Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Aileen Wuornos: Killer Who Preyed on Truck Drivers


On January 10 Moore was located. She was living with her sister in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Jerry Thompson of Citrus County and Bruce Munster of Marion County flew to Scranton, Pennsylvania to interview her. She was read her rights but not charged with anything. Munster made sure she knew what perjury was, swore her in, and sat back as she gave her statement. She had known about the murders since Lee had come home with Richard Mallory's Cadillac, she said. Lee had openly confessed that she had killed a man that day, but Moore told her not to say anything else. "I told her I didn't want to hear about it," Moore told Munster and Thompson. "And then any time she would come home after that and say certain things, telling me about where she got something, I'd say I don't want to hear it." She had her suspicions, she admitted, but wanted to know as little as possible about Lee's doings. The more she knew, she reasoned, the more compelled she would feel to report Lee to the authorities. And she didn't want to do that. "I was just scared," she said. "She always said she'd never hurt me, but then you can't believe her, so I don't know what she would have done."

The next day Moore accompanied Munster and Thompson back to Florida to assist the investigation. A confession would make the case against Wuornos virtually airtight, and Munster and Thompson explained their plan for obtaining one to Moore on the flight. They would put her in a Daytona motel and have her make contact with Lee in jail, saying she'd received money from her mother and came down to get the rest of her things. Their phone conversations would be taped, and Moore was to tell Wuornos that authorities had been questioning her family, that she thought the Florida murders would be mistakenly pinned on her (Moore). Munster and Thompson hoped that, out of loyalty to Moore, Wuornos would confess.

Aileen Wuornos handcuffed (AP)
Aileen Wuornos handcuffed

The first call from Wuornos came on January 14. She was still under the impression that she was only in jail for the Lori Grody weapons violation. When Moore broached her suspicions, Wuornos reassured her. "I'm only here for that concealed weapons charge in '86 and a traffic ticket," she said, "and I tell you what, man, I read the newspaper, and I wasn't one of those little suspects." She was aware, though, that the jailhouse phone was monitored, and made efforts to speak of the crimes in code words and to construct alibis. "I think somebody at work — where you worked at — said something that it looked like us," she said, "And it isn't us, see? It's a case of mistaken identity."

For three days the calls continued. Moore became more insistent that the police were after her, and it became clear that Wuornos knew what was expected of her. She even voiced suspicion that Moore was not alone, that someone was there taping their conversations. But as time passed, she became less careful about what she said. She would not let Moore go down with her. "Just go ahead and let them know what you need to know... what they want to know or anything," she said, "and I will cover for you, because you're innocent. I'm not going to let you go to jail. Listen, if I have to confess, I will." And on the morning of January 16, she did.

Wuornos came back to two main points over and over during her confession to Larry Horzepa and Bruce Munster. First, she made it clear that Moore was not involved in any way in any of the murders. Additionally, she was emphatic in her assertion that nothing was her fault, not the murders and not any circumstance that led her down the criminal path that was her life. All the killings were done in self-defense, she claimed. Each victim had either assaulted her, threatened her, or raped her. Her story seemed to develop as she told it. When she thought she'd said something incriminating she would back up and retell that part, changing details to suit her overall scenario. She'd been raped several times in the past few years, she claimed, and had had enough. When each of her victims became aggressive she killed out of fear. Several times Michael O'Neill, a public defender from the Volusia County public defender's office, advised Wuornos to stop talking, finally asking in exasperation, "Do you realize these guys are cops!" Wuornos answered, "I know. And they wanted to hang me. And that's cool, because maybe, man, I deserve it. I just want to get this over with."

An avalanche of book and movie offers poured in to detectives, relatives, Moore and even Wuornos herself. Wuornos seemed to think she would make millions from her story, not yet realizing that Florida had a law against criminals profiting in such a manner. She was all over the local and national media. She felt famous, and she continued to talk about the crimes with anyone who would listen, including Volusia County Jail employees. With each retelling she refined her story, casting herself in a better light each time.


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