Most of us are familiar with the story of Aileen Wuornos, the woman erroneously dubbed the “first female serial killer” in America. However many people don’t know the origins of Wuornos’ rage towards her victims. I’m of a mind that killers are’t born but rather they are made. Wuoronos’ early beginnings were so heinous that they seem to bear this out. Of course many people are terribly abused and do not become killers. This blog leaves the reader to decide whether or not Wuornos was made into a killer or simply made the choice to become a notorious murderess.
Aileen Wuornos was born Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan on February 29, 1956, to an absent father named Leo Dale Pittman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and later convicted of sex crimes against children. Pittman hanged himself in prison on January 30, 1969. In an attempt to escape her father’s incestuous advances, Wuornos’ mother, Diane Wuornos, married Wuronos’ father at the age of 15. Diane Wuornos abandoned both Wuornos and her brother, Keith, and left them to be raised by her grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos, who legally adopted Keith, and Wuornos on March 18, 1960. However, it wasn’t until Wuornos was 12 that she discovered the couple weren’t here parents, but instead were her grandparents. This confused and further traumatized the young girl.
Wuornos’s childhood was a nightmare of rejection and abandonment. Throughout her years with her grandparents she was both physically and sexually abused, which led her to an early life of promiscuity that included having sexual intercourse with her brother. In spite of their bizarre relationship, Keith stood by her and was loyal to her. Her grandfather sexually abused Wuornos and shared her with his pedophile friends. Before beating the little girl, he forced her to strip out of her clothes.
Wuornos’ grandparents were not good providers. By the age of 11, Wuornos began engaging in sexual activities in school in exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food. So traumatic was the household for Wuornos that during the frigid Michigan winter when she was 13, she moved out of her house and attempted to live in a small nearby wooded area, inside of a cardboard box. The child could have frozen to death.
Wuornos and her brother frequently ran away to escape their abusive grandfather but eventually authorities would find the two and place them in reform school before returning them to their grandparents’ home. Neighbours knew of her plight but no one reported her abuse and no one took her in. At the age of 14 she was kicked out of the home when she became pregnant with her after she was raped by an older man in the neighbourhood.
After giving birth to the baby boy in March 1971 in a maternity home and putting him up for adoption, Wuornos was left to live alone on the streets before ending up in a home for unwed mothers. Wuornos did poorly at school and any of the boys knew they could either pay her or swap her cigarettes and the like for money. After her grandmother died Wuornos dropped out of school and became a full-time prostitute.
When her grandmother died of liver failure, a result of heavy drinking Wuornos’ biological mother claimed that Wuornos had killed her. Her grandmother may have been murdered by her grandfather. Murder and assault did tend to run in the family. The grandfather’s threats to kill both Aileen and her brother were on record and the children became wards of the court in 1971.
Wuornos became a prostitute since she had no other way to support herself and her early experiences had taught her that her only value was her sexuality. Wuornos never stood a chance at achieving a normal life. In spite of media coverage that later described her as a serial killer, Wuornos certainly had a personal background that explained her criminal behaviour.
Wuornos was first jailed in 1974, under the alias Sandra Kretsch, when she was arrested in Colorado for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. Clearly her behaviour was on a downward spiral. Afterwards she headed back to Michigan where she was once again arrested. This time it was for assault and disturbing the peace, after she had an altercation where she threw a cue ball at a bartender’s head.
The unfortunate woman then hitchhiked her way to Florida and along the way was picked up by a rich 69-year-old man named Lewis Gratz Fell, who fell in love with her and they got married. Around that time she learned that her grandfather was dead; he’d committed suicide in his garage. It was no coincidence that Wuornos married a senior citizen. Likely he reminded her of her abusive grandfather. Although that sounds odd, this was the only guardian Wuornos had ever had in her early life.
Wuornos continually involved herself in confrontations at their local bar and eventually went to jail for assault. Perhaps re-living the anger shet felt against her grandfather, she abused Fell, including hitting him with his own cane, leading him to get a restraining order against her. He had the marriage annulled less than two months into the union.
In 1978, the traumatized young woman couldn’t tolerate her life any longer. Determined to die, she used a .22 calibre pistol and shot herself in the abdomen. It was not the first time the unhappy woman had attempted suicide. Somehow she miraculously recovered from the gunshot wound but received minimal psychological counselling.
The early 1980’s was a series of arrests and jail time served for firearm possession, forgery, and robbery charges. When she wasn’t in jail she supplemented what little income she had through prostitution. In 1989 a store owner called Richard Mallory made the mistake of taking a ride with Wuornos and became the first of her seven murder victims.
All of her victims were men who solicited her services as a prostitute. Wuornos claimed that Mallory violently raped her and that she killed him in self-defence. After her conviction reporters discovered that Mallory had indeed served 10 years for a violent rape in a different state but Wuornos didn’t get a re-trial despite this finding. It would appear that fate conspired against the unhappy woman.
On July 17, her brother Keith died of esophageal (throat) cancer and Wuornos received $10,000 from his life insurance. Perhaps it was his way of offering retribution for the sexual assaults he had committed against his young sister. It was the second time that Wuornos received significant money in her life. However her investment interests were limited. She spent her inheritance money within two months by using it to buy luxuries including a new car, which she wrecked shortly afterward. In the same manner as her dysfunctional family, Wuornos had no idea how to provide for herself.
n 1986 Wuornos met Tyria Moore, a hotel maid, at a Daytona gay bar. Wuornos’ relationship with Moore was her second relationship with a woman. As a prostitute, her clients were mainly middle-aged, low-to-middle-class white men.They moved in together, at which time Moore quit her job. 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.
By 1990 Tyria Moore had become suspicious of Wuornos’ activities. Moore moved in with her family in Pennsylvania. When Wuornos was arrested on an outstanding warrant at a biker bar in Harbor Oaks, Florida, police tracked Moore down and used her to elicit a confession from Wuornos regarding the murders of seven men, six of whom she would be convicted for killing. Moore had little choice. Either she cooperated with police or she too went to jail for being an accomplice to murder.
Wuornos was convicted of the murder of six men and sentenced to death. During her stay in prison she was adopted by her new friend, Arlene Pralle, after Pralle had a dream in which she was told to “take care of” Wuornos. According to Pralle, Jesus told her to write to Wuornos, and she did. What Wuornos did not know was that Pralle was receiving money for giving interviews, including one with Nick Broomfield, who paid her $10,000. It seemed that no one ever stopped taking advantage of Wuornos.. She became a born-again Christian. However neither of these developments helped to save Wuornos’ life and received a lethal injection on in her arm on Wednesday October 10, 2000, at 9:30 a.m. She was pronounced dead at 9:47 a.m .
“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 mothership and all. I’ll be back,” Wuornos said. The Rock is a Biblical reference to Jesus.
Was this a fair ending to a brutal life? Certainly a jury of Wuornos’ peers believed so. Was she simply an angry woman exacting revenge on unsuspecting men or a profoundly damaged person who had no concept of childhood, security and love? That’s up to the reader to decide.