If you thought all serial killers were men, you would be mistaken. Aileen Wuornos is probably the most well-known female serial murderer, taking the lives of seven men in 1989 and 1990. She was a heartless killer, yet people had sympathy for her. Why? Let’s find out in this edition of True Crime Corner, after the jump…
You can’t argue that Aileen Wuornos had a good start in life. In fact, it was far from it. She was born to a girl only in her mid-teens, unprepared to deal with a new baby when she already had Wuornos’ older brother Keith, who was not even a year old at the time her second child was born. (Wuornos’ only full sibling would die of throat cancer at age twenty-one). She never knew her father, Leo Dale Pittman, but he was also still a teenager saddled with two young children. (He would go to prison for crimes against children, where he would later die).
Deciding that two kids were too much to handle while still a child herself, Diane Wuornos abandoned Aileen and Keith to be raised by her parents, Laurie Wuornos and his wife Eileen Britta. They adopted the pair and brought them up as their own when their own daughter refused to do so. Wuornos wouldn’t learn the truth, that her parents were in fact her grandparents, until around age eleven.
Unfortunately, Wuornos and her adoptive father didn’t get along. As a child Wuornos would be on the losing end of any conflicts they had, feeling her father’s wrath in the form of a leather belt. No doubt it was demeaning to the young girl, and Laurie Wuornos also verbally abused her during the beatings.
Wuornos became increasingly difficult as she got older. She was volatile, with an explosive, unpredictable temper. She gave birth to a son when she was around 14 years of age, the child put up for adoption.
When Wuornos’s mother/grandmother died, things got even worse for the future killer. Her biological mother resurfaced with an offer of shelter, but her headstrong daughter refused. Instead, she took to the streets, turning tricks to survive.
Wuornos’s bad luck changed at age 20. She married a very wealthy man, Lewis Gratz Fell, almost fifty years her senior. She soon grew bored of the lifestyle her new husband was able to afford her. She wasn’t willing to abandon her wild ways and alcohol-fueled partying for her elderly mate. She got into trouble at a local hotspot and was arrested. When Fell cut off her supply of his money, she reacted by assaulting him. He wasted no time getting a restraining order against his wife and they were divorced.
Following the split, Wuornos returned to prostitution and met who would become the love of her life, Tyria Moore. The women were enamored with each other, or so Wuornos believed. Little did she know that when she needed Ty the most, she would turn against her.
Wuornos’s first victim was Richard Mallory. There is some dispute surrounding the circumstances of his murder. Some accounts have Mallory killed unprovoked in cold blood. Others say Wuornos shot him in self-defense, after he beat and raped her. What we do know is that his murder was the first of the men she killed.
Wuornos would go on to rob and shoot another six men. She lured them with the prospect of sex, and took them to a secluded area before robbing and murdering them. She claimed she acted in self-defense, that all the victims attempted to sexually assault her. Her killing spree ended thanks to her own greed. She pawned items belonging to the men and they were traced back to her. Many wondered how Ty wasn’t implicated in some of the crimes. She was Wuornos’s beloved, and surely knew what her lover was involved in. Some of the victims’ belongings were in Ty’s possession when the police came calling. However, she testified against her lover at trial, Wuornos betrayed yet again by someone in her life.
Wuornos said, “I’m someone who seriously hates human life and would kill again,” and “I need to die for the killing of those people.” The State of Florida agreed with her, and she was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002, at Florida State Prison.
Because Aileen Wuornos was a notorious female killer, she is an interesting figure in popular culture. I purchased Lethal Intent by Sue Russell when I heard the author speak about her work on a true crime podcast. It was a great interview; I’m sure the book will be just as good.
Wuornos was played by Lily Rabe in the fourth episode titled “Devil’s Night” of last season’s American Horror Story: Hotel. This installment features dead serial killers reunited for a group dinner at a seedy hotel. Her performance rivaled Charlize Theron’s portrayal in Monster. If you want to check it out, you can watch this episode without having to watch the rest of the series.
Speaking of the film Monster, Theron’s portrayal of the serial killer earned her a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actress. She was excellent in the role. Christina Ricci co-stars as Wuornos’s lover Ty (although she is called Selby in the movie). It’s a great film, even if you’re not particularly interested in Aileen Wuornos. If you have any interest in true crime, don’t miss it.
Wuornos’s life was indeed tragic, filled with alcoholism, prostitution, and sexual and emotional abuse. Maybe that’s why she had such a violent temper, all her past experiences reaching a boiling point. Everyone who should have loved and protected her, failed her in some way. From what I have read, the court of public opinion argues that she should have received mental help (believing her insane), instead of the needle. They make the case that the deck was stacked against her from the very beginning. That may be true, but as awful as it was, other people have led lousy lives and haven’t killed anyone. Wuornos’s purported 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 mother ship and all. I’ll be back.” Wuornos’s remains were interred in her hometown.