Elizabeth Ann Duncan

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Elizabeth Ann Duncan, also known as Ma Duncan (about 1904[1] – 8 August 1962), was an American murderer. 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 its 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia.[2]

Elizabeth Duncan was convicted of hiring 28-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.[3] The three prisoners were executed the same day in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison on August 8, 1962.

Early life[edit]

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.[1]

Son's marriage[edit]

At times distressed about her life, Elizabeth Duncan tried to commit suicide. During her recovery, she was cared for by a nurse, Olga Kupczyk, who was 30. Frank, then 29 and a lawyer, secretly married Kupczyk. Elizabeth Duncan interfered with them, showed signs of abnormal jealousy, and forced them to separate. By 1958, Olga was pregnant with their first child.[4][1]


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.[5]

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, beat her with a pistol, strangled her, and buried her body in a shallow grave. She may still have been alive when buried.[6]

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.[1][7]


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.[1]


  • Jim Barrett, Ma Duncan, Pentland Press, 2004


  1. ^ a b c d e The Case of a Mother's Lethal Love, Los Angeles Times, 8 August 1996, accessed 19 September 2013
  2. ^ "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. 
  3. ^ "People v. Elizabeth Duncan | Ventura County District Attorney". www.vcdistrictattorney.com. Retrieved 2017-07-13. 
  4. ^ "CRIME: Mamma's Boy". Time. 1959-01-05. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-10-20. 
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ Mitchell, John (19 August 2001). "Ma Duncan files resurrected" (html). VC Staff. Ventura, (CA): The VC Star. Retrieved 2 February 2018. 
  7. ^ Women Executed in the U.S. Since 1900, Death Penalty Info

External links[edit]