Case Study of Aileen Wuornos | The First Female Serial Killer in History

In this blog, we will write about America’s first female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. We will about her early life history, crimes, arrest, and conviction. Further, we will discuss what made her a serial killer.


Aileen Wuornos or Lee Wuornos is considered the first female serial killer in the crime history of the USA. She killed six men and committed robbery. She was working as a sex worker in Florida State when she started her killing spree. If we analyze her early life history and her struggles in society, we will get to know that she was not inherently criminal rather she was made a criminal.

Life History of Aileen Wuornos

Aileen aka Lee was born on February 29, 1956, into a poor family. Her birthplace was Rochester, Michigan. Her birth name was Aileen Carol Pittman. Aileen was a damaged and abused child. When she was 6 months old, her teenage mother, Diane Wuornos abandoned her. She was raised by an alcoholic, cruel and abusive grandfather, who used to beat her severely. Her father was a convicted rapist and child molester and he committed suicide in prison in 1969 when Aileen was 13 years old. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. During her childhood, she was mentally, physically and emotionally abused by her grandfather. At the age of 14 she was raped by her grandfather’s friend and consequently, she was pregnant. She gave birth to her child in a house for unwed mothers. Later, her child was up for adoption. After a few days later, her grandfather threw her out of the house. Later, she started working as a prostitute at age fifteen. When she was working as a sex worker in Florida, she was often tortured and humiliated by men. Some men even beat her brutally. She was helpless as she could not leave prostitution because it was her only way of earning money to survive. Her struggles in society made her misandrist. She was married to Lewis Gratz Fell in 1976. Lewis was a wealthy yachtsman. When Aileen was arrested in an altercation, Lewis declined the marriage.

She met her lesbian lover, Tyria Moore at a lesbian bar at Daytona, Florida. They were so in love but their relationship started to fall out when Aileen was killing men. Aileen’s strange behavior made Tyria anxious. She even testified against Aileen in the courthouse at the trial.

After Aileen’s conviction she was adopted by Arlene Pralle and her husband in 1991.

The movie Monster is based on Aileen Wuornos life. We highly recommend you this movie.

Crimes of the Florida Highway Killer

Aileen killed her victims in Florida. She was also working as a prostitute on the highways of Florida that’s why Florida State Police Department called her ‘The Florida Highway Killer.’ Between 1989 and 1990 Aileen killed six men by using a gun on the highways of Florida. Aileen was tracked down by the state police through her fingerprints left in the missing persons’ vehicles. Aileen Wuornos was finally arrested in a bar in Port Orange, Florida. Tyria Moore made a deal with detectives for immunity in exchange for elicited phone confession from Aileen. She was successful in this as Aileen made the confession. During her trial, Aileen asserted that she killed those men in a private defense. They tried to rape and assault her then she killed them.

A jury in Florida found Aileen Wuornos guilty for first-degree murder and she was given a death sentence on January 27, 1992. She had spent a decade on death row. Finally, she was executed by lethal injection at 9:47 in the morning on October 9, 2002.

Experiences and Disorders

Few days before her execution, some psychologist had evaluated Aileen Wuornos. According to those psychologists and psychiatrists Wuornos was diagnosed with a psychopathic personality. She also met the standard for borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. It is unclear whether her serial killings were sexually gratifying or not. She mainly committed robbery and elimination of evidences. Psychopathy and personality disorders can develop at different phases of life. Childhood abuse or trauma, toxic family environment, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse contribute to human personality development. Aileen was rape and domestic violence survivor. When she was working as a prostitute often, she was seriously assaulted by men. All these traumatic experiences have shaped her personality.

Aileen Wuornos was in many ways different than most of the serial killers. Experts believe that her crimes may not be sexually motivated. In case of most of the serial killers, they have a fantasy about their crimes and tortures. Before finally committing the crime, the killers imagine them committing those crimes in their fantasy world. But Wuornos did not talk about any kind of fantasies or sexual stimulation in respect of her crimes. In her case the social and economic status have played significant role in the serial killings.

Although Wuornos’s father was a diagnosed patient of schizophrenia. She was not inherently patient of any kinds of mental disorders. During her trial the psychologist who examined her claimed that she was legally sane. She understood the nature and consequences of her crimes. Thus, she was competent to face the charges.


Aileen Wuornos was nothing but a product of her violent social environment. She was not a born serial killer rather she was formed into a serial killer by her surrounding social and economic circumstances. There was no hint of sexual sadism in her serial killings. Due to Aileen’s prolonged history of physical, mental and emotional abuse, her self esteem was severely damaged. When she was in prison, she rarely showed any remorse for her crimes. Rather her behavior indicated that she was a victim of abuse so she should not suffer for killing her abusers. Her anger and frustration towards the society had made her a serial killer.

Check out our other serial killer related articles

  1. Jeffrey Dahmer
  2. Ted Bundy
  3. David Berkowitz

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