Monster: Details You Should Know About Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos

Aileen Wuornos, dubbed "America's first female serial killer," confessed to shooting seven men to death in five Florida counties. Her reason, she said, was that her victims either raped or tried to rape her after picking her up along Florida's interstates and highways where she was a sex worker in late 1989 and 1990, according to Clark Prosecutor.

The bodies of six middle-aged white men were found near the roadways of central and northern Florida in a matter of months, all dead after being shot at point-blank range. The murders ultimately led to the arrest of Wuornos. The seventh man Wuornos claimed to have killed was never found, WFLA reported.

The story flipped the script about what people assume about serial killers — that they're men. But her early life, filled with abuse and neglect, shaped the killer she would become. 

According to Capital Punishment in Context, Wuornos' father was convicted of sex crimes against a child after she was born and died in prison. After that, her mother left Wuornos and her brother with their grandparents in Michigan. Reportedly her grandfather beat her and her grandmother was an alcoholic. By the time she was 11, Wuornos was trading sexual favors for money, cigarettes and beer. At 14 years old she'd had a baby that was given up for adoption. Shortly after the birth of her child Wuornos was kicked out of her grandparents house and was on her own. 

Aileen Wuornos moved to Florida, where she would kill and be killed

It was the early 1980s when Wuornos made her way to Florida, where she earned her living as a sex worker and thief. By 1982 she was convicted of robbery with a gun or deadly weapon and served three years in a Florida prison, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Wuornos was described as "erratic and easily angered" by law enforcement, per Capital Punishment in Context.

Wuornos met Tyria Moore at a bar in 1986While the two maintained a relationship during the years leading up to Wuornos' arrest (at the bar pictured above), Moore was not involved in the murders and helped build the case against Wuornos by getting Wuornos to admit to the killings on a taped phone call, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Wuornos was given six death sentences, one for each body found. She was executed October 9, 2002, by lethal injection, per the Sun-Sentinel. By then Wuornos was said to be severely mentally ill, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, but Florida courts found her competent enough to waive her appeals. Her final words were, "I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I'll be back."

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