Since her execution in 2002, Aileen Wuornos has became one of the most notorious serial killers in US history. Branded “The Damsel of Death,” Wuornos shot and killed seven men between 1989 and 1990 while she hitchhiked through Florida as a sex worker. Wuornos ultimately confessed to the murders.
At her sentencing hearing for the murder of her first victim, 52-year-old Richard Mallory, Wuornos’ defense team chronicled her traumatic childhood and the alleged sexual abuse she endured as a teenager in an attempt to explain why Wuornos committed the slaying. Wuornos pleaded not guilty to the crime, claiming she acted in self-defense and that Mallory had violently raped her.
According to her attorneys, Wuornos’ grandfather was an abusive alcoholic — although her grandfather’s son, Barry Wuornos, testified that her grandfather was neither abusive nor an alcoholic. At a young age, Aileen had sex with neighborhood boys in exchange for cigarettes and spare change.
In Oxygen’s documentary special “Snapped Notorious: Aileen Wuornos,” Wuornos’ best friend, Dawn Botkins, confirmed Wuornos’ troubled upbringing.
“The kids would only hang out with her to give her cigarettes when she needed cigarettes or money. That’s when she started doing favors, I guess. That’s what they called it,” said Botkins. “And I never asked her if she was a prostitute. I already knew, so why ask her? But I just didn’t judge her. I just thought, ‘I’ve already heard stories about her.’ But I got to know her and she was perfectly normal.”
According to Botkins, when Wuornos was around age 13, she was allegedly raped by someone in the neighborhood.
“It was a guy that lived in the neighborhood [...] an older man that would let a bunch of kids come in and drink and all that,” she said. “Well, Aileen must have got real drunk one night, and he sent the rest of the kids home[.] Aileen was too drunk to leave at 13, and apparently he raped her and she got pregnant.”
Wuornos’ grandparents then placed her in a home for unwed mothers, where she gave birth to a baby boy. Her son was immediately put up for adoption.
Botkins told “Snapped Notorious,” “Nobody believed her [that she was raped]. None of her friends — they all turned against her. It was awful.”
When Wuornos returned home, Botkins said no one “would have anything to do with her,” and people called her “a whore and a prostitute.”
Botkins, however, defended Wuornos, which is something she continued to do even after Wuornos was arrested for murder.
“I constantly have to tell everybody, I’d never condone what she did, of course not. I just stood by my friend,” said Botkins.
To hear more about the case and Botkin’s relationship with Wuornos, watch “Snapped Notorious: Aileen Wuornos” on March 25 at 6/5c.