A mammoth manhunt was initiated, and Wuornos was tracked down to Port Orange, Florida, where local forces had to be called off from arresting her immediately, so that the task force could track her movements and see whether she made contact with Moore, their other suspect.
The next afternoon, 9th January 1991, Wuornos was arrested at the Last Resort bar, where she was advised that she was wanted in relation to minor outstanding charges against Lori Grody. The press were not informed of the arrest, and no mention was made of the murder charges at that stage. The following day Tyria Moore was traced to her sister’s home in Pittston, Pennsylvania, where she revealed to the police that Wuornos had admitted the murder of Mallory to her, on the day it had happened, but Moore had deliberately avoided discussing any other suspicious incidents with her, fearing for her own safety.
Moore made a deal to help the police build a case against Wuornos, and the two conducted a series of recorded telephone conversations over the next few days, during which Moore pleaded with Wuornos to confess, to spare Moore from prosecution as an accomplice. Wuornos was initially cautious on the phone, but faced with the prospect that Moore would also be prosecuted, she confessed to six of the murders on 16th January 1991, claiming that they had all been acts of self-defence, and that Moore had had no involvement in any of them.
Given the media attention surrounding the case, and the relative rarity of female serial killers, Wuornos was a national celebrity overnight. Within two weeks of her arrest, Wuornos had sold the film rights to her life story, and expected to become rich, not realising that Florida law specifically forbade profiting from criminal enterprise in this way. Even investigators and lawyers involved in the case, not forbidden by this restriction, were hiring their own media lawyers to negotiate their own book and film deals.
During January 2001, a 44-year-old rancher’s wife and born-again Christian, Arlene Pralle, contacted Wuornos via letter. She informed Wuornos that God had instructed her to do so, giving her home number and asking that Wuornos contact her. This marked the beginning of a bizarre friendship, which saw Pralle defending Wuornos’ self-defence plea, through a flurry of media interviews, for most of 1991, and culminated in Pralle’s legal adoption of Wuornos on 22nd November 1991: again on God’s instruction, according to Pralle.