Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Aileen Wuornos: Killer Who Preyed on Truck Drivers

A Poor Beginning

To characterize Aileen Wuornos' start in life as a poor beginning is truly an understatement. It was an awful beginning from the time she was born February 29, 1956 as Aileen Carol Pittman. One of the few good things in her young life, ironically, was that her biological father, Leo Dale Pittman, never got to know her. Pittman was a psychopathic child molester who hanged himself in prison in 1969.

Terry Manners in Deadlier Than the Male: Stories of Female Serial Killers describes what kind of psychopathic violence Pittman was capable of:

Aileen Wuornos yearbook photo
Aileen Wuornos yearbook photo

"When his grandfather died of throat cancer, his grandmother spoilt him even more, baking him cakes and giving him money. In his teens he returned her love and kindness by beating and abusing her. One of his favorite games was to tie two cats together by their tails and throw them over a clothesline to watch them fight."

Her mother, Diane Wuornos, married Pittman when she was 15 and bore him two children in Rochester, Michigan. Aileen's older brother, Keith, was born in 1955. Diane divorced Pittman less than two years into the marriage, a few months before Aileen was born. Diane was afraid of Pittman and with good reason.

Diane found the responsibilities of single motherhood unbearable and in 1960 she abandoned Aileen and her brother Keith, who were then adopted by their maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos in 1960.

The Wuornoses raised Aileen and Keith with their own children in Troy, Michigan. They did not reveal that they were, in fact, the children's grandparents. Aileen discovered the truth at around age twelve, information which did not help an already troublesome situation. Lauri Wuornos drank heavily and was strict with the children; when Aileen and Keith discovered their true parentage they rebelled.

Michael & C.L. Kelleher in Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer tell of how in 1962 at age six, she was "severely burned while she and Keith set fires with lighter fluid. Although she recovered, she was permanently scarred on her face."

Sue Russell in Lethal Intent writes that Aileen was whipped with a belt by Lauri: "When she was made to pull down her shorts and bend over the wooden table in the middle of the kitchen, when the doubled-over belt flew down onto her bare buttocks, little Aileen railed against her father, petrified and crying noisily. Sometimes she lay face down, spread-eagled naked on the bed, for her whippings."

Aileen was sexually promiscuous at a very young age. Michael Newton book, Bad Girls Do It!, reports that "Aileen later told police that she had sex with Keith at an early age, although acquaintances doubt the story..."

Aileen was pregnant at age 14 and sent to an unwed mothers' home. She had a boy, who was adopted in 1971. Fortunately for the child, Aileen did not end up raising him.

In July of the same year Britta Wuornos died, supposedly of liver failure. Diane, Aileen's biological mother, believed that Lauri killed her. However, Sue Russell points out that another of Britta's daughters believed that after the stress that Aileen and Keith put Britta through with truancy, pregnancy, etc. that she had started to drink heavily again. The night of Britta's death, she was having convulsions. If there was culpability on the part of Lauri, it was in not calling an ambulance in time because he didn't have the money for it.


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