When police in Florida’s Volusia County were called to investigate the murder of Richard Mallory, whose gunshot-ridden body had been found in the woods just north of Daytona Beach in December 1989, their search led them to a string of dead ends before the trail went cold six months later. During the spring and summer of 1990, the bodies of six more middle-aged white men were discovered—all in secluded areas near their abandoned vehicles, all but one shot dead with a .22 caliber pistol—and all without any suspects, motives, or leads.
The police speculated that the murders were connected, but they never anticipated what they’d soon discover: The killings were the work of a single culprit, Aileen Wuornos, one of the first women to ever fit the profile of a serial killer. With the cooperation of her former lover and accomplice, Tyria Moore, the police were able to solicit a confession from Wuornos about her months-long killing spree along Florida’s interstate highways. The nation was quickly swept up in the drama of her trial and the media dubbed her the “Damsel of Death” as horrifying details of her past as a prostitute and drifter emerged.
Written by the Reuters reporter who initially broke the story, Dead Ends is a thrilling firsthand account of Wuornos’s capture, trial, and ultimate sentencing to death by lethal injection, that goes beyond the media frenzy to reveal the even more disturbing truth.
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The Pursuit, Conviction, and Execution of Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos
By Joseph Michael Reynolds
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Michael Reynolds
All rights reserved.
On December 13, 1989, under a cold sun fast escaping the western sky, three scavengers met in a clearing punched from the thick woods northwest of Daytona Beach, Florida. James Jano Davis and Jimmy Bonchi were scrounging for scrap metal or some other marketable debris. The buzzard was there to dine.
The three were trying to make it through the winter, which in Florida can be particularly cruel when those expecting its usual subtropical hospitality are surprised by sudden frigid temperatures. When the oranges frost, even migrating birds appear confused. Unprepared for arctic nights among the palms, they either wing it farther down the peninsula in hopes of warmth or simply shiver in Kmart parking lots, chirping for a handout.
The black vulture cocked its raw head toward the intruders as they high-stepped through shards of ruined Sheetrock, ghost-ridden mattresses, and eviscerated appliances. Fear overran the bird's hunger as it spread its mite-ridden wings and beat a retreat from the dirty red carpet runner shrouding its meal. Bonchi and Davis cringed as the septic stench of decay flared through the clearing. Expecting to find a dead deer or some other wildlife carrion, Davis reached toward the carpet and froze. Protruding from the remnant was a blackened crab-fingered human hand.
Twenty minutes after the call came in to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, Major Case Unit Investigator Larry Horzepa bumped his Ford along the rutted trail squirreling off US 1 less than a half mile from Interstate 95 and through the thicket of pine and palmetto to where Davis and Bonchi sat in Deputy Melady's vehicle scrawling their witness statements. When his supervisor, Sergeant Jake Ehrhart, had called him with the report of the body, Horzepa had had an idea who the John Doe might be. The detective stepped out of the heat of his car, and his glasses fogged. He had to wipe the lenses before he was able to read the witnesses' statements Melady handed him.
The first, Bonchi's account, was an agitated parade of crude markings, peppered with exclamation points.
I James A Bonchi & James Davis were out skraping mettle's and exploring throw the woods and seen a Buzzard and, trompeding through the woods we smelled stink! I was off troming through the Palms when my friend yelled for me and sed look! I saw a tarp with a hand hanging out of It!
Horzepa had to read it again. "What's 't-r-o-m-p-e-d-i-n-g,' do you suppose? 'Trom-ped-ing.'"
"Tromping," said Melady. "He said that. Tromping."
Horzepa read the second man's version.
Me and Jim B. were out looking in the woods for steel, iron, aluminum to take to the junk yard. We were walking around looking for scrap. We saw this buzzard and was wondering if it was a dead deer or somethin bonch walked by it and Is saw the tarp laying on the ground I didn't know what was under it at first and then I saw the hand I showed Jim and we ran for the trek and went to the gass station and called in. we wer 1 mi. north of US 1 and on the west side about 50 yards in the woods.
"I like Bonchi's better. More drama," said Horzepa. Melady smiled. Horzepa looked over his shoulder as two cars rumbled in, their headlamps tossing splashes of light over the darkening palmettos and dead refrigerators.
Sergeant Bob Kelley and Sergeant Jake Ehrhart, supervisor of the Major Case Unit, climbed out of the cars. Horzepa shivered as he noticed Kelley's heavy jacket. In the lengthening shadows, the temperature was rapidly falling. Ehrhart shook from the chill and said, "Look, let's get back in the car until the crime lab gets here."
"I'm fine," grinned Kelley, a second-generation cop. "You guys cold?"
Ignoring their partner's deadpan dig, Horzepa and Ehrhart climbed into the front seat of the car and closed the doors. Kelley shrugged and joined them.
"What do you think? Is it Mallory's body?" asked Ehrhart, turning to Horzepa.
"Could be. We'll have to wait and look at him when FDLE lifts the rug."
Twelve days earlier, a local resident out walking his dogs had noticed a Cadillac backed into a fire trail off John Anderson Drive in Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona. Suspicious, the man put in a call to the sheriff's office. Sergeant John Bonnevier arrived to find a 1977 beige Coupe de Ville abandoned among the palmettos. The Caddy had tinted windows, a University of Florida "Fighting Gators" tag affixed to its front bumper and a Florida license plate, GDH-34Q, on the rear. Bonnevier radioed in a DMV check and found that the car belonged to a Richard Mallory of Clearwater, Florida. There were no keys in the car, but just east of the Caddy were scattered a wallet, several papers, two plastic tumblers, a bottle half full of vodka, and some condoms. Apparently someone had tried to bury the items in a sandy divot but had failed to finish the job. In the wallet were Mallory's driver's license and invoices from Mallory Electronics, with a Palm Harbor, Florida, address. Bonnevier called for a tow truck and then contacted the Major Case Unit.
Horzepa got the call, gave it the case number 89-12-00185, and then teletyped the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the jurisdiction covering Mallory's home and business addresses, for a check on him. Detective Bonnie Richway took Horzepa's request but was unable to locate Mallory. She called back with a physical description, however, including his clothing, and Horzepa added the case to his list of headaches. Since October the Major Case Unit had had five homicides on its plate, and each investigator was handling nine or ten sex crimes, most involving children.
The lights from an approaching car bounced off the rearview mirror. "That's Lau," said Ehrhart. "Let's go ahead, get the pictures and do a canvass."
Kelley and Horzepa got out and ducked under the yellow tape surrounding the clearing and began searching the immediate area around the carpet runner. Ehrhart signaled Investigator James Lau to join him in the car for a briefing. Lau slung a 35-mm camera around his neck, picked up a Polaroid from the front seat, and walked over to Ehrhart's unit.
"Get what you can now," said Ehrhart. "The FDLE van that's coming has the lights, so just wait until it gets here to video. It's getting dark."
Lau, crime-scene specialist for the Major Case Unit, went about his work with his typical bemused alertness, inured as he was to the grisly and often nauseating circumstances surrounding a homicide. Systematically he documented the setting and its red-carpeted focal point with the Polaroid, the 35-mm, and a tape recorder.
Darkness had enveloped the scene by the time Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents Kelly May and Dan Radcliffe arrived. They parked their van and turned on the spotlights, washing down the clearing with brilliant white light. Lau retrieved his video camera from his car, hooked up its power pack, and joined May, who was photographing the scene while Radcliffe took measurements with a tape.
"That's it, Jake," said May, as he put his camera back in the van and took out two pairs of surgical gloves. "Let's take a look." He reached down and lifted the carpet.
A visible cloud of hissing steam rose up from the decomposing body as its gases struck the frigid air. Two pieces of cardboard covered the chest and hips. May carefully lifted each of them and put them to the side. Lau rolled more video tape, then shut down the camera and returned to his tape recording.
"The body is facing east and the feet to the west. It is face down with the left arm under the body in the chest area. The head, neck, and portions of the left arm are decomposed and crawling with maggots and other bugs. There is no hair or skin on the skull."
May and Radcliffe crouched and together turned the body over onto its back. The skull remained connected to the spine; but their movement dislodged the lower jaw and a pair of dentures spilled out. From the collarbone up there was nothing but black decay. "He bled from there," said Horzepa, pointing to the upper chest. "And up. The insects follow the blood."
"You think this is Mallory?" asked Ehrhart.
Horzepa noted the clothing. White short-sleeved sport shirt, blue jeans with brown belt. Blue socks and brown loafers. The right shoe was off, lying next to the foot. He stepped closer and looked at the false teeth. "From the clothes and what Rich way gave me, I'm at least ninety percent sure that this is Richard Mallory."
Lau began gathering evidence into brown paper bags. A hair sample near the body. The right brown shoe. Scraps of paper.
Horzepa noticed that the front pockets of the dead man's jeans were pulled out. "I sure as hell hope this is Mallory, otherwise we got a bigger problem."
"Okay," said Kelley. "There's nothing much more to do out here for us. Where's Jake?"
"Back in his car, where I should be," said Horzepa. "Damn, Bob. It's like fifteen degrees out here. Shit. We need prints and we're not getting those tonight. Lau?"
"Tomorrow. At the autopsy. Can't do it out here. Not in this condition. Gee, it's really getting cold."
"It's not so bad," disagreed Kelley. "Not bad. This isn't cold."
"Goddammit, Kelley, you're from Boston."
The three investigators walked back to Ehrhart's car to wait for the livery service to pick up the body. At seven o'clock a Cadillac hearse slid through the pines and palmettos at the direction of a uniformed deputy. John Doe was carefully bagged and lifted aboard. Horzepa left Ehrhart's car and carefully stepped through the trash and scrub oak to his own vehicle. He looked up to see the hearse's red taillights softly bouncing in the darkness as it left the killing ground for the county morgue.
The next morning Larry Horzepa was again on the phone to Detective Bonnie Richway back across the state in Tampa. He wanted everything else she could get on Mallory. He had been arrested for drunken driving, she told Horzepa, and there were latent prints that she would fax to Volusia immediately. Mallory, she said, wore wire-frame glasses and had a full set of dentures and gray hair. Horzepa asked Richway to secure both Mallory's home and business addresses as crime scenes should the prints confirm the identification.
Upon receiving Mallory's latent prints, Investigator Lau took them to the medical examiner's office in Daytona Beach, where Dr. Arthur Botting and John Doe were waiting in the autopsy room. The pathologist and his assistant removed the dead man's shirt, a dull parchment color shadowed with bloodstains, and Botting probed the chest area, noting three small-caliber bullet holes. Botting looked up through his bushy eyebrows and spoke to Lau in a broad New England accent.
"We already have a projectile. It was lying free in the shroud. We need X rays to find these others."
The body was then trundled off for pictures. This done, Dr. Botting scanned the negatives, opened the chest, and recovered three rounds. All three appeared to be .22 caliber. One round had ripped through the victim's right arm and lodged against a rib just below the armpit. A second bullet had torn through the right side of the chest, the third had entered the left side just below the nipple.
"The one through the arm didn't do much," Botting observed, "But these others tore his lungs. Tremendous hemorrhaging. The hole on the right side allowed pressurized air into the lung and his respiration went. The lungs collapsed. It would have taken anywhere from ten to twenty minutes for him to die. He was trying desperately to breathe."
"What about the other bullet?" asked Lau.
"Well, maybe somewhere up here in the neck. But there's no tissue left. No way of telling. There was no wounding to the spine, which is just about all there is now up here." Botting swept a broad, gloved hand across the shriveled neck of John Doe. "But you might check the shirt. It appears to have a bullet hole on the right side of the collar." The doctor tapped the location on the side of his neck.
While Dr. Botting completed the autopsy and labeled the crime a homicide, Lau collected the shirt and bullets and bagged them.
Getting the fingerprints was a more difficult problem. Due to advanced decomposition, the skin of the fingers slid from the tissue, so the doctor had to remove the hands, and Lau found himself bagging them, heat-sealing the bags to lock in the odor, and placing them in an Igloo cooler. After phoning ahead to FDLE agent Kelly May, Lau toted the cooler out to his car and drove the 120 miles to the FDLE lab in Orlando.
Lifting prints in such circumstances can be done any of three ways. One: carefully slipping the skin from the dead hand to leave a morbid glove into which the investigator can insert his own fingers and ink and roll a set of prints. Two: injecting water with a hypodermic needle into the slack finger to inflate it like a water balloon before attempting a lift. May chose the third option instead. Taking the hands from their bags he floated them in a heavy saline solution for a couple of hours to tighten up the skin, figuring that at least one print could be rolled from one of the severed hands. Since Lau had been the designated glove model, he was relieved when May succeeded in making a print with the first roll. Then May compared the latents from the body with those faxed over from Horzepa at the Major Case Unit.
"You got a match, Lau."
Lau immediately phoned Horzepa with the news, cleaned the ink off Mallory's hand, rebagged it with the other hand, and dropped them back into the cooler. He had to return them quickly to the medical examiner's office for reattachment, so that the body could be released to the funeral home. In an unmarked car, Lau sped up Interstate 4 and into the radar field of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, who immediately pulled the investigator over.
Lau handed over his license and registration to the trooper, who then asked, "What's the hurry?"
"I've got these hands here. Got to get them back."
"Here," the ever-friendly Lau offered, picking up the cooler from beside him and opening it in the trooper's face. "These hands here."
The stench flew up into the trooper's face.
"Good God!" The trooper took a quick step backward. "Jeez, you guys ... get them out of here. Go on."
"Okay. Thank you, trooper." Lau smiled and shut the box of hands. He drove the rest of the way back to Operations just as fast as he thought necessary. If another FHP wanted to take a peek, he was welcome to it.
With the John Doe now positively identified as Richard Mallory, Horzepa and Kelley returned to where Mallory's car had been discovered, and canvassed the neighborhood. They learned from a local man whose daily morning walk took him along John Anderson Drive that Mallory's Cadillac had not been parked on the fire trail the morning of December 1. Sometime during that day whoever had killed Mallory must have driven his car to Ormond and left it parked in broad daylight until it was discovered at 3:15.
Horzepa went to the compound where Mallory's car had been towed. As no keys had been found, Horzepa called for a locksmith to open the trunk. Although there was nothing inside, Horzepa noticed in the carpeting near the spare tire an imprint of what could have been a toolbox. From inside the glove compartment, Horzepa pulled a bonding ticket that showed Mallory had secured the release of a white male by the name of Michael Rosenblum, arrested in Pinellas County for cocaine possession and carrying a concealed weapon. Horzepa phoned Detective Richway, described the bond ticket, and asked her to run a check. "I'll be over in a couple of days with Kelley," he told her.
On December 18, Horzepa and Kelley left the operations center outside Daytona and hooked Interstate 4 west to Clearwater and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Detective Richway was ready for them. Horzepa and Kelley sat back as Richway detailed what she had on Mallory.
"This guy isn't easy to put together. Number one: he was very paranoid. He changed the locks at his apartment eight to ten times in the last three years. He didn't have any friends. But," said Richway, "he was very much into porno and the topless-bar scene. Flashed a lot of money when he was in these places. Big tipper. Heavy drinker."
"What about Rosenblum and this bond ticket?" Horzepa interrupted.
Excerpted from Dead Ends by Joseph Michael Reynolds. Copyright © 1992 Michael Reynolds. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.
Table of Contents
- Cover Page
- Author’s Note
- One: Mallory
- Two: Chastity
- Three: Missing, Endangered, and Murdered
- Four: Marion County
- Five: Predator
- Six: Connections
- Seven: Two Days in November
- Eight: Going Public
- Nine: The Breaks
- Ten: Dropping the Net
- Eleven: At the Belgrade
- Twelve: The Last Resort
- Thirteen: Pirate’s Cove
- Fourteen: Collect Calls
- Fifteen: “I’m the One”
- Sixteen: Talk Show
- Seventeen: Side Show
- Eighteen: Looking Back
- Nineteen: Guilt and Penalty
- Image Gallery
- About the Author
- Copyright Page