6 Things To Know About Aileen Wuornos

Wuornos, a former sex worker, claimed that her victims had either raped or attempted to rape her, and her serial killings were committed in self-defense.

April 14, 2021
Serial killer Aileen Wuornos, pictured here in her mugshot, admitted to luring seven men to their deaths along Florida's Interstate 75 between 1989 and 1990.

Aileen Wuornos, a former sex worker, claimed that her victims had either raped or attempted to rape her, and her serial killings were committed in self-defense.

Photo by: Florida Department of Corrections

Florida Department of Corrections

By: Catherine Townsend

Serial killer Aileen Wuornos has inspired countless headlines, several documentaries, and was played by Charlize Theron in the 2003 movie Monster, but even after being put to death in 2002, she continues to fascinate the nation.

Wuornos, nicknamed "Lee," was a former sex worker who admitted to luring seven men to their deaths along Florida's Interstate 75 between 1989 and 1990.

Here are six lesser-known facts about the tragic life of Aileen Wuornos.

She claimed that she killed in self-defense

Wuornos insisted that she killed all of her male victims in self-defense. But despite the horrors and repeated sexual abuse she experienced in childhood, she claimed that she did not hate all men.

"I had to kill them," she told police in a four-hour videotaped confession to police that was made public. "It's like I'm thinking, 'You bastards. You were gonna hurt me.' It was self-defense. It was, like, 'Hey, man, I gotta shoot you, 'cause I think you're gonna kill me.'"

She later clarified her views in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. She said: "I'm not a man-hater. (I am) so used to being treated like dirt that I guess it's become a way of life. I'm a decent person."

She was once married... and her wedding made the society pages

Documentaries and movies about Wuornos tend to focus on her relationship with her girlfriend, Tyria Moore, with whom she was living with at the time she committed the string of murders.

Before she met Tyria, Wuornos was married to a man named Lewis Fell. Wuornos met Fell, who at 69 at the time, in 1976 after hitchhiking to Florida. Their wedding even made the society pages.

After she assaulted Fell with a cane, he took out a restraining order against Wuornos and had their ill-fated union annulled after just nine weeks.

She was adopted as an adult

Wuornos was adopted while she was behind bars by Arlene Pralle, a born-again Christian horse trader who had seen her photo in the local newspaper. She has said that she loves Lee more than she loves her husband.

Wuornos later had a falling out with Pralle and the lawyer she hired, Steven Glazer, and accused them of exploiting her story. Neither of them were present at her execution in 2002.

Her nickname as a teen was "Cigarette Pig"

After allegedly being sexually abused by her grandfather and other males in her family, Wuornos was, as is sometimes the trauma response by sex-abuse survivors, sexually precocious. Starting at the age of 13, she traded sexual favors with neighborhood boys for the price of 35 cents, and sometimes, oral sex for cigarettes. They cruelly referred to her as "Cigarette Pig" or "Cigarette Bandit."

It's still up for debate whether she was a "Sexual Serial Killer"

Since Wuornos' victims were found nude, sexual activities had taken place, and condoms were discovered nearby, the killings took on a sexual connotation, Sue Russell wrote in Lethal Intent.

But unlike male sexual serial killers, it is not clear whether or not Wuornos experienced arousal by murdering her victims. But male and female serial killers do have some commonalities: Both can be triggered by stress.

"It is plausible and indeed likely that her 'killing days' were precipitated by personal crises or extra stresses in her home life. As her feelings of powerlessness heightened, those feelings could in turn have triggered an escalation in her need to exert control over another human being," Russell wrote.

Male serial killers commonly admit that an argument with a woman or parent preceded a murder. And Wuornos had direct conflicts and problems with Ty at the times of the murders of her victims Mallory, Spears, Carskaddon, Siems, Humphreys, and Antonio.

Wuornos is the only female serial killer who FBI profiler Robert Ressler mentioned in his autobiographical history of his 20 years with the FBI.

She had a son

Wuornos has repeatedly said that her grandfather sexually abused her, and forced her to strip. After being raped by an accomplice of her grandfather, Wuornos became pregnant in 1970.

She gave birth to a boy at a home for unwed mothers on March 23, 1971, when she was just 14 years old. The child was placed up for adoption, and few months after her son was born, she dropped out of school and began supporting herself by working as a sex worker.

Since it was a closed adoption, it is not known what happened to Aileen Wuornos' son.

Stream Aileen Wuornos: Mind of a Monster on discovery+ now.

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