|Tuesday, 28 October 2008 17:30|
Aileen Carol Wuornos. Born Aileen Carol Pittman
Born: February 29, 1956, Rochester, Michigan
Died: October 9, 2002, Florida
Cause of death: Lethal injection
Notable because: Contentious execution of a disturbed woman deemed to be 'fit for execution' by Governor Jeb Bush.
Aileen Wuornos was an American serial killer who killed seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990, later claiming they raped or attempted to rape her while she was working as a prostitute. She was convicted and sentenced to death for six of the murders, and executed via lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
Wuornos was born in Rochester, Michigan to Diane Pratt and Leo Pittman. Pratt was 14 years old when she married Pittman on June 3, 1954. Pratt and Pittman had two children; Keith was born in 1955 and Aileen in 1956. Less than two years into their marriage, and just a few months before Wuornos was born, Pratt divorced Pittman. Pittman was a child molester who spent most of his life in and out of prison and mental hospitals. Wuornos never knew her father, as he was imprisoned (for the rape of a 7-year-old girl shortly before Wuornos was born), and was strangled in prison in 1969.
In 1960, Pratt abandoned the children, leaving them with their maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos. They were legally adopted on March 18, 1960 by the Wuornos and took their surname.
Wuornos engaged in sex with multiple partners, including her own brother, at a young age and became pregnant at age 14. She claimed the pregnancy was a result of being raped by a unknown man. Wuornos gave birth to a son at a Detroit home for unwed mothers on March 23, 1971, who was put up for adoption.
In July 1971, Britta Wuornos died of liver failure, after which Wuornos and her brother became wards of the court. Wuornos ran away from home and entered into prostitution.
On May 27, 1974, Wuornos was arrested in Jefferson County, Colorado for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. She was later charged with failure to appear.
In 1976, Wuornos hitchhiked to Florida, where she met 70-year-old yacht club president Lewis Gratz Fell. They married that same year, and the news of their nuptials was printed in the local newspaper's society pages. However, Wuornos continually involved herself in confrontations at their local bar and was eventually sent to jail for assault. She also hit Fell with his own cane, leading him to get a restraining order against her, after which she returned to Michigan. On July 14, 1976, Wuornos was arrested in Antrim County, Michigan and charged with assault and disturbing the peace following an incident in which she threw a cue ball at a bartender's head. On July 17, her brother Keith died of throat cancer and Wuornos acquired $10,000 from his life insurance. Wuornos and Fell divorced on July 21 after nine weeks of marriage.
On May 20, 1981, Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida for the armed robbery of a convenience store. She was consequently sentenced to prison on May 4, 1982 and released on June 30, 1983. On May 1, 1984, Wuornos was arrested for attempting to pass forged checks at a bank in Key West. On November 30, 1985, she was named as a suspect in the theft of a revolver and ammunition in Pasco County.
On January 4, 1986, Wuornos was arrested in Miami and charged with grand theft auto, resisting arrest and obstruction by false information (she provided identification with the name Lori Grody, her aunt). Miami police found a .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition in the stolen car. On June 2, 1986, Volusia County deputies detained Wuornos for questioning after a male companion accused her of pulling a gun in his car and demanding $200. Wuornos was found to be carrying spare ammunition and a .22 pistol was discovered beneath the passenger seat she occupied.
Around this time, Wuornos met Tyria Moore, a hotel maid, at a Daytona gay bar. They moved in together, and Wuornos supported them with her prostitution earnings. On July 4, 1987, Daytona Beach police detained Wuornos and Moore at a bar for questioning regarding an incident in which they were accused of assault and battery with a beer bottle. On March 12, 1988, Wuornos accused a Daytona Beach bus driver of assault. She claimed that he pushed her off the bus following a confrontation. Moore was listed as a witness to the incident.
Wuornos and Moore abandoned Peter Siems' car after they were involved in an accident on July 4, 1990, after which Wuornos' palm print was found. Witnesses who had seen the women driving the victims' cars provided police with their names and descriptions, resulting in a media campaign to locate them. Police also found some of the victims' belongings in pawnshops and retrieved fingerprints, which matched those found in the victims' cars and on Wuornos' arrest record.
On January 9, 1991, Wuornos was arrested on an outstanding warrant at a biker bar in Volusia County. Police located Moore the next day in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She agreed to get a confession from Wuornos in exchange for prosecutorial immunity. Moore returned with police to Florida, where she was put up in a motel. Under police guidance, Moore made numerous telephone calls to Wuornos, pleading for help in clearing her name. Three days later, on January 16, 1991, Wuornos confessed to the murders. She claimed the men had tried to rape her and she killed them in self-defense.
Wuornos went to trial for the murder of Richard Mallory on January 14, 1992. Under Florida's Williams Rule, the prosecution introduced evidence related to her other crimes in order to show a pattern. Wuornos was convicted for Richard Mallory's murder on January 27, 1992 with help from Moore's testimony. At her sentencing, psychiatrists for the defense testified that Wuornos was mentally unstable and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She was sentenced to death on January 31, 1992.
On March 31, 1992, Wuornos pleaded no contest to the murders of Dick Humphreys, Troy Burress and David Spears, saying she wanted to "get right with God". In her statement to the court, she averred, "I wanted to confess to you that Richard Mallory did violently rape me as I've told you. But these others did not. [They] only began to start to." On May 15, 1992, Wuornos was given three more death sentences.
In June 1992, Wuornos pleaded guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon and received her fifth death sentence in November 1992. The defense made efforts during the trial to introduce evidence that Mallory had been tried for intent to commit rape in another state, and that he had been committed to a maximum security correctional facility in Maryland which provided remediation to sexual offenders. Records obtained from that institution reflected that from 1958 to 1962, Mallory was committed for treatment and observation resulting from a criminal charge of assault with intent to rape, and received an overall eight years of treatment from the facility. The judge refused to allow this to be admitted in court as evidence and denied Wuornos' request for a retrial.
In February 1993, Wuornos pleaded guilty to the murder of Walter Gino Antonio and was sentenced to death again. No charges were brought against her for the murder of Peter Siems, as his body was never found. In all, she received six death sentences.
Wuornos told several inconsistent stories about the killings. She claimed initially that all seven men had raped her while she was working as a prostitute then later recanted the claim of self-defense. During an interview with filmmaker Nick Broomfield in which she thought the cameras were off, she told him that it was in fact self-defense, but she could not stand being on death row—12 years at that point—and had to die.
Wuornos' appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in 1996. In 2001, she announced that she would not issue any further appeals against her death sentence. She petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for the right to fire her legal counsel and stop all appeals, saying, "I killed those men, robbed them as cold as ice. And I'd do it again, too. There's no chance in keeping me alive or anything, because I'd kill again. I have hate crawling through my system...I am so sick of hearing this 'she's crazy' stuff. I've been evaluated so many times. I'm competent, sane, and I'm trying to tell the truth. I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again." Some argued that she was in no state for them to honor such a request.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush instructed three psychiatrists to give Wuornos a 15-minute interview. The test for competency requires the psychiatrist(s) to be convinced that the condemned person understands both that they will die and for which crime(s) they are being executed. All three judged her mentally fit to be executed.
Wuornos later started accusing the prison matrons of abusing her. She accused them of tainting her food, spitting on it, serving her potatoes cooked in dirt, and her food arriving with urine. She also claimed overhearing conversations about "trying to get me so pushed over the brink by them I'd wind up committing suicide before the [execution]" and "wishing to rape me before execution." She also complained of strip searches, being handcuffed so tightly that her wrists bruised any time she left her cell, door kicking, frequent window checks by matrons, low water pressure, mildew on her mattress and "cat calling ... in distaste and a pure hatred towards me." Wuornos threatened to boycott showers and food trays when specific officers were on duty. "In the meantime, my stomach's growling away and I'm taking showers through the sink of my cell."
Her attorney stated that "Ms. Wuornos really just wants to have proper treatment, humane treatment until the day she's executed," and "If the allegations don't have any truth to them, she's clearly delusional. She believes what she's written".
During the final stages of the appeal process she gave a series of interviews to Broomfield. In her final interview shortly before her execution she claimed that her mind was being controlled by "sonic pressure" to make her appear crazy and described her impending death to being taken away by angels on a space ship. When Broomfield attempted to get her to speak about her earlier claims to have killed her victims in self-defense, Wuornos became livid, cursed Broomfield, and terminated the interview. Broomfield later met Dawn Botkins, a childhood friend of Wuornos', who told him, "She's sorry, Nick. She didn't give you the finger. She gave the media the finger, and then the attorneys the finger. And she knew if she said much more, it could make a difference on her execution tomorrow, so she just decided not to."
Wuornos was executed via lethal injection on October 9, 2002. She was the tenth woman in the United States to be executed since the reintroduction of the death penalty in 1976 and the second woman ever executed in Florida.
After her execution, Wuornos was cremated. Her ashes were taken by Dawn Botkins to her native Michigan and spread beneath a tree. She requested that Natalie Merchant's song "Carnival" be played at her funeral. Natalie Merchant commented on this when asked why her song was played during the credits of the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer:
Broomfield later stated:I think this anger developed inside her. And she was working as a prostitute. I think she had a lot of awful encounters on the roads. And I think this anger just spilled out from inside her. And finally exploded. Into incredible violence. That was her way of surviving... I think Aileen really believed that she had killed in self-defense. I think someone who's deeply psychotic can't really tell the difference between something that is life threatening and something that is a minor disagreement; that you could say something that she didn't agree with, she would get into a screaming black temper about it. And I think that's what had caused these things to happen. And at the same time, when she wasn't in those extreme moods, there was an incredible humanity to her
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:40|