Aileen Wuornos was born in Michigan
, the daughter of a divorced mother and a father who had been imprisoned for sex crimes against children at the time of her birth. In early 1960, when Wuornos was four, her mother abandoned her and her elder brother, leaving them in the care of their maternal grandparents. Wuornos' life was not happy with her grandparents. From an early age she was sexually and physically abused by her grandfather, an alcoholic. By the age of eleven she was engaging in sexual activity with fellow students in exchange for various items, including food and cigarettes, as well as engaging in a sexual relationship with her brother. She often ran away for brief periods of time, before eventually being returned home. At fourteen she was raped by an older man, and impregnated. Her child was given up for adoption, and she dropped out of school a few months later. Her grandmother died around this time, and by fifteen she had been thrown out of her childhood home. She turned to prostitution to support herself, and lived a mostly transient life in the woods around her childhood home.
Wuronos' first criminal charges came three years later, when she was charged with a variety of crimes in Colorado
. Two years later she was in Florida
, where she met a fairly wealthy man almost fifty years her senior. The pair soon married, but their marriage was troubled, as Wuornos was volatile and occasionally violent, hitting her new husband with his own cane and eventually getting herself jailed for assault. Her husband filed a restraining order against her, and when she was released from prison she returned to Michigan, where she was again arrested for her violent behaviour. Her brother died around this time, leaving her $10,000. Her marriage was officially annulled at this time. In 1978 she attempted suicide by shooting herself in the abdomen. By 1981 she had returned to Florida, where she robbed a convenience store with a gun. For this, she was sentenced to three years in prison, of which she served only about a year. Over the next three years she continued to commit a series of petty crimes. It was around this time that she met Tyria Moore at a gay bar in Florida. The pair instantly became inseparable, and began living together, mostly as transients. Wuornos supported both of them with prostitution, while Moore worked as an occasional motel maid. Though happy with Moore, Wuornos was unable to control her violent tempers and addictions.
In late November of 1989 Wuornos committed her first murder, killing a man who had picked her up. She shot him several times and dumped his body in a wooded area, later claiming that she had killed him in self-defence. After the murder she returned home to Moore, who she immediately confessed to; Moore later claimed that she did not believe the confession. She did not commit another murder until May of 1990, and between then time and November of that same year she killed a further six men. Each time her modus operandi was similar: she would pick a man up either while acting as a prostitute, a hitchhiker, or pretending to be a stranded motorist. She would then shoot the man, often several more times than necessary, and take all of his money, and occasionally small, pawnable items. Police suspicion first fell on her in early July, when she and Moore were spotted dumping the car of one of the victims. Her place as prime suspect was strengthened by the location of a number of items belonging to the victims that had been pawned by her, as well as her fingerprints being found in the abandoned cars. Wuornos was arrested in early January 1991. She confessed to the murders a week after being arrested, following intense prompting from Moore, who was asked by police to convince Wuornos to confess.
Wurnos' trial for the murder of her first victim began in early January of 1992. She plead self-defence, claiming that the victim had raped and tortured her. She took the stand in her own defence, but alienated the jury with her violent temper. Just over a week after the trial began, Wuornos was found guilty of first-degree murder. In late March of 1992 she plead no contest to three of the murders, and guilty to the final two in June of 1992 and February of 1993; she was not tried for the fourth murder, as his body was never found. She received death sentences for all six of the murders for which she was tried. She later recanted her claims that all of the victims had raped her, though claimed until her death that the first had. In 2001 Wuornos, who had grown weary of life on death row, petitioned the court for the right to forgo her automatic appeals and be allowed to die. She was judged mentally fit to be executed, and her request was granted, with a date for her execution set for October of 2002. In her final year of life she complained of poor treatment by prison staff, and in the months leading up to her death she began to make increasingly paranoid assertions about "sonic pressure" being used to make her appear crazy. Aileen Wuornos was executed by lethal injection on October 9th, 2002. She was 46.
In Other Media
As one of the most infamous serial killers in recent memory, Aileen Wuornos has featured in a number of books, films and television series, most of them biographical or documentary in nature. Two documentaries, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer
and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
, were directed by Nick Broomfield, who interviewed Aileen extensively while she was in prison. In the 1992 TV movie Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story
she is played by Jean Smart. In the 2003 film Monster
she is played by Charlize Theron. She has also featured in A&E's Biography
series, and in an episode of the Discovery Channel's Deadly Women
series, in the episode entitled "Predators". An opera based on her life, entitled Wuornos
, premiered in 2001. A book about her, entitled Lethal Intent
, was released in 2002.