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Hollywood hits new low: pitying serial killer

I didn't know Aileen Wuornos.

I'll start with that.

I know she stalked Florida highways in 1989 and 1990, posing as a prostitute, then killing the men who picked her up.

I know she was convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, six murders. She confessed to another. She sassed judges. She claimed self-defense.

Then she dropped her appeals. Admitted her wrongs. And she was executed Oct. 9, 2002.

I was there when she entered the public eye. I was a reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal when law enforcement was on her trail, and police sketches of her seemingly were everywhere. I wrote about reported sightings when someone thought they recognized her.

And I was there at the end, in Florida's death chamber, when a lethal injection stopped her heart. I wrote down her insane final words. And I watched her die.

I wasn't there in between. I won't pretend I was.

So I know what I know. And I don't know the rest.

Now, there's a movie that wants me to believe a version of "the rest."

It's in limited engagements around the country. It's called Monster, and it's in the Tampa Bay area this weekend. You have to hunt for it if you want to see it. There's already talk that star Charlize Theron could be up for an Oscar.

Theron did a good job. It wasn't the acting that bothered me. Nor was it the horrible violence, the blood, the beatings, the gunshots, the boozing, the sex or the swearing.

It was the tone of the film, the ceaseless message that I should pity Wuornos as a wounded soul who wanted only love, a woman who found hope at last, only to have her world ripped apart by a cruel society. Over and over the audience is beaten over the head with that premise.

Writer and director Patty Jenkins wants so much to be the one who uncovers the loving soul of a tormented spirit that she loses sight of decent people.

She also forgets the victims and their families.

That's something else I know a little about.

In Wuornos' final days, I talked with someone she hurt, an 81-year-old woman in Prairie Home, Mo.

Florence Carskaddon's son, who went by Chuck, was a 46-year-old trucker-turned-rodeo cowboy. He gave Wuornos a ride in his car in 1990. She shot him nine times. His body was found a mile west of Interstate 75, just south of State Road 52 in Pasco County.

Though years had passed when I talked with her, Chuck Carskaddon's mother couldn't forget him.

"I miss my son more every day. He used to call me at night when he was trucking. He'd say "What you got for me cooking? I'm coming through,' " she told me. "When phone calls come at night, I sometimes jump. I think it's him."

Aileen Wuornos, violent criminal, killed Chuck Carskaddon.

But that's not the character Jenkins portrayed. The woman Jenkins invented is a victim, abused as a child, abused as an adult, forgotten and lonely and needing only love.

In one scene, rock band Journey croons in the background: "Just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world."

In another, before the movie's first murder, Jenkins depicts Wuornos killing in self-defense during a brutal rape _ a tale Wuornos later recanted, when she admitted she hated human life and would kill again.

Monster alleges we all let Wuornos down, as she longed for things law-abiding people enjoy: love and home and place.

Sorry, but those things are earned. They aren't entitlements. And you don't get to kill people because you're frustrated when you fail.

Jenkins' movie rationalizes Wuornos' murders. It's as if she blames us for the rampage, because we failed to embrace Wuornos.

In an interview on public television's Charlie Rose Show, Jenkins said her film did not make excuses for Wuornos.

But if you watch the movie, it does. Throughout.

It's strange. Aileen Wuornos, in a 2001 letter to the Florida Supreme Court, asked for the death penalty and refuted any bunk about self-defense.

"I've come clean!" she wrote. "The families have suffered enough, especially with all this courtroom bullarky."

No mention of Hollywood bullarky.