At 51, Richard Mallory was a temperamental loner, with a penchant for strip bars and an ongoing beef with the Internal Revenue Service.
Aileen Carol Wuornos, 34, was a prostitute with a checkered past, as bitter as she was lonely.
Somewhere between Daytona Beach's seedy strip of bars along U.S. 1 and the deserted stretch of Interstate 4 leading out of Tampa, Mallory and Wuornos met each other for the first -- and last -- time.
That was Nov. 30, 1989. Mallory's body was found 13 days later in woods near Ormond Beach. A scrap of scarlet carpet shielded his decomposed, bullet-riddled torso. The pockets of his trousers had been turned inside out.
Whatever happened the day that Mallory's and Wuornos' lives became permanently entangled may be sorted out starting today, when Wuornos goes on trial in DeLand in his murder. It will be the first of five trials if Wuornos is prosecuted for all of the slayings in which she has been indicted.
For anyone who hasn't seen her featured on "A Current Affair," "Inside Edition" or any of the many other tabloid television shows that have profiled Wuornos' case during the past year, she is being sold by authorities as the first true female serial killer.
After Mallory, police say, came David Spears, 43, a construction worker; Charles Carskaddon, 40, a part-time rodeo worker; Troy "Buddy" Burress, 50, a sausage truck driver; and Dick Humphreys, 56, a child-abuse investigator. Although she has not been indicted in two others, Wuornos also is a suspect in the deaths of missionary Peter Siems, 65, and reserve Deputy Sheriff Walter Gino Antonio, 60.
All the victims picked up Wuornos while she was hitchhiking, LTC police say. All were then robbed and shot several times. Their bodies littered rural Central Florida highways, with the exception of Siems', whose body has never been recovered.
Mallory's death in November 1989 was the first; the last, Antonio's, came a year later.
Barring last-minute motions, Judge Uriel Blount Jr. was to oversee jury selection today. The defense has asked that the trial be moved because of pretrial publicity. But Blount has said he will wait and see if an unbiased jury can be seated in Volusia County first.
"We still don't think it can be done," Assistant Public Defender Billy Nolas said late last week as he and co-counsel Tricia Jenkins worked into the night to prepare their case.
The defense is expected to argue that Wuornos acted in self-defense to protect herself from Mallory, described in court records as a troubled eccentric whose electronics repair shop business was steeped in debt and faced a possible IRS audit.
Among the list of potential witnesses, which exceeds 298 for the defense alone, are mental health experts, who are expected to question Wuornos' emotional stability when she made a videotaped confession to detectives shortly after her arrest.
The confession, chief among the prosecution's evidence, was made at the Volusia County Jail. Wuornos calmly describes details of the seven deaths, including Mallory's. She says more than once that she acted in self-defense.
Besides the confession, the prosecution will present dramatic testimony from Tyria Moore, Wuornos' ex-lover, who helped police recover a .22-caliber pistol believed to be the weapon used in the killings. Moore, initially a suspect in the case, was not involved in the deaths, police say.
Prosecutors also have evidence to show that Wuornos pawned a camera and a radar detector that supposedly belonged to Mallory.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Wuornos if she is convicted.