Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Rochester, Michigan, Wuornos had what was by most accounts a traumatic childhood. Her child molester father committed suicide in prison soon after she was born, and her mother abandoned her and her brother, Keith, in 1960, leaving them in the care of their grandparents. She claimed that her grandfather sexually abused her as a child and that she had sex with multiple partners, including her brother, at a young age. She became pregnant at age fourteen (she gave the baby up for adoption). After her grandmother died that year, Wuornos ran away from home and turned to prostitution, traveling around the country and supporting herself with sex up until her arrest for murder years later. She was arrested multiple times throughout the 1970s and 1980s for crimes such as drunk driving and shoplifting, as well as prostitution.
Murders and arrest
A storeowner in Palm Harbor, Florida, named Richard Mallory took a ride with Wuornos on November 30, 1989, and became her first victim. Five subsequent victims were found; one other is still missing. Wuornos was eventually identified when she and her girlfriend Tyria Moore had an accident while driving a victim's car. She was apprehended a few months later.
Wuornos cited self defense for Mallory's murder, maintaining that he had attempted to rape her. She was convicted for this first murder in January of 1992. In November of the same year, Dateline NBC reporter Michele Gillens uncovered that Mallory had served 10 years for violent rape in another state.
Trials and appeals
During the trial, she was adopted by Arlene Pralle and her husband, after Pralle had a dream in which she was told to take care of Wuornos. Despite Pralle's help, her appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied in 1996.
Within weeks of her arrest, Wuornos had engaged agents to sell the rights to her story, and so had three of the law enforcement agents who had been tracking her down. Touted as "the first female serial killer" (which she wasn't), Wuornos's life has been documented in numerous books, and portrayed in several films and television shows.
- Books: Lethal Intent (2002), ISBN 0786015187, by Sue Russell
- Documentaries: Nick Broomfield directed two documentaries about her: Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992), and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003). Broomfield conducted the last media interview with Wuornos on the day before her execution.
- Movies: The 2003 movie Monster, starring Charlize Theron, tells Wuornos' story from the moment she met the first person in her life who showed some kindness towards her (based on Wuornos' lover and four-year companion, Tyria Moore, known as Selby Walls in the film) until her first conviction for murder. For her performance as Wuornos, Theron was rewarded with the Academy Award for Best Actress. This award was given on what would have been Wuornos' birthday, a fact not mentioned anywhere in Theron's acceptance speech.
- Television: 1992 made-for-television movie Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story, starring Jean Smart as Wuornos, was first broadcast in 1992. Wuornos has also been featured on 60 Minutes, A&E, and Court TV.
Execution and last words
After her first death sentence, Wuornos often said she wanted it all to be over. In 2001 she began fighting to be executed as soon as possible. She petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for the right to fire her legal counsel and stop all appeals, wording her request so as to forestall any objection: "I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again."
- 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.
After her execution, she was cremated and her ashes were taken to her native Michigan, and spread around a tree.
She had requested that Natalie Merchant's song "Carnival" be played at her funeral. Natalie Merchant commented on this when asked why her song was run during the credits of the documentary "Aileen Wuornos: The 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."
Aileen Wuornos was the tenth woman in the U.S. to be executed since the reintroduction of the death penalty to the U.S. in 1976, and the second woman in Florida to be executed.
- The Crime Library: Aileen Wuornos, includes extensive details on Aileen's younger years.
- About Lethal Intent
- FAQ about Wuornos's life and the 2003 film.
- CourtTV.Com In-depth: Aieen Wuornos
- Monster- The Official Motion Picture Website
- Biography of Aileen Wuornos. Site by Andrea Aherns, who has done extensive work on serial killers.
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