The chilling autobiography of the notorious female serial killer who was recently the subject of a two-hour Investigation Discovery special.
Between 1989 and 1990, Aileen Wuornos, a hitchhiking prostitute, shot, killed, and robbed seven men in remote Florida locations. Arrested in 1991, she was condemned to death on six separate counts and executed by lethal injection in 2002.
An abused runaway who turned to prostitution to survive, Wuornos has become iconic of vengeful women who lash out at the nearest target. She has also become a touchstone for women’s, prostitutes’, and prisoners’ rights advocates. Her story has inspired myriad books and articles, as well as the 2003 movie Monster, for which Charlize Theron won an Academy Award. But until now, Wuornos’s uncensored voice has never been heard.
Dear Dawn is Wuornos’s autobiography, culled from her ten-year death row correspondence with beloved childhood friend Dawn Botkins. Authorized for publication by Wuornos and edited under the guidance of Botkins, the letters not only offer Wuornos’s riveting reflections on the murders, legal battles, and media coverage, but go further, revealing her fears and obsessions, her rich humor and empathy, and her gradual disintegration as her execution approached. A candid life story told to a trusted friend, Dear Dawn is a compelling narrative, unwaveringly true to its source.
“It is both empowering and heartbreaking, because Wuornos represents the fury of a wronged girl-gone-wild, whose rage was unleashed on men.” The Rumpus
“Condenses ten years of obsessive correspondence into a fragmented, sometimes funny, sometimes nightmarish, often paradoxical portrait of Wuornos.” Muzzle Magazine
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About the Author
Daphne Gottlieb has published four poetry collections (Pelt, Why Things Burn, Final Girl, and Kissing Dead Girls) and edited two anthologies (Homewrecker and Fucking Daphne). She lives in San Francisco.
Aileen Wuornos was born in Michigan in 1956. Abandoned early by her parents and expelled from her abusive grandfather’s home when she was fourteen and pregnant, she lived in the woods before hitchhiking her way to Florida. In 1986, Wuornos began a relationship with Tyria Moore and supported them both through prostitution and theft. In 1986 she served a thirteen-month sentence for armed robbery. In 1989 she first shot and killed a john who picked her up hitchhiking. She later stated that she acted in self-defense, but the john’s history as a violent sex offender was not allowed into evidence at her trial. Wuornos went on to shoot and kill at least six men between 1989 and 1990 and was arrested in 1991, then tried, convicted and sentenced to death. On the advice of a lawyer, she pled “no contest” for five other murders, receiving a total of six death sentences by February 1993. She was famously if inaccurately dubbed “America’s first female serial killer.” While on death row, Wuornos was legally adopted by Arlene Pralle, a born-again Christian, in 1991, and was championed by many who believed her claims of self-defense. A documentary by Nick Broomfield, Aileen: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1992), portrayed Wuornos as a victim of both sexual abuse and media manipulation. As her execution neared, an increasingly unstable Wuornos retracted her self-defense claims, claiming she needed to go to her death with a clean conscience. Florida Governor Jeb Bush ordered a psychiatric exam, after which Wuornos was deemed mentally competent and executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002. Thanks to the feature film Monster (2003), and the second Nick Broomfield documentary, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2004), she has become even more famous after her death.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. An author, psychotherapist, and expert courtroom witness, her thirteen books include Women and Madness; Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman; The Death of Feminism; and The New Anti-Semitism. She is the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women's Health Network and is a charter member of the Women's Forum. She has lectured and organized political, legal, religious and human rights campaigns worldwide and has appeared on The Today Show, The O'Reilly Factor, Oprah, Nightline, CSPAN, NPR, MSNBC, and many others. She has been published and interviewed in The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Times of London, Il Foglio, Ha'aretz, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The London Guardian, Muslim World Today, and many more. Her full biography can be found on her website, www.phyllis-chesler.com. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Believe it, its me! Even though this letter is being written on April fools day.
I am quite amazed you still care. The last time we seen each other was Keiths funneral, but our last hang out together was a snowy day, cold windy and wet, when all my 45s and other personnel belongings were trashed out at an Apartment ...
Yea! that set me off! that was the day I decided I never wanted too see you again. Sorry! But its true. While I'm glad our teenage escapades hasn't left an embedded complete embitterment, back in black and the heart forever, with good memories do still preside ...
I'd love to tell ya whats going on. Here, me in jail and the case. But I would Jeopardize a very severe matter (or) matters if I did. All I can say is that I've got great support and a very dear friend to me now, thats helping me in my peril.
I'd like to ask you a few questions ...
How old are ya now?
How many little ones or big ones do you have?
Are you still married to him? I forgot his name?
When is the last time you've seen my dumb sister? Yea Lori if I should even call her "that."
Lori lost me, so has Barry. They treated me like shit through childhood and haven't bothered to write (or) contact me in my horrendous state. So I've disowned them "completely". This will never be reconsidered either ...
As for what really went down. The world will be surprized to learn at trial time ...
Take care of yourself too now. And hope there'll be a chance I hear from ya ... For now, me.
APRIL 22 
No! I am very sorry to hear about Ducky! Was it 3 or 4 years ago. Please! I know its hard but tell me more about this ...
I am really close to God. Read the Bible three times all the way through. And in even my young and road days I got into God — (Jesus) and my heart was as good then it as it is now. Even though I became a pro in being a prostitute ... I still believed on the Road anyway, and always willing to give a helping hand to anyone, "even strangers," because of my experiences from my young days and how I was treated. I cannot elaborate how many times sex was forced upon me ... But when I do get some time down the road a book out. It is going to be about my life, not these crimes. And how people should "NOT" treat each other like this ...
I hope you're having a beautiful time in life and it isn't hard on you. By the way, this is the end times, so I hope your getting closer to the man up stairs ...
Take Care Now!
In your letter you say here. That maybe I should mention to Arlene about you visiting ... I quit writing to her like three months ago. Uh hum! Sure did ... She writes once in a while. Saying bitchy and evil shit. To ruffle my feathers in this cage ... She did this at the near initial to my entry here, on death row. Like around a month and half later ... As her and Steve conned me to "WAIVE OFF" all remaining trials ... You can very well see. Shes in the mafia with Carskaddon. And quite frankly, to late to change anything now ...
The cops pulled there strategem of evil through Slander, libel and fabrications in the media all around and court ... That's why "Sound off" must be written. This will destroy there ass's in career fields and other ways ... Even if I was Guilty of my crimes. Grant you, there even guiltier. For these intentions are far more for evil means then mine ever acquired. But in alot of ways. I'm innocent. My mistakes were (unintended.) There's are flat out intent.
I'm reading here, about "March" that you may have the resources to visit me. Near thee end of. Man I hope so! This would be "Fantastic." Cause the sooner the better. You never know, when the states gonna do there evil deed ...
Dawn. Remember, never to worry my trust in you. We come a long way. Regardless of the missing years of seeing one another ... I love and trust you. "Forever" always will be dear to me, as even Ty is. Matter of fact. You and her. Are the only ones close to me ...
Its getting late this thursday. Heading towards 11:00. So let me close, and write another. At least 4 will go out tomorrow. The rest. Monday O.K.
This is 4 now
Good Buddy Stay Cool!
So WOW! 20 big bad years ago, since we've last seen one Another! Is this M. S. you've got, a disease that could cripple (or) kill you. My goodness, I wondered just what you've done, in all those years. Hope you've had fun. Mine had been a struggle. On the road untill 20, married 60 days, back on the road until 21, 25 went to prison for three years, 28 turned lezzy. First lover, ripped me off then left. And oh God was I in love with her. Then I looked for a replacement, found tyria. Still love her after 41/2 years, and am fixin now to die, as soon as time will let me. Exciting life huh! Geez! ...
Man I studied phychology, Theology, Archeology, the nervous system, The Brain, algerba, Anatomy, read the Bible four times in its entirety, politics, and so much more.
What errks me is these people think there written to a 9 grade dropout, who did nothin but drugs. And is worthless and needs to die, and before she does, lets get some bread off her, fame she has won. Myself I hadn't that planned. The cops did that one. Just for there own crooked ass fabricated movie there working on. With no other than my ex lover. She's lying through her ass that it wasn't self defense. Cause she's been promised by the cops hundreds of thousands of dollars, and no matter how much I loved her, and showed it to her, she's willing to take me down, for the almity dollar.
Ironically I still love her too. Thats because of all the memories of all the "Good times" we shared together ...
Well ol' lost buddy. Sending more pictures of you of everyone if you can ... If you could some day soon. Would you please take a couple color photo's of my old house. It sits accross the Maddox's ... Please do. I'd like to see if my Mothers flowers are still around. And her trees she raised ...
Doesn't 20 years seem as if it was yesterday? ...
... when I called [Lori] at VCBJ. Which the cops rigged up. She just simply stated. "When you get the chair. I just wish I could pull the switch." I said. "Lori, how can you say that!" "You don't even know my case." "Its self-defense by the way!" She said "I don't care!" "Look at all the families you hurt!" What!
all I can think of is You Bitch! Look at all the hurt I received! I snapped, and became phycologically distorted from it. I've been so hurt. The pain is like my hand (permanently stuck) on a red hot burner. She is insane. Thats all I can say! ...
Dawn. I intend to keep a close contact. As long as your willing. I hope its untill my demise. Thanks for coming back into existence of our long lost friendship ...
Take Care for now Love Lee
... I thank-you for your understandings on the Law enforcements diffenate mistakes and carrying a miscarriage in the system. But I am at fault somewhat as well ... My mistake is prostitution. O how I wish I never indelved in. Dam! I should of never returned to the former trade my teenage days taught me. And now I'm in fault of 7 people's deaths. Which were not intentional. But forced upon. But also the reason I reverted to hooking "Again" was because of the cops and some charges which I had, and they falsified to higher degrees of besides what they really were. To get me back to prison. For a LONG! Time. It confuss's me. For I'm guilty of shedding there blood. Unwillingly. But then they are to. For being crooked and forcing a human life to run scared. And do such to survive. hook.
Shit. I've got to close. Last page. Another letter to follow. Probably a few more matter of fact. So Z___________________ ip!
I'm gone, Love Lee
Its just me again. Trying answer up to all your letters. Good Mornin by the way its 6:35 A.M. ...
OK! answer to what makes everyone classify me as a Seriel Killer? Well actually no one had. The cops labeled me this on the fact that a number of men where killed ... For Seriel Killers — Real ones stalk as often as they can. And if theres a cooling off period its only in a matter of days. Not months. Plus there brutal in these deaths. These men where never tortured nor dismembered. Richard Mallory raped me. Where as he tied me to the steering wheel, then proceeded to vaginally and anally rape me. For nearly 2 hours.
Then after he was done. He put rubbing Alcohol he had in a visine bottle. The bottom my nose, vagina and anus.This was excurciatingly painfull. But more so in my ass. Because he tore me up bad. I never had sex like that. I never allowed exotic wierd stuff while I husseled. Just Clean stuff. Well after his attack. It wasnt untill 6 months later I'd meet another one. And thee others were 2 to 3 months apart. I was meeting strangers more so then my regulars during the last year of ty and I's relationship. Because my regulars most of them where at "Desert Storm" now ...
The other question. Is why cant people see it was Self defense. Is because the crooked scum. Started slashing slanderous crap all through the media, and Magazines ...
The producers working with Munster horzepa Thompson and others involved, told them ... that the public would have to believe I was a Seriel Killer ... The thing is. The movie is totally a made up lie. And goes 200% against all I told them in my confessions. What really makes me sick, is that every time I was trying to recollect an incident and get into the rape. I was cut off ... Only being asked Callous question such as how many times did you shoot him? and where did you leave there bodies? And there cars Where did you ditch them at? ... They were pissed off every time I tried telling the real realities of the situations which were events that were also hard to remember. Cause I was always drunk during the attacks. I drank in front and with all my clients. I was a beer alcoholic for 14 years.
Also in the three hours interview. I was going through withdrawals and slight D.T.s. At one point. I saw what looked like worms crawling on the floor in
the corner. Just for a second. Between the pressure of stress, hysteria the trauma of it all, and withdrawing it made me really to upset to relate things coherently or competent. They knew it too. And kept stokien me ...
So this is part of the deal. But theres hundreds more of deception they used against the true facts of Self defense ...
One major one is. I kept all weapons each guy used against me. Which were in storage. If I should ever get caught or turn myself in. The weapons can't be found. Yet tyria knows they were put in there. Its really sick ... She knows its self defense. But of course is denying ... as I said before. A conviction has to occurr, and the public has to believe its Seriel to apply for a box office hit. Whereas you can imagine. Rambo brought in 20 million the first 4 weeks it was out across America. So First Female Seriel Killer. "Got it" OK! Thats the whole deal.
Well Dawn last page. I've got ya pretty well on a bit of understanding whats going on. Theres so much more though. The crookedness would take days to explain. But its soon to "all" come out in the wash. Through investigations and a book I'll be writting on it. "Sound off".
Gotta Go Gal. I love you too. By the way buddy! I always cared about you, and thought about you on many many occasions. You take GOOD. care of yourself.
... I received three more death row sentences by the jury in Marion. The judge will side with them ... This world is very wrong. Very ignorant. Callous. Stupid. I've seen enough stupidity to know. And I want out ...
Did I look real skinny on T.V.? If not I am. 128 lbs. T.V. does make you look alot heavier than you are ... that also was intentional by the males who took snaps of me. Pure hatred against me on there part ... because I husseled and am considered a whore. Which actually men are more of than any women is. No #2 because I had enough balls to knock off some rapist, through hooking, as a labeled whore. And No #3 Because women arent suppose to pose such power and authority
over themselves against an assailant. where suppose to be abused, used, raped, and beaten, and then call the cops afterward ... Actually I should be given a metal for it. I helped Society and other girls from the scums. The men are simply jealous plus fear other women will do the same justifiable thing ... Do I hate men. Not really. Just ones that think like this. Cause there brains are in there ass and penis. Only!
... I pray everythings going fine for you. Tell Davie I said Hi! And of ya's take care.
... there is something I feel mysterious about. Ive often thought [Arlene] was a family member of one of the guys ... Because Carskadden told me during my cruise with him that he knew the mafia. I have strange feelings in it all. My spirit feels it ...
I've been trying to help them find Siems body. Theres something really fishy going on. Because I left him lying right in the middle of the road. After I used immediate defense. I never hid him, (nor) moved him. He had to of been found ...
Anyway I spent one day trying. But I cant remember where "he" took me. Again if it was premeditated. I would of suggested an area I knew! But he picked the spot. And I cant remember cause he bought me nearly a case of beer ...
So since I cant remember I told them the best thing to do is hypnotize me ... It could possibly give way to a new trial for me. As Steves puts it. The Dirt will come out. I just hope they don't lie. And claim a body that isn't even his ... Take good care. Keep your thoughts on Christ ... 4-now Love Lee!
... Theres not much goin on. But I nearly got a D.R.Yeah! Theres this officer ... She acts like she hates my guts ... I got 15 days probation. See ... she wants to see me suffer before the chair ...
And they call this place CORRECTIONAL." Time out! Shit! One girl I knew. used to tell me how a Daytona undercover drug cop she use to date. Use to bring her a small candy bag filled to the top with cocaine.
Theyre cops! Theyll only get there butts slapped, and walk. Ive only seen one cop go to jail recently for the murder of a business lady. A State trooper pulled her over. This same trooper tried to have me give him head in the woods. He pulled her over. Faked an arrest, handcuffed her, drove her to a medium strip on 1-95. Raped her then strangled her to death. Sick fucker huh! There many more I know,
Heres a real doozie before I close! I was dating a couple officers ... This police officer, a john of mine takes me over his house. He wants to watch a few videos on sex. OK! with me! No problem! We watch a few. Then he says lee, you wanna see one thatsll really trip ya. me Sure! So he pulls this video out from behind the T.V. Theres 4 of his buddys. In uniform. Then he explains the 4 women are 3 of the officers wifes, one a girl friend. And the department Shepard is there. The 4 males officers IN UNIFORM NOW, proceed to start corn hollin each other in the ass. While ones screwing a girl. Then 2 are makin out with each other. And next it flicks on to the girlfriend of the officer and she getting balled by the dog. I flipped out alright. I told him to hurry up and shut the tape off. Then I sat there with a drink in hand, gozzlin down going God. And these are cops. Then he tells me he was the video man, screning the whole thing. I started to decline dating him. And finally it was not seeing him anymore. Every time I saw the officers. I just wanted to spit a good hockes in there face. Sick Animals! Well. See there not like they use to be anymore. Gotta Go now.
Take Care. Hope to hear from ya soon. 4-now Love Lee
... What was the name of the bar we went to where we luckily got in and you met Dave? You did meet him then ... right? Did you ever get out side of Michigan and see any of the United States? Do you have any animals? Do any old high school friends visit? have you've been to any reunions? Whens the last time you seen Lori. Have you've seen Gordon Marks. or the Randalls? Theres hundreds more Id like to ask you. But I best not bog you down with to many. Oh one last one. How does Dave feel about me? After all I did kill his species you know. There must be a grudge?!
Take it Slow Gal!
Excerpted from "Dear Dawn"
Copyright © 2012 Lisa Kester and Daphne Gottlieb.
Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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