On 9 October 2002, Aileen Wuornos, 46, was executed by lethal injection, for the murders of six men. But what made her go on a vicious killing spree?
Growing up in Rochester, Michigan, Aileen Wuornos was sexually abused and thrown out of her home as a teen. Desperate and homeless, she began prostituting herself on Florida’s highways.
Over the years, she found herself involved in various crimes including robbery. In 1986, Wuornos met Tyria Moore and the pair began a lesbian relationship. They soon moved in together and Wuornos continued to work as a prostitute to support them.
But a life of struggle, abuse and being used by men seemed to take its toll on Wuornos…
In December 1989, 51-year-old Richard Mallory was found dead, miles from his abandoned car. He’d been shot multiple times in the torso. It was soon discovered that Richard had picked up a prostitute along a highway in Florida.
In June 1990, the naked body of David Spears, 43, was found on a highway. He’d been shot six times and his truck was found abandoned days later.
By the time his body had been identified, another nude man, Charles Carskaddon, 40, was found, shot to death. And just days on, the car of 60-year-old Peter Siems was found abandoned. Feared dead, his body was never found.
That August, Troy Burress, 50, was found dead in wooded area. And, in the months that followed, another two bodies were found. Charles Humphreys, 56, and Walter Antonio, 62, had both been shot to death.
Eventually police were able to track down their killer through fingerprints in the abandoned vehicles. Aileen Wuornos was arrested at The Last Resort bar in Florida in January 1991.
Police later tracked down Moore. She agreed to elicit a phone confession from Wuornos, as part of a deal to avoid prosecution. Wuornos took full responsibilities for the murders.
The trial of Aileen Wuronos attracted a media frenzy and she became famous overnight, due to the lurid nature of her crimes and the rarity of female serial killers.
During the trial she claimed the first victim, Mallory, had raped her and she’d killed him out of self-defence. She claimed she’d killed five other men out of self-defence too. But she later retracted the statements.
In January 1992 she was found guilty of the murder of Mallory and received the death penalty.
In the following months she pleaded either guilty or ‘no contest’ to the murders of five of the other victims and received a death sentence for each plea.
Wuornos was never charged with the murder of Peter Siems as his body was never found.
After a decade on death row, Wuornos fired her appeal lawyers who were working for a stay of execution.
On the 9 October 2002, Wuornos, then 46, was executed by lethal injection and her cremated remains were buried in the town she was born.
Her life as a highway prostitute and the killings have been chronicled in three books, two television movies and a production by the San Francisco Opera.
Even today, her life and death leaves many curious about what truly sparked the murderous rampage.
Was she a victim, acting out in self-defence? Or was she a bitter woman, hellbent on revenge for the tough, abusive life she’d been dealt? It seems Wuornos has taken those answers to the grave…