Court decision restoring capital punishment.
Wuornos' body was cremated, and her ashes were spread beneath a tree in her native Michigan by Dawn Botkins. Wuornos requested that Natalie Merchant's song "Carnival" be played at her funeral. Merchant commented on this when asked why she permitted "Carnival" to be 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 speculated on Wuornos' motive and state of mind:
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 allegedly 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.
In 2002, journalist Sue Russell wrote a book about Wuornos called Lethal Intent. In 2012, Lisa Kester and Daphne Gottlieb edited and published a collection of letters written over a ten-year span from Wuornos to her childhood friend Dawn Botkins. The book is titled: Dear Dawn: Aileen Wuornos in Her Own Words.
Filmmaker Nick Broomfield directed two documentaries about Wuornos:
- Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1993)
- Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)
Wuornos was the subject of episodes of the documentary TV series American Justice, Biography and Deadly Women. She was also featured in an episode of the TV series, The New Detectives (season 3, episode 1: "Fatal Compulsion").
The theatrical film Monster (2003) starred Charlize Theron as Wuornos. It chronicles Wuornos' story from childhood until her first murder conviction. The film earned Theron an Academy Award for Best Actress for playing Wuornos.
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.
Several musicians have written songs about Wuornos, including Jewel ("Nicotine Love") and the New York-based metalcore band It Dies Today ("Sixth of June"). The poet Doron Braunshtein dedicated a poem to her, called "Aileen Wuornos", that appears in his 2011 spoken word CD The Obsessive Poet.
Lily Rabe portrayed a fictionalised version of Wuornos as part of a Halloween storyline in American Horror Story: Hotel in the fourth episode of the show's fifth season, and later in the season finale.
- Capital punishment in Florida
- Capital punishment in the United States
- List of women executed in the United States since 1976
- "Aileen Carol Wuornos". The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney. Archived from the original on September 27, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- Macleod, Marlee (February 29, 1956). "Aileen Wuornos: Killer Who Preyed on Truck Drivers — A Poor Beginning — Crime Library on". Trutv.com. Retrieved June 12, 2012.[dead link]
- Shipley, Stacey L.; Arrigo, Bruce A. (2004). The Female Homicide Offender: Serial Murder and the Case of Aileen Wuornos. Pearson. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-13-114161-2. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
- Silvio, Heather; McCloskey, Kathy; Ramos-Grenier, Julia (May–June 2006). "Theoretical consideration of female sexual predator serial killers in the United States". Journal of Criminal Justice. 34 (3): 251–259. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2006.03.006.
- Howard, Amanda; Smith, Martin (2004). River of Blood: Serial Killers and Their Victims. Universal-Publishers. p. 332. ISBN 978-1-58112-518-4.
- Howard, Peter (2007). Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters. Penguin. pp. 142–143. ISBN 0-425-21390-0.
- Macleod, Marlee (February 29, 1956). "Aileen Wuornos: Killer Who Preyed on Truck Drivers — A Poor Beginning — Crime Library on". Trutv.com. Retrieved June 12, 2012.[dead link]
- Reynolds 2003, p. 116.
- Russell, Sue (2002). Lethal Intent. Pinnacle Books. p. 97. ISBN 0-7860-1518-7.
- Griffin, Ayanna M.; Arrigo, Dr. Bruce. "The Phenomenon of Serial Murders and Women". McNair Dispatch: An Online Research Journal. University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
- Reynolds 2003, pp. 116–117.
- "Notorious Crime Profiles Aileen Wuornos". Biography.com. Retrieved October 27, 2008.[dead link]
- "Aileen Wuornos". Crime and Investigation.
- Reynolds 2003, p. 117.
- Reynolds 2003, pp. 117–118.
- Reynolds 2003, p. 118.
- Ventura, Varla (2008). The Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts and Strange Stories. Weiser. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-57863-437-8.
- Reynolds 2003, p. 119.
- Kennedy, Dolores; Nolin2, Robert (1994). On a Killing Day: The Bizarre Story of Convicted Murderer Aileen Lee Wournos [sic]. S.P.I. Books. p. 48. ISBN 1-56171-293-0.
- Dwyer, Kevin; Fiorillo, Jure (November 6, 2007). True Stories of Law & Order: SVU. Penguin Group/Berkley. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-0-425-21735-1.
- "Timeline of Aileen Wuornos' Crimes". Local 6 News. Archived from the original on October 3, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
- "Profile". Clarkprosecutor.org. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
- Dwyer, Kevin; Fiorillo, Jure (November 6, 2007). True Stories of Law & Order: SVU. Penguin Group/Berkley. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-0-425-21735-1.
- "AILEEN C. WUORNOS v. STATE OF FLORIDA". Florida Supreme Court. November 19, 2004. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
- Dwyer, Kevin; Fiorillo, Jure (November 6, 2007). True Stories of Law & Order: SVU. Penguin Group/Berkley. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-425-21735-1.
- "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer". Archived from the original on September 27, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2008.
- "The Psychopath Next Door". Doc Zone. Season 2014–15. Episode 7. November 27, 2014. 3 minutes in. CBC Television. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
- Semple, David (2005). The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. pp. 448–9. ISBN 0-19-852783-7.
- Skeem, J. L.; Polaschek, D. L. L.; Patrick, C. J.; Lilienfeld, S. O. (2011). "Psychopathic Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy". Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 12 (3): 95–162. doi:10.1177/1529100611426706.
- Trischitta, Linda, Ariel Barkhurst and Kathleen Haughney. "Broward women's prison to close May 1." Sun-Sentinel. January 12, 2012. Retrieved on April 21, 2013.
- Zarrella, John (October 15, 2002). "Wuornos' last words: 'I'll be back'". CNN. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
- "WebCite query result". www.webcitation.org. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
- Wilson, Catherine (July 13, 2002). "Aileen Wuornos says prison guards abusing her". News Chief. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved November 13, 2007.
- Broomfield, Nick. "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (Film Summary)". Retrieved September 24, 2008.
- "Monstrous end to tragic story". The Scotsman. May 9, 2004. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- Cheshire, Godfrey. "Charlize Theron's career-making performance anchors a harrowing tale". Indy Week. January 14, 2004
- Fuchs, Cynthia (February 12, 2004). "A Lot of Illegalness Going On". PopMatters. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved September 24, 2008.
- "True Crime and Cannibalism".
- Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, 2003-11-21, retrieved 2015-09-13
- Hall, Kermit L. (ed.). The Oxford Guide to the Supreme Court of the United States. Oxford University Press. pp. 323–4.
- "News: Aileen Wuornos Documentary". NatalieMerchant.com. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- "Transcript interview Nick Broomfield on Paula Zahn NOW". CNN. February 26, 2004. Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2006.
- Ressler, Robert K.; Schachtman, Tom (1992). Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Hunting Serial Killers for the FBI. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-312-07883-8.
- The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schecter ISBN 978-0-345-46566-5
- Schechter, Harold (2003). The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-46566-5.
- "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer". NickBroomfield.com. Archived from the original on October 3, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
- "A&E Biography: Episode Guide". A&E. Retrieved August 26, 2009.
- Hilsman, Hoyt (November 16, 1992). "Review: 'Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story'". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
- "Monster (2003)". IMDB. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
- "Welcome to the operatic world of Wuornos!". Archived from the original on October 2, 2008. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- Woerner, Meredith (August 7, 2015). "'American Horror Story': Lily Rabe to play Aileen Wuornos; Lady Gaga's role revealed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- Hickey, Eric (2010). Serial Murderers and their Victims. Wadworth. ISBN 978-0-495-60081-7.
- Reynolds, Michael (2003). Dead Ends: The Pursuit, Conviction and Execution of Female Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos, the Damsel of Death. St. Martin's True Crime Library. ISBN 0-312-98418-9.
- Russell, Sue (2002). Lethal Intent: The Shocking True Story of One of America's Most Notorious Female Serial Killers. Pinnacle. ISBN 0-7860-1518-7.
- Wuornos, Aileen; Berry-Dee, Christopher (2004). Monster: My True Story. John Blake. ISBN 1-84454-237-8.
- Wuornos, Aileen; Kester, Lisa; Gottlieb, Daphne (2012). Dear Dawn: Aileen Wuornos in Her Own Words. Soft Skull Press, 2012. ISBN 1-5937-6290-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aileen Wuornos.|