Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mother-in-Law from Hell

Elizabeth Ann "Ma" Duncan
The Day Ma Duncan Died
by Robert A. Waters

On August 8, 1962, while the Cold War between the United States and Russia hovered in the background, national headlines reported the execution of fifty-eight-year-old Elizabeth Ann “Ma” Duncan.
By all accounts, Ma was unstable.  She’d been married an astounding 11 times, mostly to anonymous men who quickly fled once they found out what she was really like.  The only relationship she sustained over the years was with her son Frank, a lawyer.
As she drifted through husbands and towns, Ma worked infrequently.  For a while, she ran a brothel in San Francisco.  But after being arrested, she pulled up stakes and moved to Oxnard in Ventura County.  There, she performed occasional odd jobs at the local Salvation Army store.  However, her most enthusiastic calling was attending the court cases her son tried.  When he won, Ma would celebrate with raucous clapping.
Despite his mother’s bizarre behavior, Frank Duncan, 29, developed a reputation as an able attorney.  Many of the shady characters he defended got off, or ended up with light sentences.  During most of his career, Frank lived with his mother amid rumors that their relationship was incestuous.  There was no proof, however, and Frank always denied it.  It now seems likely that while his mother was overbearing and mentally unsound, there was no sexual intimacy between the two.
Whatever the case, sometime in 1958, Ma overdosed on sleeping pills.  During her recovery, Frank hired an attractive brunette named Olga Kupczyk to nurse his mother back to health.  Soon, Frank and Olga began dating, much to the chagrin of Ma.  Once they married, Ma vowed to kill the woman she saw as her rival for Frank’s affections.
It was at this point that she committed one of the most bizarre acts in the history of petty criminality.  She and a male friend from the “underworld,” posing as Frank and Olga, went to the Ventura courthouse and had the marriage annulled.  Legally, and unknown to them, the couple was no longer man and wife.
In the meantime, Olga got pregnant.  When she found out, Ma's simmering anger became white-hot.  The enraged mother-in-law approached several would-be hit-men before two career criminals, Augustine Baldonado and Luis Moya, agreed to make the inconvenient bride disappear.  Ma told the gullible duo that she would pay them $6,000—half after the deed was done, and the second half six months later.
On the night of November 17, 1958, Baldonado and Moya drove to Frank and Olga’s apartment while Frank was away.  Moya knocked on the door and lured Olga outside by informing her that Frank was lying drunk in the back of the car.  In reality, it was Baldonado pretending to be Frank.  As soon as Olga opened the back door of the car to help Frank out, Moya shoved her inside, and Baldonado smashed her in the head with a pistol.
They sped through Ventura with Olga fighting for her life.  Baldonado eventually knocked her completely unconscious with the gun, breaking it in the process.  Driving into the mountains, the thugs found a place to dump their victim.  Since they couldn’t get the pistol to work, Baldonado and Moya took turns attempting to strangle Olga to death.  Finally, satisfied that she’d expired, they buried her in a shallow grave.  (The coroner later ruled that she died not from strangulation but from suffocation after breathing dirt into her lungs.)  Olga’s unborn baby perished with her mother.
It didn’t take police long to track down the culprits, who quickly fingered Ma as the mastermind.  The three were tried separately, and each was convicted and sentenced to death.
On August 8, 1962, after all their appeals were turned down, the killers stepped into the gas chamber.  As Ma entered the chemical-laden room, she looked around expectantly.
She didn’t see her son.
“Where’s Frank?” she asked.
Those were the last words Ma Duncan ever spoke.

1 comment:

Jim Barrett said...
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