Eva-Dugan-blog2Twenty-year-old Eva Dugan took the alias Claw-Finger Kitty while she was working as a prostitute during the Alaska Gold Rush and some thirty years later she became the only woman Arizona history to be legally hanged. During her adventuresome life Eva married five times and one way or another all of them went missing. She settled in Pima County in southern Arizona where in 1926 she went to work for a chicken rancher named Andy Mathis. Mathis was a cranky old tightwad and the two butted heads more than once. After two months he fired her for unknown reasons. In January, 1927 she and a “mysterious” young man named “Jack” allegedly killed Andy with an axe and stole his car. Jack was never found. She later said they parted company in Texas. Eva was tracked down in New York and brought back to Arizona and charged with auto theft.  A few months later Mathis’ body was found in a shallow grave on the ranch.  She was charged with murder and was convicted on circumstantial evidence.  Eva was given the death penalty and was hanged on February 21, 1930. The hangman miscalculated her weight and she was decapitated. Executed.

Eva died game. After her conviction 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.”

As they were walking her to the scaffold Eva instructed the guards to not grip her arms so tightly lest the witnesses think she was afraid. One of the female witnesses at remarked admiringly, “She died like a man.”

She was the first woman to be executed in Arizona and the last to be hanged. As a result Arizona switched from hanging to the gas chamber.

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