Eva Dugan

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Eva Dugan
Eva Dugan (murderer).png
Pima County Sheriff's Department:
Inmate mugshot on day of execution
Born1878 (1878)
DiedFebruary 21, 1930(1930-02-21) (aged 51–52)
Cause of deathHanging, decapitation
Known formurder

Eva Dugan (1878 – February 21, 1930) was a convicted murderer whose execution by hanging at the state prison in Florence, Arizona resulted in her decapitation and influenced the state of Arizona to replace hanging with the lethal gas chamber as a method of execution.

Biography and crime[edit]

Born in 1878,[where?] Dugan wound up in Juneau, Alaska after trekking north during the Klondike Gold Rush and became a cabaret singer. She subsequently moved to Pima County, Arizona, where she worked for an elderly chicken rancher, Andrew J. Mathis, as a housekeeper. Shortly after her employment was terminated for unknown reasons, Mathis disappeared, as did some of his possessions, his Dodge coupe automobile and his cash box. Neighbors reported that Dugan had tried to sell some of his possessions before she disappeared as well.

The trial of Eva Dugan was held in the Second Pinal County Courthouse located in 135 Pinal St. in Florence.

The police discovered Dugan had a father in California and a daughter in White Plains, New York. She had been married five times, and all her husbands had disappeared. The Dodge coupe was sold by her for $600 in Kansas City, Missouri. She was arrested in White Plains when a postal clerk, alerted by the police, intercepted a postcard to her from her father in California. She was extradited back to Arizona to face auto theft charges.

Convicted of auto theft, she was imprisoned. Nine months later, a camper found Mathis' decomposed remains on his ranch. Dugan was then tried for murder in a short trial based mostly on circumstantial evidence. The prosecution proved to the jury's satisfaction that Dugan had murdered Mathis with an axe. She was allegedly aided in the murder by "Jack", a teenage boy, who was never found.

After her conviction, in her final statement, she told the jurors, “Well, I’ll die with my boots on, an’ in full health. An’ that’s more’n most of you old coots’ll be able to boast on.” She would remain defiant to the end.

Imprisonment and execution[edit]

The noose used to hang Eva Dugan on February 21, 1930, in exhibit at the Pinal County Historic Society & Museum in Florence, AZ.

Dugan gave interviews to the press for $1.00 each and sold embroidered handkerchiefs she knitted while imprisoned to pay for her own coffin. She also made for her hanging a silk, beaded "jazz dress", but later relented and wore a cheap dress as she was worried that her silk wrapper "might get mussed." She remained upbeat, so much so that Time magazine called her "Cheerful Eva" in a March 3, 1930, story about her execution.[1]

The day before the hanging, there were rumors she planned to kill herself before being hanged. Her cell was searched and a bottle of raw ammonia and three razor blades hidden in a dress were confiscated.

Dugan's appeal for clemency on the grounds of mental illness was denied and she was taken to the gallows at 5 a.m. on February 21, 1930. She was the first woman to be executed by the state of Arizona, and it was the first execution in Arizona history in which women were permitted as witnesses.

According to a newspaper account, Dugan was composed as she mounted the gallows. She told the guards, "Don't hold my arms so tight, the people will think I'm afraid". She swayed slightly when the noose was put around her neck and shook her head negative when asked if she had any final words.

The trap was sprung at 5:11; at the end of the drop, the snap of the rope decapitated her, sending her head rolling to a stop at the feet of the spectators. The grisly scene caused five witnesses (two women and three men) to faint. Dugan was one of the last persons to be hanged by the State of Arizona, with only two hanging executions following that year, Refugio Macias on 3-7-1930 and Herbert Young on 8-21-1931.[2] The gallows were replaced in Arizona by the gas chamber in 1934 and lethal injection in 1993. To date, Dugan is the only woman ever to be executed by the State of Arizona.


  1. ^ "Cheerful Eva". Time Magazine. Time-Life. 3 March 1930. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  2. ^ https://corrections.az.gov/public-resources/death-row/executions-prior-1992-execution-methods

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