Twelve years after her execution, Aileen Wuornos — who confessed to killing seven men in Florida, where she was convicted of six murders — is still a hot topic with followers of crime stories, true crime television shows and books (like my own, LETHAL INTENT.) Aileen wanted to “be like Bonnie and Clyde” and looking back I’d have to say she has surpassed that and achieved her very own lasting notoriety.
There were only 106 volunteers for execution in the United States between 1973 and 2003 and in 2002, Aileen was one of them. For the December 2013 edition of LETHAL INTENT (paperback, eBook, Audible), I interviewed forensic psychiatrists and criminal justice experts about what might have spurred her to make that rare and final decision. Their thoughts are fascinating. (Check the book’s new section!)
Aileen’s last mystifying words were that she would be back, “like ‘Independence Day,’ with Jesus – June sixth – like the movie – big mother ship and all. I’ll be back.” Did she really think that? Who knows? Her pre-execution mental state concerned many, but suggestions that she was “crazy” irritated her no end. Ultimately, those who tried to halt her execution against her wishes were forced to stand aside while she was put to death.
October 9, 2002, was a solemn day and felt strange and disturbing.
Aileen was a victim but also a victimizer. Today she receives more empathy and compassion than any other serial killer I can bring to mind. Can you think of another? Male or female?
I’d like to discuss Aileen with folk interested in proof and evidence. If I’m honest, I’ve grown a little weary of those who don’t accept that Hollywood movies are fiction, either inspired by, or loosely based on, fact. The evidence at the first murder for which Aileen was convicted did NOT show what folk say so often — that she killed to save her own life during a brutal rape. Her victim was first shot while fully dressed, sitting behind the wheel of his car. They can’t both be true.
Aileen also carried Windex with her to remove fingerprints on what she called her “killing days.” Her stories changed many times but the physical evidence (and Aileen’s original confessions) are in accord. She was a robber who killed to avoid leaving witnesses and who carefully concealed her crimes.
I believe that she robbed and killed while desperately trying to keep her girlfriend Tyria from abandoning her. As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, abandonment was Aileen’s greatest fear.
She had a tragic life full of isolation, rejection and abuse. But we can’t talk about her honestly or realistically unless we also accept that she took seven lives. Funny thing is, I sometimes think that Aileen was better able to accept what she did — she wept with guilt over it many times — than are many of her fans. I felt and feel empathy for Aileen but can’t forget she took seven lives.