For many years serial killers have been there, killing many unsuspecting victims. Despite serial killers being there for quite a long time, a distinctive definition of serial killing is relatively new. Many of the known serial killers are men. Serial killings are some of the controversial crimes in criminology. There is an assumption that serial killers are usually men. This is a result of many serial killers being men. Although there have been several serial killers in the country, none has attracted attention as Aileen Wuornos. Aileen Wuornos was the most notorious female serial killer. Her notoriety as a serial was known in every part of the world. Aileen Wuornos provides an important case study on criminology but most especially on female serial killers. There are many theories that try to explain serial killers and the behavior of serial killers. These theories can help to understand Aileen’s criminal activities.
Aileen Wuornos is named as the first female serial killer in the United States. Aileen was born in 1956 in Rochester, Michigan. Her early life was unstable. She was brought up by her grandparent. Aileen constantly claimed that her grandfather tortured and molested her in her childhood. Her grandmother was not of her for she was an alcoholic. Aileen started bad habits early in her life. She became sexually promiscuous as early as twelve years (Shipley & Arrigo, 2004, p.31). At twelve years, Aileen was involved in incest with her brother. She started prostitution early in life. While in high school, Aileen would exchange sexual favors for money and other items such as cigarettes out of her sexual activities, Aileen became pregnant at the age of fourteen. After giving birth, she placed the child for adoption and went back to her promiscuous life. She was also abandoned by her family and she went her own way. In her teenage life, Aileen had a minor record for drunkard drinking and prostitution. Aileen moved to Florida in 1976 and married a seventy-six-year-old man when she was only twenty. Her marriage to the man did not last for long. The marriage broke after six weeks after Aileen hit the old man with his cane. After this divorce, Aileen went into prostitution where she practiced prostitution on several highways in the state (Shipley & Arrigo, 2004, p.34). In this period she was also involved in other crimes. Her criminal record included armed robbery, car theft, forged checks, and other crimes. Aileen later met and forged a friendship with Tyria Moore. Their relationship lasted until when Aileen was arrested for serial murders.
Before the 1970s, there was no formal definition of mass murder committed by a single person. The term serial killer was later coined by Robert Ressler. Formally serial killing is defined as the act of killing where a single person murders more than three persons within a period of thirty days. Serial killing is basically classified into two categories: organized and unorganized serial killing. In classifying the offenders, living habit, personality and behavior are considered. Organized serial killers commit their acts in an organized manner while unorganized serial killers commit their acts in a spontaneous way. Serial killers are also classified depending on their genders. Male and female serial killers show substantial difference in their behavior and motivation (Holmes & Holmes, 1998, p. 79). In general, there are more male serial killers than female. In most cases, serial killers are white males. Motivation to serial killing is an important element in analyzing serial killing.
In general serial killers are classifies as either visionary, hedonistic, mission oriented or power oriented depending on their motivation to commit serial killing. Visionary serial killers are those serial killers who commit their act of murder as a result of alleged vision. Visionary serial killers claim that they commit their acts as a response to an inner voice. Mission-oriented serial killers have missions for their acts of murder. In most cases they commit acts of murder with a goal to eliminate a certain group of people (Holmes & Holmes, 1998, p. 113). Such killers are usually aware of their actions and cannot be regarded as psychotic. Hedonistic serial killers refer to serial killers who commit their acts as a source of pleasure. These serial killers seem not to have a reason for murder other that the thrill of their acts. Finally, power control serial killers are serial killers who commit their acts of murders as a way to have control over their victims’ lives. These serial killers seem to enjoy having control over their victims’ lives. In addition, there other serial killers who murders for material gain. In such serial killings, there is evidence of pursuit for monetary or other material gains in the murders.
Female Serial Killers
Female serial killers are relatively rare in the world. For this reason, female serial killing is considered unique. Female serial killers differ from male serial killers in their motivation and how they execute their acts. The techniques used by female serial killers are usually different from those used by male serial killers (Holmes & Holmes, 1998, p. 114). While male serial killers are known for killing strangers, female serial killer’s victims are usually individual whom they have relation with. Female serial killers are more likely to uses silent weapon and other sophisticated methods other than using violence. The common weapon with female serial killer is arsenic, which is mixed with food or drinks. Apart from using poison, female serial killers also use firearms to execute murders.
Female serial killers can commit their crimes either alone or in a group. Female serial killers who commit their acts alone can be grouped into five main categories: The black widow, Revenge killer, Angle of Death, crime killer and sexual predator. The Black Widow is serial killers who kill spouses, family members other individuals mostly for material gain. This category is the most common among female serial killers. Angle of Death serial killers kills people under their, mostly medical care. Some perpetrators are nurses who kill patients or children under their care. Revenge killers are another common type of female serial killers. These are female serial killers who commit their acts for revenge. Sexual predator is a rare form of female serial killers. These serial killers use sex as bait before killing their victims. Aileen Wuornos was classified as a sexual predator killer for how she lured her victims to sex before killing them (Vronsky, 2007, p. 67-73).
Aileen acts of murder were committed between 1989 and 1990. In this duration, it was reported that seven men had been murdered along various highways in Florida. It total there were seven murders that were associate with Aileen Wuornos. Aileen’s victims include Richard Mallory, Troy Burress, Dick Humphrey, Peter Siems, David Spears, Charles Carskaddon and Walter Antonio (Nickell & Fischer, 1999, p. 137). The first body was discovered dumped in dumpsite. It is reported that the body was discovered by three scavengers as they were looking for valuable items in the dumpsite. The body was later identified as that of Richard Mallory. A second body of David Spear was found on 1st June 1990. Five day later another body of Charles Carskaddan was found. The bodies of the other victims were found in various areas in Florida between July and November 1990. The murders have various similarities. For example, the victims were lured to sex before being shot dead.
Investigations into the murders started after it was discovered that seven men had been killed in different areas of Florida within a period of less than one year. It was suspected that there was act of serial killing after the seven murders showed a lot of similarities. All the victims were men, the crimes were committed along the highways and there was little evidence of material interest.
The body of Richard Mallory was discovered in a dumpsite by scavengers. One of the scavenger described what had been found in a handwritten report that was handed over to investigators. The report described what the scavenger had witnessed. Twelve days before this, a Cadillac had been found abandoned in north of Daytona. When the investigators went to dumpsite where the body had been found, they marked off the place and started to look for supportive evidence (Nickell & Fischer, 1999, p. 139). The investigators did not touch the body but searched for possible evidence in the area around the body. A crime specialist took photographs of the body and crimes scene in order to use them for further investigation. Apart from taking photographs, the investigators used tape recorder to document what was going on. The criminalist also took their own photos before picking the body. When picking the bodies, the investigators used surgical gloves to lift the body carefully into a van. The body had all the cloths intact except that the pockets were turned out. The investigators were able to gather items of investigation. Items of investigations collected from this scene included sample of hair and scraps of papers.
The following day an autopsy was conducted of the body. A bullet had fallen out of the body while other three were identified by use of X-ray. Since the body had been dead for some days, it was challenging to pick the fingerprints. However, the fingerprints were picked by cutting print squares from card and then rolling it on inked fingers. The fingerprints were taken to Florida Department of Law (FDLE) for analysis. At this time, fingerprints of Mallory that had been picked at a different time were faxed to FDLE. On comparison with the fingerprints taken from the dead body, the fingerprints were found to match. From the autopsy, it was concluded that Mallory died of bullet wounds. He had been shot four times using a.22-caliber weapon.
The body of David Spears was the second to be linked to Aileen. The body was founded dumped in an isolated region of Citrus County. The body was found naked. Dental X-ray was used to identify the body. After investigation, it was discovered than he died of gunshot. A.22 weapon had been used to fire the bullets that killed him. The third body was also found naked with six shots. A.22-caleber weapon had been used to commit the crime (Nickell & Fischer, 1999, p. 141). A day after this incidence, peter Siems was reported to be missing. Although his car was later found abandoned, his body was not found. The body of the fourth victim, Duress was found after he had been missing for five days. This victim also died of gun shot. Latter in September, the body of Dick Humphreys was found with bullet wounds. He had been shot seven times using.22-caliber weapon. The last victim, Walter Antonio was also found shot three times.
The circumstance of the different crimes pointed to serial killing. All the victims were mature males, the bodies were found dumped in isolated areas, and in some cases the bodies were found naked. These similarities indicated that the perpetrator could have been the same. There was also a similarity in the weapons used for the crimes. A.22-caliber weapon was used in most of the crimes. Apart from the weapon, the manner of murders also pointed at serial killing. For example, all the victims were shot more than once.
All along, investigators from various counties had been sharing information for they had concluded that a serial killer was at work. There was a death of another man, Giddens, shot once using a.38 caliber weapon. The tags of the cars belonging to the victims were remove and swept for finger prints. The finger print patterns bore similarities apart from the Giddens case. During November 1990, investigators were holding strategy sessions at the Marion county sheriff office (Shipley & Arrigo, 2004, p.118). The prevailing theory was that the men were either being solicited for either automotive or assistance or sex with the intent to rob or murder them. At this point detectives had come up with a strong lead; two females had been seen leaving the car the car that belonged to Peter Siems and through assistance from witnesses police artists were able to come up with sketches. Later the Marion county sheriff’s office chief criminal investigator, Capt. Steve Binegar handed out the sketches to the press and was carried out on national television across all the networks (Shipley & Arrigo, 2004, p.76). A day after the sketches were aired, a man called from Homosassa springs and identified the two women as Tyria and Lee, for they had rented a trailer from him. New lead came with the names of the women being identified as Lee Blahovec and Tyria Moore.continued searches on FDLE files showed criminal records for both Lee and Moore, it was also recognized that Lee was also using an alias “Cammie Marsh Greene”. The officers started to check through pawn shops in Daytona and Horzepa counties searching for anything that may have belonged to the victims. (Nickell& Fischer, 1999 p. 139-142)
The investigators used the computerized AFIS technology to match the fingerprints obtained from the pawnshop with those existing in the records; the prints matched a name called Kristine Grody, her photo was cross checked with the jail records and it was seen that the photo matched that of Susan Blahovec, further evidence pointed to a woman named Lee, Grody’s finger prints were later compared with those found on the palm print found on Peter Siem’s car (Nickell& Fischer, 1999 p. 142). During that point in time, the Grody information and the Moore records were run through the National crime information centre (NCIC), a national program used for clearing finger prints and photographs which showed that the alias Blahovec, Grody, and Cammie belonged to a woman named Aileen Carol Wuornos.
Aileen Wuornos was arrested on 9th January 1991. Tyria assisted the investigators to get confession from her. In her trial, Aileen admitted to have murdered Richard Mallory. She alleged that she shot at Mallory after he had tried to rape her. In addition she did not contest to the murder Humphrey, Burress and Spear (Reynolds, 2003, p.76). She as well pleaded guilty for the murder of Carskaddon and Antonio. In total the court found her guilty of murder of six of her seven victims. Her trial was unique. She did not show any remorse for the murders. Her lawyer and psychiatrist argued that she was mentally unstable but the court rejected. She was convicted of murder of Mallory executed using lethal injection.
Aileen Wuornos serial killing can be classified as sexually predator serial killing. Aileen used sex to lure her victims before killing them. While committing these crimes, Aileen worked as a highway prostitute a long various highways in Florida. She met her victims along the highways in her day to day prostitution activities. Her murders qualify as serial killing because the victims were killed within a short duration of time. Although Aileen took some items and money from her victims, she did not seem have been motivated by material gain. No prior close relation was found between Aileen and her victims. This made her acts to be different from those of other female serial killers.
Aileen Wuornos criminal activities can be analyzed using all of the eight criminology theories. However, it is psychological theory that best explain unique crime tendency of Aileen Wuornos. Aileen was a victim of unstable childhood. He parents were underage and could not raise her. This led her to be brought up by her grand parents. Her grandfather was violent and abused her physically. Although undocumented, it was alleged that her grandfather sexually abused her. Her childhood was, thus, marked by neglect and lack of love. Abuse and lack of love could have led her behavior. This can explain her involvement in promiscuous activities and prostitution at an early age. In addition she became pregnant at an early age and was abandoned by her family. These early experiences, together with her experience as a prostitute could have led to accumulated hatred for men (Morrissey, 2003, p. 65). Aileen could also have learnt to use alcohol and drugs from her grandparents. In addition, Aileen could also have been a victim mental illness. According to Aileen, she murdered her victims as a way of protecting their families from suffering (Nickell& Fischer, 1999 p. 141). Aileen used this obsession to justify her actions. Her Lack of remorse for her actions also point to her having psychological problems.
Female serial killing is relatively new in US. Aileen Wuornos is one of the most notorious female serial killers that ever lived. Aileen killed seven men in a period of less than one year. Investigations on the murder of the seven men in Florida pointed to serial killing. Analysis of evidence objects, fingerprints, photographs and crime circumstance pointed at Aileen as the perpetrator. Aileen case shows the need for good parenthood. Aileen’s troubled childhood contributed highly to her behavior.
Holmes, R. & Holmes, S. (1998). Contemporary perspectives on serial murder. California: Sage Publication.
Morrissey, B. (2003).When women kill: questions of agency and subjectivity. New York: Routledge
Nickell, J and Fischer, J. (1999) Crime science: methods of forensic Detection. New York: University Press of Kentucky
Reynolds, M. (2003). Dead Ends: The pursuit, Conviction and Execution of Female Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos, the Damsel of Death. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
Shipley, S. & Arrigo, B. (2004). The female homicide offender: serial murder and the case of Aileen Wuornos. New York: Pearson.
Vronsky, P. (2007). Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters. New York: Berkley Books.