It was the fictionalized portrayal of her life in the 2003 film Monster that brought her tragic, brutal story to the masses. Wuornos’ life was an unfortunate one, filled with rage, violence, and sadness.
Aileen Wuornos was born to teenage parents in Rochester, Michigan in 1956, and her life was tumultuous from the very beginning. The future serial killer never met her father, a convict who hanged himself in a prison cell when Wuornos was 12. Her mother abandoned Wuornos and her younger brother, and they wound up being raised by their grandparents. Wuornos was sexually abused by her grandfather at a young age, and she became pregnant at the age of 14 after being raped by one of her grandfather’s friends. Wuornos gave birth, and the baby was put up for adoption.
When she was only 15 years old, Wuornos’ grandfather threw her out of his house, and she was forced to fend for herself. She lived in the woods, and, as she had no other way to make money, she started working as a prostitute. She hitchhiked around the country, ending up in Florida where she was briefly married to a wealthy man almost 50 years her senior. After her divorce, Wuornos had many run-ins with the law. She was arrested in Michigan for drunk driving, and spent over a year in a Florida prison for armed robbery before she was paroled in 1983.
The next few years found Wuornos working as a prostitute around Florida, where she regularly ran into trouble with law enforcement. Then, in the late 1980s, she met and fell in love with a woman named Tyria Moore. Though Wuornos and Moore moved in together, Wuornos continued to work as a prostitute. In 1989, the rage that had dwelled within Aileen Wuornos since she was a young girl exploded, and she began to kill.
Her first murder occurred in November 1989 in Clearwater, Florida. Wuornos claimed that she shot and killed 51-year-old Richard Mallory in self-defense after he attacked her – but it was a claim she later recanted. From June to November in 1990, Wuornos shot and killed an additional six men in different parts of Florida. On January 9, 1991, Wuornos was arrested at a bar in Port Orange, Florida after police discovered her and Tyria Moore’s fingerprints in a crashed car belonging to one of the men Wuornos had killed. The following day, Tyria Moore was apprehended in Pennsylvania. Moore cooperated with police and agreed to get Wuornos to confess to the murders during a phone call. Wuornos admitted to the murders, but insisted she had killed all of the men in self-defense.
In January 1992, Aileen Wuornos stood trial for the murder of Richard Mallory. A jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to death. Later, Wuornos stood trial for her other murders, and she was given additional death sentences by the state of Florida. Mental evaluations conducted on Wuornos showed that she was extremely unstable: she had borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder, no doubt due in part to the traumatic incidents she had experienced since she was a young girl.
In 2001, Wuornos fired her lawyers and wrote a letter to the Florida Supreme Court arguing she wanted to abandon the appeals process. In the letter, she said, “I killed those men, robbed them cold as ice. And I’d do it again, too. There’s no chance of keeping me alive or anything, because I’d kill again.” Wuornos added, “I’m competent, sane, and I’m trying to tell the truth. I’m one who seriously hates human life and would kill again.”
Wuornos spent more than 10 years on Death Row, until she was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
Want to read about more true crime? Some argue that Richard Speck’s murderous rampage in Chicago – which claimed the lives of 8 nurses in one night – was the first random mass murder of the 20th century, changing the country forever.