Aileen Wuornos’ killing spree would last less than a year, from December 1989 to November 1990. Yet during that time, she claimed at least seven victims, each one an older man that she picked up on a Florida highway. Most were found nude and each had been robbed of personal possessions, including their vehicles.
Her first known victim was Richard Mallory, a 51-year-old man who owned an electronics store in Clearwater, Florida. Mallory’s abandoned car was located shortly after his disappearance, but his body was not found for two weeks. As with her other victims, Wuornos would claim self-defense as her motive for the killing. Unlike the other six men who died at Wuornos’ hands, however, Mallory did have a criminal past, including a conviction for rape.
On June 1, 1990, Wuornos’ second victim, David Spears, was found after being missing for over two weeks. Spears, age 41, was shot six times. His body was not identified for six days, by which time police had discovered yet another corpse.
Thirty miles from the Spears crime scene, a badly decomposed body with eight gunshot wounds was discovered on June 6. The body was later identified as 40-year-old Charles Carskaddon, who had not been seen since May 31. Although identification was possible, the advanced state of decomposition made it impossible for the medical examiner to say which of the wounds could have been fatal.
Ocala salesman Troy Burress, 50, was reported missing on July 31 and found shot to death on August 4. Wuornos’ next two victims each had a background in law enforcement. The bodies of Charles “Dick” Humphreys, 56, and Walter Antonio, age 62, were found in September and November, respectively.
In addition to these men, police believed Wuornos killed 65-year-old Peter Siems, whose body was never found. His car was located after it was involved in a minor wreck, with eyewitnesses stating that two women abandoned the disabled vehicle.
Noting the similarities in the crimes, police suspected they were all committed by the same person or people. Marion County, Florida investigator Steve Binegar formulated a theory that the killer was female, an idea that seemed far-fetched to many but fit the evidence. Since all the murders involved men travelling along Florida highways, the odds were high that a hitchhiker was involved, Binegar speculated. Female hitchhikers posed less of a threat to drivers and so were more likely to be picked up by the victims, and the only people witnesses could tie to the murders were female.
In November, Captain Binegar released police sketches of the two women who abandoned Siems’ car. Within weeks, tips began pouring in, with callers identifying the women as Aileen Wuornos and her girlfriend Tyria Moore.