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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essay on Eileen Wuornos - America's First Female Serial Killer

            Between 1989 and1990 there was a woman who made her living waiting on the side of the road at night, flagging down truck drivers and other vehicle owners and offering sex to men for a fee.  If her invitation was accepted, she will climb into the car and immediately after there is opportunity shot the man with a gun which she kept in her purse.  She did this six times in a span of one year until the time when she was finally caught.   This story was real.  The woman mentioned in this story was Eileen ‘Lee’ Wuornos. 


            Aileen Wuornos was born on February 29, 1956.  She was the daughter of Leo Dale Pittman, a child molester and Diane Wuornos, a teenage mother who was not yet ready for motherhood.  At the age of four Aileen, together with his brother Keith, was abandoned by her parents in favor of their grandparents.  Life was difficult for Aileen Wuornos as it was believed that she was abused by her grandfather.  Her grandmother was not of any help as she was a chronic alcoholic.  She also has had sexual relations with her brother and at the age of 14 she got pregnant.  After giving birth to the boy, she had him adopted.


            Shortly afterwards, she ran away from her home.  She survived for several years hitchhiking and prostituting herself to truck drivers.  Her first victim was Richard Mallory.  She claimed that Mallory tried to rape her forcing her to kill him in self-defense.  Her next victims were David Spears, Charles Carskaddon, Peter Siems, Eugene Burress, Dick Humphreys, Walter Antonio (“Crime File – Famous Criminal – Aileen Wuornos”).  The police after finding several leads were able to track down Tyria Moore, Wuornos’ lover.  The police were able to convince her to help them get enough evidence to file a case against Wuornos.  The evidence obtained was in the form of recorded phone conversations between Wuornos and Moore with the latter pleading to the former to confess to the crime to spare the latter from prosecution as an accomplice.  Wuornos admitted to the crimes charged but claimed that they were done in self-defense.  She also stated that Moore had no participation in the crimes. 


            Eileen Wuornos was initially tried for the murder of Richard Mallory.  During the trial, the prosecution by virtue of ‘Williams Rule’ introduced evidence from other cases which Wuornos was also suspected to have committed to establish that there was a criminal pattern in her case.  The jury was not convinced with the claim that Wuornos committed the crime in self-defense.  Accordingly she was adjudged guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to death penalty.  Several months after, she also pleaded guilty to the other crimes and was sentenced to additional five counts of death penalty.   She was eventually executed on October 9, 2002.


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            When Eileen Wuornos crimes were publicized, she had become an overnight sensation.  She was in fact labeled by the media as America’s first female serial killer.  Some considered her as one of the most dangerous women in the United States.  Despite all the hype against her many still believe that Eileen Wuornos did not deserve the penalty imposed against her. While I do not justify the violent acts she had committed, I have reason to believe that Eileen Wuornos was not the person that the media claimed her to be.  


First, Eileen Wuornos was also a victim of circumstances.   She also had a very rough childhood.  She was deprived of the love and care of her parents.  She was sexually abused by her grandfather.  The emotional trauma she suffered as a child took its toll on her and may have affected her behavior.  I do not think anybody would want to have a childhood similar as hers.  I think any child who had similar experiences will suffer the same fate as hers. 


Second, Eileen Wuornos was not the worst woman on the planet.  She was not America’s first serial killer.  Decades before her, other women have gone on killing spree and labeled as serial killers.  The only difference was the weapon used and the manner the crimes were committed.  Eileen Wuornos used her pistol to commit her crime while the other serial killers used poison.  The insinuation that he has had sex with 250,000 men was also ridiculous and absurd as that would require having sex with 35 different men a day for 20 years (Marlee Macleod, 2009, p.1) 


Third, there is evidence also that will prove that Wuornos was a victim of the media hype and publicity against her.  When she was convicted of killing Mallory, the fact of his past cases of sexual violence was not brought up in court.  This information may have been useful in convincing the jury that Wuornos acted in self defense.  Moreover, it can be recalled that there was no trial for the other crimes she committed.  Her subsequent convictions were based on the conviction on Mallory.  There was also question on the ethical behavior of the police officers who negotiated with Wuornos lover in order to get evidence to be used for filing charges against her.  It is not standard police behavior to conclude that a person of guilty of crime before gathering evidence against the suspect.  What usually happens is that police officers gather strong evidence against the suspect before they file charges against him.  Determination of a person’s guilt is made by the court not the police.  


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