Elizabeth Ann Duncan

Elizabeth Ann Duncan (born Hazel Lucille Sinclaira Nigh [1] (1904 [2] in Kansas City, Missouri[3] – August 8, 1962), was an American murderess. She was convicted of orchestrating the murder of her daughter-in-law in 1958. She was the last woman to be executed in California before the United States Supreme Court suspended the death penalty under Furman v. Georgia.[4]

Elizabeth Ann Duncan
Elizabeth Ann Duncan.jpg
Born
Hazel Lucille Sinclaira Nigh

1904
DiedAugust 8, 1962 (aged 58)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal gas
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Criminal penaltyDeath sentence

Duncan was convicted of hiring 24-year-old Augustine Baldonado and 23-year-old Luis Moya to murder her daughter-in-law, Olga Duncan, who was seven months pregnant at the time.[5] All three were executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on August 8, 1962, the last triple execution in California.

Early lifeEdit

Duncan admitted in court to having been married 10 times. She had been arrested for operating a brothel in San Francisco, and passing bad checks. She had made her son, Frank, the center of her life. She also had a daughter, Patricia, who died at age 15. Under oath, Duncan admitted that she had four children in total, but loved Frank the most.[6]

Son's marriageEdit

When her son Frank threatened to move out of the apartment they shared, Elizabeth attempted suicide via an overdose of pills. During her recovery at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, she was cared for by nurse Olga Kupczyk. Frank dated Kupczyk, then married her on June 20, 1958 after learning that she was pregnant. A furious Elizabeth harassed Olga at work, forcing her to change addresses several times,[7] and even admitted in court to plotting to kidnap Frank "to try to talk some sense into him. I didn't want to lose Frankie. I couldn't stand life alone and I knew it."[8] The couple separated two weeks after they married.

CaseEdit

In November 1958, Olga Duncan disappeared. Her mother-in-law first drew suspicion when police discovered she had illegally obtained an annulment by hiring a man, Ralph Winterstein, to pose as Frank while she posed as Olga.[9]

Nearly a month later, investigators found Olga in the Casitas Pass of Carpinteria. Baldonado confessed that he and Moya had been offered $6,000 by Duncan to kill Olga, then directed the police to the site. According to the coroner and their confession, the two men kidnapped her, beat her with a pistol, strangled her, and buried her in a shallow grave. She may still have been alive when buried.[10] Duncan got his mother's bail reduced from $50,000 to $5,000,[11] then went into hiding. Elias Kupczyk traveled from his home in Benito, Manitoba, but could not bring his daughter's remains back to Canada until her now-missing husband, by law, her next-of-kin, was located.[12][13]

The trial began on February 24, 1959. Duncan testified that Moya and Baldonado attempted to blackmail her, refuting the accounts of every witness called by the prosecution, including Moya and Baldonado.[14] Her attorneys then presented the theory that Olga was the victim of a ransom plot.[15] The jury took 4 hours and 51 minutes to find her guilty on March 16, 1959; she was sentenced to death four days later.[16] Frank, Burt M. Henson, and two other attorneys represented her in the appeals process;[17] Henson was appointed by trial judge Charles Blackstock to represent Baldonado [18] and Moya.[19] Governor Pat Brown, an opponent of capital punishment, ultimately allowed the executions to proceed.[20][21] Right up until the minutes before her execution, Duncan fought to save his mother's life.[22][23]

PublicationsEdit

  • Jim Barrett, Ma Duncan, Pentland Press, 2004

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Duncan, Elizabeth Ann, 1904-1962" Library of Congress Linked Data Service (June 1, 2006); retrieved September 1, 2021
  2. ^ "Duncan, Elizabeth Ann, 1904-1962" Library of Congress Linked Data Service (June 1, 2006); retrieved September 1, 2021
  3. ^ "Women Executed by Gas in California" Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998 by Kathleen A. O'Shea (p. 71) Greenwood Publishing Group (1999) via Google Books; retrieved August 30, 2021
  4. ^ "A Mother's Love Was the Death of Her Daughter-in-Law". Los Angeles Times. 2002-01-20. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-10-20.
  5. ^ "People v. Elizabeth Duncan | Ventura County District Attorney". www.vcdistrictattorney.com. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  6. ^ "'Ma' Duncan" by Catriona Lavery Los Angeles Times Blog (March 30, 2009); retrieved September 1, 2021
  7. ^ "Mamma's Boy" Time (January 5, 1959); retrieved August 30,2021
  8. ^ "'Ma' Duncan" by Catriona Lavery Los Angeles Times Blog (March 30, 2009); retrieved September 1, 2021
  9. ^ "People v. Elizabeth Duncan | Ventura County District Attorney's Office". www.vcdistrictattorney.com. VENTURA (CA): Ventura County District Attorney's Office. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  10. ^ Mitchell, John (19 August 2001). "Ma Duncan files resurrected". VC Staff. Ventura, (CA): The VC Star. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Bold Plot: Search Pressed Today For Wife Of Duncan" Madera Tribune via California Digital Newspaper Collection (December 18, 1958); retrieved August 29, 2021
  12. ^ "Grieving Dad of Slain Nurse Hopes to Find Frank Duncan" Napa Valley Register via California Digital Newspaper Collection (December 24, 1958); retrieved August 29, 2021
  13. ^ "Husband Of Slain Woman Sought" Madera Tribune via California Digital Newspaper Collection (December 24, 1958); retrieved August 30, 2021
  14. ^ "Refusal To Cut Apron Strings Worst 'Crime'" Madera Tribune via California Digital Newspaper Collection (March 5, 1959); retrieved August 29, 2021
  15. ^ "Defense Argues That Olga Duncan's Killers Were Instigators Of Unsuccessful Ransom Plot" Madera Tribune via California Digital Newspaper Collection (March 13, 1959); retrieved August 29, 2021
  16. ^ "Love, Scandal and Murder: Ventura County Case Drew National Attention" by Arlene Martinez Ventura County Star (June 29, 2013); retrieved August 29, 2021
  17. ^ "People v. Duncan, 53 Cal.2d 803" Stanford Law School, Robert Crown Law Library (March 11, 1960); retrieved August 29, 2021
  18. ^ "People v. Baldonado , 53 Cal.2d 824" Stanford Law School, Robert Crown Law Library (March 11, 1960); retrieved September 1, 2021
  19. ^ "People v. Moya , 53 Cal.2d 819" Stanford Law School, Robert Crown Law Library (March 11, 1960); retrieved September 1, 2021
  20. ^ "Memorable Cases as Brown's Legal Adviser" Arthur Lawrence Alarcon Online Archive of California; retrieved September 1, 2021
  21. ^ "Women Executed by Gas in California" Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998 by Kathleen A. O'Shea (p. 71) Greenwood Publishing Group (1999) via Google Books; retrieved August 30, 2021
  22. ^ "Frank Duncan Still Convinced Of Mother's Innocence" Madera Tribune via California Digital Newspaper Collection (August 9, 1962); retrieved August 29, 2021
  23. ^ Women Executed in the U.S. Since 1900, Death Penalty Info

External linksEdit