Keep Your Head On!

3/31/2009


In one of the most grotesque executions in Arizona history, Eva Dugan was hanged on February 21, 1930. The events of her execution would force Arizona to change it's method of capital punishment to the more "humane" gas chamber.
In January 1927 Eva went to work for Tucson chicken rancher Andrew J. Mathis. She was fired a couple of weeks later. Shortly thereafter, Mathis disappeared. When the sheriff, Jim McDonald, investigated the disappearance he found that Mathis's car and his cashbox was missing but otherwise the house was in order. The neighbors reported that Eva had been offering some of his possessions for sale. Mathis's car was traced to Kansas City where Eva had sold it for $600. Eva was eventually traced to White Plains, New York and on March 4 1927 she was extradited back to Arizona where she was tried for car theft and was sentenced to prison.

Nine months later a camper staying over night at the Mathis ranch uncovered a shallow grave while trying to pitch a tent. The decomposing body, which of course turned out to be Mathis, was covered in lime and a gag was stuffed in his mouth. Eva was charged with his murder.
Even though the evidence against her was circumstantial, Eva Dugan was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by hanging.
On February 21, 1930 @ 05:02 a.m., Eva Dugan was hanged. Actually the more accurate description would be hung and guillotined. As the trap door opened Eva plunged through to her death. She hit the end of the rope with a bone jarring jolt. Unfortunately for her the executioner had miscalculated the length of the rope and her weight. When she reached the end of her rope the jolt caused her head to be torn from her body which then rolled towards the feet of the spectators who had gathered to witness her execution.



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