Elizabeth Ann Duncan
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (October 2012)|
Elizabeth Ann Duncan, also known as Ma Duncan (about 1904 – 8 August 1962), was an American murderer. She was convicted of planning 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 its 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia.
Elizabeth Duncan was convicted of hiring 28-year-old Augustine Baldonado and 23-year-old Luis Moya to murder her daughter-in-law, who was pregnant at the time. The three prisoners were executed the same day in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on August 8, 1962.
Elizabeth Ann Duncan was born about 1904. She was described as a drifter, said to have married 20 times and at one time operating a brothel in San Francisco. She had one child, Frank, and made him the center of her life.
At times distressed about her life, Elizabeth Duncan tried to commit suicide. During her recovery, she was cared for by a nurse, Olga Kupzyck, who was 30. Frank, then 29 and a lawyer, secretly married Kupzyck. Elizabeth Duncan interfered with them and forced them to separate. By 1958 Olga was pregnant with their first child.
In 1958, Olga Duncan disappeared; she was seven months pregnant with a child by her husband Frank. Her mother-in-law Elizabeth Duncan first drew suspicion when police discovered she had illegally obtained an annulment of the marriage of her son Frank Duncan and his wife Olga. Elizabeth Duncan and Ralph Winterstein, 25, whom she hired, secured the separation by posing in court as the young couple.
Nearly a month later, investigators found the young woman's body in the Casitas Pass of Carpinteria, California in Ventura County. Augustine Baldonado, 25, confessed that he and Luis Moya, 22, had been offered $6,000 to kill her by Elizabeth Duncan, the victim's mother-in-law. They directed the police to the site of the body. According to the coroner and their confession, the two men kidnapped the woman, sexually assaulted her, beat her with a pistol, strangled her, and buried her body in a shallow grave. She may still have been alive when buried.
Elizabeth Duncan took the stand in her defense, admitting to talking to the two other suspects but saying they were blackmailing her. The jury took 4 hours and 51 minutes to find her guilty. She was sentenced to death in December 1958. After appeals, which upheld the lower court, she was executed by the gas chamber in 1962.
Observers speculated that Elizabeth Ann Duncan was threatened by her son's relationship with his wife. Rumors circulated about Duncan and her son when she was held at the Ventura County Jail.
- "First woman is executed in the US since 1962", New York Times, 3 November 1984
- "Elizabeth Duncan", Murderpedia.org
- Jim Barrett, Ma Duncan, Pentland Press, 2004