Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Aileen Wuornos: Killer Who Preyed on Truck Drivers

Killing Spree Continues

On July 4, a car careened off State Road 315 near Orange Springs, Florida and came to rest in some brush. Rhonda Bailey, who was sitting on her porch at the time and watched the accident happen, said two women clambered frantically from the car, throwing beer cans into the woods and swearing at each other. The brown-haired woman said little; the blond, whose arm was bleeding from an injury sustained in the crash, did most of the talking. She begged Bailey not to call the police, saying her father lived just up the road. She and her companion got back in the car, which now had a smashed windshield and other damage, and got it out of the brush. The crippled vehicle didn't take them far, though. They abandoned it just down the road and began walking. Hubert Hewett of the Orange Springs Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call about the accident and asked the two women if they had been the ones in the car. The blond cursed at him and said no, they had not, and they did not want any help. He left them alone and they walked on.

Investigators search for Wuornos' gun (Getty Images)
Investigators search for Wuornos' gun (Getty Images)

Marion County sheriff's deputies found the car where the women had left it. It was a 1988 Pontiac Sunbird, gray with four doors. The glass in the front doors, as well as the windshield, was smashed. There were apparent bloodstains throughout the interior, and the license plate was missing. A computer search based on the VIN number revealed that the car belonged to Peter Siems, who had disappeared on June 7 after leaving his home in Jupiter, Florida to visit relatives in Arkansas. Siems was a 65-year-old retired merchant seaman who devoted much of his time to a Christian outreach ministry. John Wisnieski of the Jupiter Police, who had been working the case since Siems was reported missing, sent out a nationwide teletype containing descriptions of the two women. He also sent a synopsis of the case and sketches of the women to the Florida Criminal Activity Bulletin. Then he waited. He was not optimistic about finding Siems alive.

Troy Burress left on his delivery route from Gilchrist Sausage early on the morning of July 30. When he didn't return that afternoon, Gilchrist manager Johnny Mae Thompson started calling around and discovered Burress hadn't shown up at his last few delivery stops. Late that night she and her husband went out looking for him. At 2:00 a.m. Burress's wife reported him missing. At 4:00 a.m. Marion County sheriff's deputies found his truck on the shoulder of State Road 19, twenty miles east of Ocala. It was unlocked and the keys were missing. So was Burress.

He was found five days later. A family out for a picnic in the Ocala National Forest happened upon his body in a clearing just off Highway 19, about eight miles from where his truck was found. The Florida heat and humidity had hastened decomposition, precluding identification at the scene, but his wife identified his wedding ring. He had been killed with two shots from a .22 caliber gun, one to the chest and one to the back. Investigator John Tilley's initial suspect was a drifter named Curtis Michael Blankenship. He had been hitchhiking on Highway 19 the day of Burress's disappearance and was picked up close to the abandoned truck. It became evident as the investigation progressed, however, that Blankenship was not involved. For the time being, Tilley had no more suspects.

 

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