Wuornos was born as Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan. She had one older brother named Keith, who was born in February 1955. Her mother, Diane Pratt, was 15 years old when she married Leo Dale Pittman on June 3, 1954. Less than two years into marriage and two months before Wuornos was born, Pratt filed for divorce. Pittman was a child molester who spent most of his life in and out of prison. Wuornos never met her father, as he was imprisoned for the rape and attempted murder of an eight-year-old boy at the time of her birth.
Leo Pittman was strangled in prison in 1969. In January 1960, Pratt abandoned her children, leaving them with their maternal grandparents – Lauri and Britta Wuornos. They were legally adopted on March 18, 1960 by the Wuornos family and took their surname. From a young age, Wuornos engaged in sex with multiple partners, including her own brother. At the age of 13, she became pregnant, claiming the pregnancy was a result of being raped by an unknown man. Wuornos gave birth at a Detroit home for unwed mothers on March 23, 1971. The child, a son, was placed for adoption.
On July 7, 1971 Britta Wuornos died of liver failure, after which Wuornos and her brother became wards of the court. At age 15, Wuornos' grandfather threw her out of the house, and she began supporting herself as a prostitute. 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 (June 28, 1907 — January 6, 2000).
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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 The Last Resort, 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.
Prior bad acts are normally inadmissible in criminal trials, but under Florida's Williams Rule, the prosecution was allowed to introduce evidence related to her other crimes in order to show a pattern of illegal acts. 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 stated, "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 Maryland, 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.
In 1961, "it was observed of Mr. Mallory that he possessed strong sociopathic trends. "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 Jeno 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.
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