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Case File: Aileen "Lee" Wuornos

Her victims though they were trading money for sex, but they paid a higher price with their lives.

January 01, 1996  |  by John Bankston

Comparing Notes

By late August, Marion County Investigator John Tilley was nearly out of leads on the Troy Burress case, when a state crime bulletin sparked an idea, Citrus and Pasco counties had both reported cases of men whose bodies had been found in the woods. On Sept. 6, he met with Jerry Thompson, who was handling the Spears case, and Tom Muck, who was heading up the Carskaddon investigation, The trio compared the crime scenes and the killer's modus operandi. The connection was obvious.

But their knowledge didn't stop the killings. On the afternoon of Sept. 11, Charles Humphrcys, a retired Air Force major, former police chief and Florida State investigator. found his training little help against a gun-wielding killer. The 56-year­old, whose body was found in Marion Coun­ty, was shot seven times.

The investigation heated up, and Ocala, the largest city in Marion County, became the hub. Police efforts were coordinated by Sgt. Bruce Munster, who had his own theo­ry on the killer.

Munster's experience led him to believe it was a significant lead that the victims were shot primarily in the body, as opposed to the head. He believed male killers went for the head shots, and that women aimed lower. The Fourth of July car crash reinforced Munster's conviction.

On Nov, 19, a seventh body was found, that of Walter Gino Antonio. He had been shot four times and was left wearing nothing but tube socks.

The police went to the media and released a composite sketch based on the descrip­tions given by eyewitnesses to the July 4 crash.

"We don't normally go to the press." Munster explained. "But we felt we had a responsibility to warn the public of the dan­ger in picking up female hitch­hikers or females posing as women in distress." It also helped them capture the killer.

End of the Road

Jan. 9, 1991, was another in what had been a series of bad days for Wuornos. Moore had returned from a Thanksgiving trip just long enough to collect her belongings and return the diamond ring her lover had given her as a wedding band. Moore didn't explain her reason-that she had seen news reports describing the search for a female serial killer. The composite picture they showed could have been a snapshot of her and Wuornos,

The break-up sucked out whatever life was left in Wuornos. She started drinking earlier and tried her best to remain anesthetized all day, She found herself unable to prostitute, unable to do anything more than drink and sleep, She pawned the ring for $20.

When the money ran out, she slept on an abandoned car seat outside The Last Resort, a grim Daytona Beach biker bar where she tried to drown her pain. On Jan, 9, when two men offered her a $20 motel room she was eager to accept it. She was broke, drunk and homeless.

Outside the bar, half a dozen men in suits surrounded her. They had followed hundreds of leads-from the motel owner who recog­nized the composite, to a thumb print that Wuornos had given when she had pawned Mallory's camera. Wuornos journey was over, but the state's was just beginning.

Nearly a year passed before Wuornos stood trial for the murder of her first victim. In Deland, Fla., on Jan. 13, 1992, a Volusia County courtroom played host to the media and the curious, all of whom were there to see if the defendant being described as the coun­try's "first female serial killer" would receive the death penalty.

The prosectuion knew they had a strong case. They had physical evidence, including fingerprints and buts from Wuornos' cigarettes that had been found in the victims' cars. They had pawn shop tickets she had traded for her victims' belongings and a storage bin she'd rented that held more of the dead men's possessions. They had also lined up more than 312 potential witnesses.

Among those who cam in contact with Wuornos was a neighbor who had filed a police report after the accused killer threatened her husband's life.

There was also a University of New Hampshire chemistry professor who'd picked up a suitcase-toting hitchhiker on U.S. Highway 19, just a few miles away from where the body of David Spears had been discovered. The professor said he'd let the stock blonde out when she began acting "crazy." The prosecution hoped that their testimony, along with that of various experts, would persuade the seven-woman, five-man jury that Wuornos wasn't a victim. She was a cold-blooded killer who murdered for money after selling sex. 

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