Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer on which the Charlize Theron thriller Monster was based, was a drifter and sex worker who murdered seven of her Johns throughout the state of Florida in 1989 and 1990. Like fellow drifter Charles Manson, she has one of the most harrowing serial killer origin stories that somewhat explains why she committed the horrific crimes that she did. There’s no excuse for taking a human life, but more so than any of the serial killers who had terrible childhoods Wuornos seems like she was bred to become a serial killer. Cruel, alcoholic guardians raised her, and she had to sell her own body at a young age in order to eat. This following stories aren’t meant to excuse what she did, but they do put her terrible crimes into context.
As with many other drifter-killers, it’s impossible to corroborate many of Wournos’s claims. By the time she was apprehended in 1991, Wuornos was so adept at lying that it’s likely she mythologized much of her upbringing. Nonetheless, there still there are some Aileen Wuornos childhood facts that have been verified by researchers and family friends. Aileen Wournos may have been a monster, but it’s likely that if anyone would have shown her the slightest hint of love when she was a child, her seven victims may still be alive.
She Was Born Into A Family That Didn't Care About Her
Born on leap day in 1956 to a teenage mother and a father whom she never met, Aileen Wuornos was neglected from birth. Shortly after she was born, Wuornos's abusive father was sent to prison for sexually assaulting children. He hung himself while in jail and the two never met. Wuornos's mother was too young to understand the work that it would take to raise a child and left the girl and her brother, Keith, alone for long periods of time. This kind of treatment can lead to an attachment disorder which can ruin their ability to form long-term relationships.
The Grandparents Who Raised Her Were Severe Alcoholics
At age four, Wuornos and her brother were handed off to their grandparents, Lauri and Britta, whom she said were abusive alcoholics. Their grandparents chose not to tell Aileen or Keith that they were adopted until they were 12 years old, however that doesn't mean that they were raised like their aunts and uncles, some of whom were still living with Lauri and Britta.
According to Lori Grody, Lauri and Britta's natural daughter who grew up with Aileen, Lauri would take away Christmas presents from his granddaughter whenever they arrived from her actual mother. On top of that Dickensian style of parenting, Lauri once forced the young Wournos to watch as he drowned a cat. In 1976, Lauri would commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
She Was Pregnant By The Age Of 14
The story of Wuornos's pregnancy is one of the few pieces of her backstory that's been corroborated, but like much of her past its clouded in mis-rememberings and rumor. Many retellings of her origin story say that Wournos's brother, Keith, was the father of her child. Other versions of the story claim that her grandfather, Lauri was the person who impregnated her. While that's possible, there's a more likely, and equally as sickening, explanation.
Both in the Nick Broomfield documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer and in an interview with Broadly, Wuornos's best friend, Dawn Botkins, claims that Wuornos was raped and impregnated by a known pedophile named "Chief." Botkins told Broadly,
"The guy that raped her... was, like, 60 years old, and he loved all the kids. [Aileen] was drunk, and he'd take advantage of her and sh*t like that, so that's who she got pregnant by."
Wuornos was sent to a girl's school were she could have the baby in private. After she gave birth she named the boy Keith after her brother, fueling rumors that the baby was actually his. Her son was put up for adoption and she never spoke to him again.
Her Grandfather Assaulted Her
While Wuornos was lucky enough to never know her father, an abusive drunk who sexually assaulted children, she grew up with an even older abusive drunk who allegedly sexually assaulted her every chance he got. Wuornos's grandmother reportedly spent most of her time in a drunken stupor, which may explain why she never stepped in to save her granddaughter. If even part of the story of Wuornos being raped by her grandfather is true, it's not hard to see how she would draw a clear connection between sex and brutality.