Year
1989

“America’s First Female Serial Killer” strikes

Richard Mallory, a storeowner in Palm Harbor, Florida, is last seen taking a ride with Aileen Wuornos. The following day, his car—containing his wallet, some condoms, and an empty vodka bottle—was found abandoned in a remote area of Ormond Beach. Nearly two weeks later, his body turned up in a Daytona Beach junkyard with three bullets in his chest. Mallory’s murder was the first of seven committed by Aileen Wuornos over the next year. Perhaps because she was one of the few women killers to gain widespread fame and notoriety, she was inaccurately dubbed “America’s first female serial killer.” Her case was heavily publicized through television talk show appearances and a documentary, The Selling of a Serial Killer.

Wuornos had been the victim of abuse and neglect herself. Her parents split before she was born and her father, who had been arrested for child molesting, killed himself while awaiting trial in a mental institution. When her mother abandoned her at a young age, Aileen was sent to live with her grandparents. But she was kicked out of their home when she got pregnant at age 14. From 1974 to 1976, Wuornos operated under several aliases and amassed an arrest record for offenses including drunk driving, assault, and armed robbery. In 1986, she became romantically and criminally involved with a woman named Tyria Moore.

In late 1989, Wuornos began her infamous killing spree. Five months after Richard Mallory was killed, David Spears was found dead, shot six times with a .22 caliber gun in the woods near Tampa. At around the same time, another male body turned up nearby that appeared to have been killed with the same type of gun. Three additional men met the same demise during the summer of 1990.

When the seventh victim was found in November, the media was alerted to the possibility of a serial killer. After receiving several tips, detectives caught Wuornos in a seedy biker bar in January 1991. With Moore assisting police, Wuornos decided to confess to the killings but claimed that they had all been done in self-defense. When a jury found Wuornos guilty on January 27, 1992, she screamed out, “I’m innocent! I was raped! I hope you get raped! Scumbags of America!” Her outburst was probably ill considered, given the fact that the same jury came back to decide her penalty the next day. Wuornos was sentenced to death.

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