What We Know About Aileen Wuornos' Best Friend, Dawn Botkins

The story of Aileen Wuornos begins in the small community of Troy, Michigan. The tragedies that befell her started early in her childhood, weaving themes of horrific abuse, neglect, and poverty into a complicated tapestry that she would don for the rest of her life. When Wuornos was young, her father was imprisoned for sexually abusing children. He killed himself in his jail cell. Biography tells of how her mother abandoned her and her brother, leaving them in the care of her grandparents. For many folks, the idea of grandma's house might conjure memories of freshly baked cookies, bedtime stories, and unconditional love. For Wuornos and her brother, it would become pure hell. Their grandmother was a chronic drinker, while the family patriarch was known to be a violent and abusive man. In later years, Wuornos claimed that he sexually assaulted her. 

Wuornos continually acted out as a child. The Journal of Forensic Science reports that she was caught setting fires, one of which badly burned her arms and face. She stole from family and friends and was a disruption at school. At 13, Wuornos was impregnated, allegedly by a family friend, though there was some speculation that her older brother fathered the child. She gave birth to a boy, which her grandparents made her give up for adoption. 

Throughout the turmoil of her childhood and teenage years that followed, Wuornos was able to make at least one friend that would stick by her side. Dawn Botkins befriended Wuornos when they were teens, and remained her friend until Wuornos was executed in 2002 (per Vice).

Botkins and Wuornos became best friends at 15

In an interview with Vice, Botkins revealed the history of her friendship with the woman who would later be convicted and executed for murdering seven men. Botkins met the serial killer through Wuornos's brother. Even though the other kids told her that Wuornos was bad news, Botkins felt drawn to her. In part, this could have been out of sympathy toward the abused teenager. Botkins would point out that her friend was relentlessly bullied at school, and her pleas for help about a rape she endured went ignored. 

Botkins discussed how Aileen got herself involved in sex work. In her early teens, she began trading sexual favors for small amounts of money and cigarettes. This was something she would keep practicing until her eventual arrest for murder. It was a means for her to survive, and a skill she learned very early in her unfortunate life. 

After Wuornos was arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder, she and Botkins regularly corresponded through the mail. Botkins later stated that she felt that Wuornos was intelligent and that she learned a lot about history and politics from her incarcerated friend. She told Vice, "When she'd write me, I responded to every paragraph. Just in case she was tricking me to see if I was paying attention!"

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Botkins was the last person to visit Wuornos on death row

In the hours before Wuornos was executed by the state of Florida, she received one final visit from her friend. Botkins told Vice that she was the last person to visit the condemned killer and brought her $20 worth of food for her last meal. When the outlet asked Botkins if she felt that her friend deserved to be put to death, she gave a surprising response. "Of course she should be executed. She killed seven men. I wouldn't have it any other way." She believed that Wuornos wanted to get to heaven and was able to get salvation by asking God for forgiveness.

Wuornos was cremated and her ashes went to Botkins. Wuornos wanted to have them spread on a beach in Florida, but Botkins talked her out of it. She told her friend that the people of Florida wouldn't want them there, as she had killed seven men in that state. Instead, Botkins suggested that she take her cremains back home, where they would be spread under a tree. Wuornos agreed, and her best friend fulfilled that request. 

Remaining friends with a notorious serial killer draws plenty of questions for Botkins. She told Vice, "So many friends of mine said, 'How can you be friends with her after what she's done?' I said, 'It's going nothing to do with what she's done. It's got to do with our friendship.'"