Monday, September 17, 2007
Aileen Wuornos Damsel of Death - Heliborne Hitchhiker - Highway Hooker
"There's no sense in keeping me alive,
This world doesn't mean anything to me."
Wuornos, was sentenced to death six times for killing middle-aged men when she worked as a prostitute along the highways of central Florida in 1989 and 1990. She has been on death row for nearly a decade.
Wuornos, the subject of a television movie "Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story" and an opera that recently opened in San Francisco, testified during her 1992 trial that she killed men who assaulted her and made her fear for her life.
She has been heralded in tabloid headlines and on television talk shows as Americas first female serial killer. In fact, Aileen Wuornos was neither the first nor the worst, although she did display a curiously masculine tendency to prey on strangers of the opposite sex. Suspected of at least seven murders, sentenced to die in four of the six cases she confessed to police, Wuornos still maintains that some or all of her admitted killings were performed in self-defense, resisting violent assaults by men whom she solicited while working as a prostitute. Ironically, information uncovered by investigative journalists in November 1992 suggests that in one case, at least, her story may well be true.
Americas future media monster was born Aileen Pittman in Rochester, Michigan, on February 29, 1956. Her teenage parents separated months before she was born, father Leo Pittman moving on to serve time in Kansas and Michigan mental hospitals as a deranged child-molester. Mother Diane recalls Aileen and her older brother Keith as crying, unhappy babies, and their racket prompted her to leave them with her parents in early 1960. On March 18 of that year, maternal grandparents Lauri and Britta Wuornos legally adopted the children as their own.
Aileens childhood showed little improvement from there. At age six, she suffered scarring facial burns while she and Keith were setting fires with lighter fluid. Aileen later told police that she had sex with Keith at an early age, but acquaintances doubt the story and Keith is unable to speak for himself, having died of throat cancer in 1976. At any rate, Aileen was clearly having sex with someone, for she turned up pregnant in her fourteenth year, delivering her son at a Detroit maternity home on March 23, 1971. Grandmother Britta died on July 7, and while her death was blamed on liver failure, Diane Pratt suspected her father of murder, claiming he threatened to kill Aileen and Keith if they were not removed from his home.
In fact, they became wards of the court, Aileen soon dropping out of school to work the streets full-time, earning her way as a teenage hooker, drifting across country as the spirit moved her. In May 1974, using the alias Sandra Kretsch, she was jailed in Jefferson County, Colorado, for disorderly conduct, drunk driving, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. Additional charges of failure to appear were filed when she skipped town ahead of her trial. Back in Michigan on July 13, 1976, Aileen was arrested in Antrim County for simple assault and disturbing the peace, after she lobbed a cue ball at a bartenders head. Out-standing warrants from Troy, Michigan, were also served on charges of driving without a license and consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle. On August 4, Aileen settled her debt to society with a $105 fine.
The money came, at least indirectly, from her brother. Keiths death, on July 17, 1976, surprised her with a life insurance payment of $10,000, squandered within two months on luxuries including a new car, which Aileen promptly wrecked. In late September, broke again, she hitched a ride to Florida, anxious to sample a warmer climate, hoping to practice her trade in the sun. It was a change of scene, but Aileens attitude was still the same, and she inevitably faced more trouble with the law.
On May 20, 1981, Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida, for armed robbery of a convenience store. Sentenced to prison on May 4, 1982, she was released thirteen months later, on June 30, 1983. Her next arrest, on May 1, 1984, was for trying to pass forged checks at a bank in Key West. On November 30, 1985, named as a suspect in the theft of a pistol and ammunition in Pasco County, Aileen borrowed the alias Lori Grody from an aunt in Michigan. Eleven days later, the Florida Highway Patrol cited Grody for driving without a valid license. On January 4, 1986, Aileen was arrested in Miami under her own name, charged with auto theft, resisting arrest, and obstruction by false information; police found a .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition in the stolen car. On June 2, 1986, Volusia County deputies detained Lori Grody for questioning after a male companion accused her of pulling a gun in his car and demanding $200; in spite of her denials, Aileen was carrying spare ammunition on her person, and a .22 pistol was found beneath the passenger seat she occupied. A week later, using the new alias of Susan Blahovec, she was ticketed for speeding in Jefferson County, Florida. The citation includes a telling observation: Attitude poor. Thinks she is above the law.
A few days after the Jefferson County incident, Aileen met lesbian Tyria Moore in a Daytona gay bar. They soon became lovers, and while the passion faded in a year or so, they remained close friends and traveling companions, more or less inseparable for the next four years. On July 4, 1987, police in Daytona Beach detained Tina Moore and Susan Blahovec for questioning, on suspicion of slugging a man with a beer bottle. Blahovec was alone on December 18, when highway patrolmen cited her for walking on the inter-state and possessing a suspended drivers license. Once again, the citation noted Attitude POOR, and Susan proved it over the next two months, with threatening letters mailed to the circuit court clerk on January 11 and February 9, 1988.
A month later, Wuornos was trying a new approach and a new alias. On March 12, 1988, Cammie Marsh Green accused a Daytona Beach bus driver of assault, claiming he pushed her off the bus following an argument; Tyria Moore was listed as a witness to the incident. On July 23, a Daytona Beach landlord accused Moore and Susan Blahovec of vandalizing their apartment, ripping out carpets and painting the walls dark brown without his permission. In November 1988, Susan Blahovec launched a six-day campaign of threatening calls against a Zephyr Hills supermarket, following an altercation over lottery tickets.
By 1989, Aileens demeanor was increasingly erratic and belligerent. Never one to take an insult lightly, she now went out of her way to provoke confrontations, seldom traveling without a loaded pistol in her purse. She worked the bars and truck stops, thumbing rides to snag a trick when all else failed, supplementing her prostitutes income with theft when she could. Increasingly, with Moore, she talked about the many troubles in her life, a yearning for revenge.
Richard Mallory, a 51-year-old electrician from Palm Harbor, was last seen alive by coworkers on November 30, 1989. His car was found abandoned at Ormond Beach, in Volusia County, the next day, his wallet and personal papers scattered nearby, along with several condoms and a half-empty bottle of vodka. On December 13, his fully-dressed corpse was found in the woods northwest of Daytona Beach, shot three times in the chest with a .22 pistol. Police searching for a motive in the murder learned that Mallory had been divorced five times, earning himself a reputation as a heavy drinker who was very paranoid and very much into porno and the topless-bar scene. A former employee described him as mental, but police came up empty in their search for a criminal record. They could find nothing dirty on the victim, finally concluding he was just paranoid and pussy-crazy.
The investigation was stalled at that point on June 1, 1990, when a nude John Doe victim was found, shot six times with a .22 and dumped in the woods forty miles north of Tampa. By June 7, the corpse had been identified from dental records as 43-year-old David Spears, last seen leaving his Sarasota workplace on May 19. Spears had planned to visit his ex-wife in Orlando that afternoon, but he never made it. Ironically, his boss had spotted the dead mans missing pickup truck on May 25, parked along I-75 south of Gainesville, but there the trail went cold.
By the time Spears was identified, a third victim had already been found. Charles Carskaddon, age forty, was a part-time rodeo worker from Booneville, Missouri, missing since May 31. He had vanished somewhere along I-75, en route from Booneville to meet his fianc饠in Tampa, his naked corpse found thirty miles south of the Spears murder site on June 6. Carskaddon had been shot nine times with a .22-caliber weapon, suggesting a pattern to officers who still resisted the notion of a serial killer at large. On June 7, Carskaddons car was found in Marion County, a .45 automatic and various personal items listed as stolen from the vehicle.
Peter Siems, a 65-year-old merchant seaman turned missionary, was last seen on June 7, 1990, when he left his Jupiter, Florida, home to visit relatives in Arkansas. Siems never arrived, and a missing-person report was filed with police on June 22. No trace of the man had been found by July 4, when his car was wrecked and abandoned in Orange Springs, Florida. Witnesses described the vehicles occupants as two women, one blond and one brunette, providing police sketch artists with a likeness of each. The blond was injured, bleeding, and a bloody palm print was lifted from the vehicles trunk.
Eugene Burress, age fifty, left the Ocala sausage factory where he worked to make his normal delivery rounds on July 30, 1990. A missing-person report was filed when he had not returned by 2:00 A.M. the next day, and his delivery van was found two hours later. On August 4, his fully-dressed body was found by a family picnicking in the Ocala National Forest. Burress had been shot twice with a .22-caliber pistol, in the back and chest. Nearby, police found his credit cards, clipboard, business receipts, and an empty cash bag from a local bank.
Fifty-six-year-old Dick Humphreys was a retired Alabama police chief, lately employed by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to investigate child abuse claims in Ocala. His wife reported him missing when he failed to return home from work on the night of September 11, 1990, and Humphreys was found the next day in an undeveloped subdivision, shot seven times with a .22 pistol, his pants pockets turned inside-out. On September 19, his car was found abandoned, stripped of license plates, behind a defunct service station in Live Oak. Impounded on September 25, the car was not traced to Humphreys until October 13, the same day his discarded badge and other personal belongings were found in Lake County, seventy miles southeast of the murder scene.
Victim number seven was 60-year-old Walter Antonio, a truck driver from Merrit Island who doubles as a reserve police officer for Brevard County. Found in the woods northwest of Cross City on November 19, 1990, he had been shot three times in the back and once in the head. Antonio was nude except for socks, his clothes later found in a remote area of neighboring Taylor County. His car, meanwhile, was found back in Brevard County on November 24. Police determined that Antonios killer had stolen a distinctive gold ring, along with his badge, nightstick, handcuffs, and flash-light.
By that time, journalists had noted the obvious pattern detectives were reluctant to accept, and media exposure forced authorities to go public with their suspect sketches on November 30, 1990. Over the next three weeks, police received four calls identifying the nameless women as Tyria Moore and Lee Blahovec. Their movements were traced through motel receipts, detectives learning that Blahovec also liked to call herself Lori Grody and Cammie Marsh Green. Fingerprint comparisons did the rest, naming Blahovec/Grody/Green as Aileen Wuornos, placing her at the scene where Peter Siemss car was wrecked in July, but it still remained for officers to track the women down.
Meanwhile, Cammie Green was busy pawning items stolen from her victims, pocketing some extra cash. On December 6, she pawned Richard Mallorys camera and radar detector in Daytona, moving on to Ormond Beach with a box of tools stolen from Richard Spears. (She also left a thumb print behind in Ormond Beach, identical to that of Lori Grody.) The next day, in Volusia County, Green pawned Walter Antonios ring, later identified by his fianc饠and the jeweler who sized it.
With mug shots and a list of names in hand, it was a relatively simple matter to trace Aileen Wuornos, though her root-less life style delayed the arrest for another month. On January 9, 1991, she was seized at the Last Resort, a biker bar in Harbor Oaks, detained on outstanding warrants for Lori Grody while police finished building their murder case. A day later Tyria Moore was traced to her sisters home in Pennsylvania, where she agreed to help police. Back in Florida, detectives arranged a series of telephone conversations between Moore and Wuornos, Tyria begging Aileen to confess for Moores sake, to spare her from prosecution as an accomplice. One conversation led police to a storage warehouse Aileen had rented, a search revealing tools stolen from David Spears, the nightstick taken from Walter Antonio, another camera and electric razor belonging to Richard Mallory.
On January 16, 1991, Wuornos summoned detectives and confessed six killings, all allegedly performed in self-defense. She denied killing Peter Siems, whose body was still missing, and likewise disclaimed any link to the murder of a John Doe victim shot to death with a .22-caliber weapon in Brooks County, Georgia, found in an advanced state of decay on May 5, 1990. (No charges were filed in that case.) I shot em cause to me it was like a self-defending thing, she told police, because I felt if I didnt shoot em and didnt kill em, first of all ... if they had survived, my ass would be gettin in trouble for attempted murder, so Im up shits creek on that one anyway, and if I didnt kill em, you know, of course, I mean I had to kill em ... or its like retaliation, too. Its like, You bastards, you were going to hurt me.
Within two weeks of her arrest, Aileen and her attorney had sold movie rights to her story. At the same time, three top investigators on her case retained their own lawyer to field offers from Hollywood, cringing with embarrassment when their unseemly haste to profit on the case was publicly revealed. In self-defense, the officers maintained that they were moved to sell their version of the case by pure intentions, planning to put the money in a victims fund. To a man, they denounced exposure of their scheme as the malicious work of brother officers, driven by their jealousy at being cut out of the deal.
A bizarre sideshow to the pending murder trial began in late January 1991, with the appearance of Arlene Pralle as Aileens chief advocate. A 44-year-old ranchers wife and born-again Christian, Pralle advised Wuornos in her first letter to prison that Jesus told me to write you. Soon, they were having daily telephone conversations at Pralles expense, Arlene arranging interviews for Wuornos and herself, becoming a fixture on tabloid talk shows from coast to coast. In Pralles words, their relation-ship was a soul binding. Were like Jonathan and David in the Bible. Its as though part of me is trapped in jail with her. We always know what the other is feeling and thinking. I just wish I was Houdini. I would get her out of there. If there was a way, I would do it, and we could go and be vagabonds forever. Instead, Pralle did the next best thing, legally adopting Wuornos as her daughter.
Aileens trial for the murder of Richard Mallory opened on January 13, 1992. Eleven days later, Wuornos took the stand as the only defense witness, repeating her tale of violent rape and beating at Mallorys hands, insisting that she shot him dead in self-defense, using her pistol only after he threatened her life. With no hard evidence to support her claim, jurors rejected the story, deliberating a mere ninety minutes before they convicted Aileen of first-degree murder on January 27. Im innocent, she shouted when the verdict was announced. I was raped! I hope you get raped! Scumbags of America! The jury recommended death on January 29, and the following day Aileen was formally sentenced to die. In April, she pled guilty to the murders of victims Burress, Humphreys, and Spears, with a second death sentence delivered on May 7, 1992.
Around the same time, Aileen offered to show police where the corpse of Peter Siems was hidden, near Beaufort, South Carolina. Authorities flew her to the Piedmont State, but nothing was found at the designated site, Daytona police insisting that Wuornos created the ruse to get a free vacation from jail. They speculate that Siems was dumped in a swamp near I-95, north of Jacksonville, but his body has never been found.
The Wuornos case took an ironic twist on November 10, 1992, with reporter Michele Gillens revelations on Dateline NBC. Thus far, Aileens defenders and Florida prosecutors alike had failed to unearth any criminal record for Richard Mallory that would substantiate Aileens claim of rape and assault. In the official view, Mallory was clean, if somewhat paranoid and pussy-crazy. Gillen, though had no apparent difficulty finding out that Mallory had served ten years for a violent rape in another state, facts easily obtained by checking his name through the FBIs computer network.
The fascinating part about this, Gillen said, is here is a woman who for the past year has been screaming that she didnt get a fair trial and that everyone was rushing to make a TV movie about her--and in reality that comes true. (The first TV movie depicting Aileen aired on a rival network one week to the day after Gillens report.) Even so, Gillen stopped short of calling for Aileens release. Shes a sick woman who blew those men away, Gillen declared, but thats no reason for the state to say, Shes confessed to killing men, we dont have to do our homework.
On July 20, 2001, in court, Wuornos said she had lied in an attempt to beat the system: "I killed those men in the first degree, robbed and killed them."
She apologized to her victims' families and said there was no point in spending more taxpayers' money on her defense.
I wanted to clear all the lies and let the truth come out," she said. "I have hate crawling through my system."
She said she wanted to fire her state-appointed attorneys and end her appeals because she wants to come clean and make her peace with God. "I'm not scared by it," Wuornos said. "I know what the heck I'm doing."
The end for Wuornos came on October 9, 2002, when she was executed by lethal injection,
Wuornos' last night was spent talking with a friend from Michigan, Dawn Botkins. The pair talked from 9 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, and prison officials said Botkins planned to claim the body.
"She was looking forward to being home with God and getting off this Earth," Botkins told The Associated Press. "She prayed that the [souls of the] guys she killed are saved and that by her dying they will be saved.
"She was more than willing to go. It was what she wanted. Why would she want to fight and spend a life in prison?" said Botkins, who plans to scatter Wuornos' ashes in Michigan, their childhood home.
Officials said Wuornos declined her last meal of barbecued chicken but had a cup of coffee about 12:30 a.m. She went to sleep at 1 a.m., asking to be awakened at 5.
Prison logs show she had been increasingly agitated, sleeping restlessly and even shouting out in her sleep once.
Officials said she was calm Wednesday morning as she was placed on a steel gurney, her arms taped down to wooden paddles. Thick leather straps held her down from the chest to the feet. A white sheet hid the straps but revealed their outlines.
A clear tube wound its way from under the gurney and into a vein in her right arm, just at the soft spot where the inside of the elbow bends.
A female guard stood by her head; a male guard stood at her left side, in front of a curtained closet where an anonymous executioner waited for the warden's order to begin.
When the order was given, Wuornos blinked and swallowed hard.
She lifted her head in apparent surprise, then smiled at the assembled witnesses.
She put her head back and said something to a guard. A microphone carried her last words.
The microphone clicked off at 9:30 a.m. and sodium pentothal entered her bloodstream.
At 9:32 a.m., she made her last visible movement: Her eyelids fluttered, her lips parted as if to form a word.
She did not move again.
For the next 15 minutes, witnesses watched her lips turn an ever-darker blue and her skin a pallid white.
At 9:47, a doctor checked for a pulse and heartbeat. It was announced the death sentence had been carried out.
Wuornos became the third woman ever executed in Florida and the 10th in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
"Yes, I'd like to say I'm sailing with the rock,
and I'll be back, like Independence Day, with Jesus, June 6th,
like in the movie. Big mother ship and all. I'll be back."
______Aileen Wuornos last words
at 6:37 AM