Aileen Wuornos was a serial killer who carried out the killing of 7 men in the United States between 1989 and 1990. According to her, all her victims had raped or tried to rape her while she was working as a prostitute and thus, all those crimes had been committed in self-defence.
She received a death sentence after getting convicted of 6 out of the 7 murders and was ultimately executed in October 2002. Alice Wuornos has been the subject of several documentaries in popular culture the most notable of which is the highly acclaimed 2013 biopic Monster.
Who Was Aileen Wuornos?
Aileen Wuornos was born Aileen Carol Pittman on February 29, 1956, in Troy, Michigan. Her parents’ marriage had fallen apart 2 months before she was born. At the time of her birth, her mother Diane Wuornos was 14 years old and her father Leo Dale Pittman was in prison. She never got to meet her father as he remained incarcerated until he died by suicide in January 1969. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was eventually convicted of sex crimes against children.
She had an older brother named Keith and when she was barely 4 years old, their mother deserted the family leaving them with their maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos. Aileen and her brother were eventually adopted by their grandparents on March 18, 1960, and consequently, she took on the surname ‘Wuornos’.
Aileen Wuornos’ upbringing has been described as having been very traumatic. She began engaging in sexual activities as early as age 11 in exchange for food, drugs, and cigarettes. She also had sexual relations with her brother and was sexually assaulted by her alcoholic grandfather. She dropped out of school at the age of 14 around the same time her grandmother passed away. At age 15, she was thrown out of the house by her grandfather as a result of which she began living in the woods and working as a prostitute to support herself.
Aileen Wuornos had one child during her lifetime. In 1970, 14-year old Wuornos fell pregnant after getting raped by an accomplice of her abusive grandfather. She gave birth to a male child on March 23, 1971, and the child was put up for adoption. Wuornos never went back to school after the birth of her son.
Girlfriend and Partner – Tyria Moore
Aileen Wuornos had a number of relationships during her lifetime. The most notable among these was with a woman named Tyria Moore. The duo met sometime in the 1980s at a gay bar in Daytona Beach, Florida and they moved in together afterward. Moore was working at the gay bar as a hotel maid while Wuornos made her own living via prostitution. Details about their relationship are a bit sketchy, however, one striking feature is that the couple had several run-ins with the law during their time together.
Wuornos claimed to still be in love with Moore throughout her stay in prison up till her execution. In the film Monster, Tyria Moore was represented by the character Selby Wall which was portrayed by actress Christina Ricci.
Crimes, Arrest and Execution
Right from her teenage years, Aileen Wuornos was known to exhibit very violent behavior which landed her in jail several times. She got arrested for all manner of offenses and crimes including DUI, assault, theft and armed robbery. She served a prison sentence between May 1983 and June 1984 for robbing a convenience store. Her spate of illegal activities ultimately culminated in the murder of 7 men between 1989 and 1990.
In July 1990, a media campaign was launched for Wuornos and her girlfriend Tyria Moore. The duo had abandoned the car of one of Wuornos’ victims after getting involved in an accident. Their fingerprints were retrieved from the vehicle and owing to the fact that Wuornos had a criminal record in Florida hers were easy to match. She was eventually arrested on January 9, 1991, at The Last Resort, a popular biker bar in Volusia County, Florida. The following day, her girlfriend Moore was found in Scranton, Pennsylvania and with her help, the police were able to elicit a confession from Wuornos in exchange for legal immunity.
Aileen Wuornos gave several contrasting accounts regarding the killings. In one account, she claimed that the men had all tried to rape her and thus those crimes were committed in self-defense. In another account, she stated that she had actually robbed the men and had decided to kill them so as not to leave any trace to the crime.
Wuornos’ trial lasted from January 1992 to February 1993 and she received 6 death sentences in total. She was not sentenced for the death of one of the victims whose body was never found. She was detained at the Florida Department of Corrections Broward Correctional Institution (BCI) death row for women. She made an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1996. In 2001, she opted to end all appeals and also dismiss her legal counsel. Aileen Wuornos was ultimately transferred to the Florida State Prison where she was executed on October 9, 2002. Her remains were cremated and her ashes were spread underneath a tree in her native Michigan.