A Sad Beginning:
Aileen Wuornos was born outside of Detroit, Michigan in 1956 to a teenage mother. Her father spent time in jail for child molestation before he killed himself in prison. Aileen and her brother were raised by her maternal grandparents.
Aileen burned herself at age 6 while playing with lighter fluid and the facial scars remained her whole life. She didn't have many friends and ended up pregnant at age 14. She was sent to an unwed mother's home and her baby was put up for adoption.
Hitchin' and Hookin':
Shortly after her baby's birth, Aileen's grandmother died. Aileen, going by the name Lee, dropped out of school, left home and took up prostitution. In the next few years, her beloved brother died of cancer, her grandfather killed himself and Lee, hitch hiked to Florida.
Lee received $10,000 from her brother's life insurance She blew it in two months and had nothing to show for it. In May 1981 she was arrested for holding up a convenience store. She continued to turn tricks and live a day-to-day existence.
Lee met 24-year-old Tyria Moore at a Daytona gay bar. Lee turned tricks to support them. Although the relationship started out loving, it quickly turned volatile. Yet, it was quite possilbly the best Lee had ever known. The two moved from seedy motel to seedy motel, barely eeking out an existence.
In December 1989 the body of 51-year-old Richard Mallory was found in the woods north of Daytona Beach. He had been shot three times. It was the first of six bodies that would turn up before Lee was caught.
The bodies pile up:
After Lee killed her victims, she stole their cars and money and pawned their belongings. Eventually Lee was caught by police on January 9, 1991 at The Last Resort, a biker bar in Harbor Oaks, Florida. Her lover Tyria Moore was found a day later at her sister's house in Pennsylvania.
Moore cooperated with police and got Wuornos to confess to the killings. Tyria testified against Wuornos at her trial. Lee Wuornos was convicted of killing Richard Mallory in January 1992, even though she claimed self-defense. It never came out at the trial, but in November of that year, Dateline NBC reporter Michele Gillens discovered Mallory had served 10 years for violent rape in another state. Wuornos never got a re-trial.
Sentenced to Die:
Wuornos confessed to killing three other men and was sentenced to die. Although she has been called the first female serial killer, she was not.
A final Strange Twist:
After seeing Wuornos on television, 44-year-old born-again Christian Arlene Pralle felt compelled to contact Aileen. She claimed Jesus told her to do so. Pralle quickly became an outspoken advocate of Wuornos, speaking with her daily and claiming her innocence on tabloid talk shows. Pralle eventually legally adopted Wuornos as her daughter. In the end, though, both Moore and Pralle abandoned Wuornos.
Wuornos was executed by legal injection on October 9, 2002.
The 2004 movie Monster portrays her life. Charlize Theron plays Wuornos and Christina Ricci plays Moore.
More Reading: Tyria Moore.