DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Six men she murdered along Florida interstates deserved to be punished because they represented a threat to her, says Aileen Wuornos, prime suspect in one of the nation's most peculiar serial murder cases.
"I had to kill them," the 35-year-old prostitute said in a four-hour videotaped confession made public this week in which she described the slayings in chilling clinical detail.
". . . It was self-defense. It was like, 'Hey, man. I gotta shoot you, 'cause I think you're gonna kill me.' "
The "Damsel of Death" case is one of the most unusual on America's burgeoning list of mass murders. Female serial killers are rare, and ones who violently murder their victims are all but unknown in American criminal history.
It is a case that has attracted international attention and baffled investigators across North and Central Florida for more than a year. In a 13-month period beginning in late 1989, seven male motorists were found shot to death near the interstate highways they were traveling. Some were found with empty condom wrappers near their bodies. Wuornos has confessed to six of the killings.
Police say Wuornos would hitch rides with the men or convince them that she was in distress and needed a lift. Once in their cars, she said, she would proposition the men. They would go to a secluded spot, and she would kill them. Their jewelry and valuables would become gifts to her lesbian lover, Tyria Moore.
Most of the victims were middle-aged working men with families. Police doubt that they were looking for sex when they encountered Wuornos.
In a calm, dispassionate talk with two detectives, Wuornos says she decided she had finally had enough of abuse by greedy, violent men. She decided, she said, to use a gun to end her victimization. She described her vicious rampage in calm, rational tones as she chain-smoked cigarettes.
She sobbed when talking about Moore. "I love her. She wasn't involved in this."
The two women broke up about a year ago. Moore agreed to cooperate with authorities to keep out of trouble herself. She even let them record her conversations with Wuornos in which Wuornos admitted to some of the murders.
Wuornos was arrested last January.