Eva Dugan’s Noose

Eva Dugan

At the Pinal County Museum in Florence, Arizona are 25 nooses on display from hangings at the prison. They were used to hang 25 men and one woman. One noose was used four times because four men were hung on the same day. Eva Dugan, the only woman in Arizona to die on the scaffold, was hanged February 21st, 1930.

While perusing a museum in Claremore, OK in 2008, oddly enough, I also saw another noose claiming to be the one used to hang Eva.

Eva was a twenty-year-old prostitute in the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush in 1898 where she went by the name “Claw-Fingered Kitty.” After she left the Yukon she plied her trade as both a cabaret singer and prostitute.

In January, 1927, she’d gone to work for a Pima County chicken rancher named Andy Mathis and had been fired a couple of weeks later. Mathis disappeared soon after. She stole his cash box and car which she later sold in Kansas City for six hundred dollars. Pima County Sheriff Jimmy McDonald was able to trace Eva to her daughter’s home in White Plains, New York where she was arrested and charged with auto theft. Eva was sentence to nine months in jail.

A tourist setting up a camp on the Mathis ranch accidentally uncovered his body buried in shallow grave. This time Eva was charged with murder.

On February 21st, 1930, Eva was convicted of the axe murder of Mathis. During her trial it was learned that she’d been married five times and all of her hubby’s died under mysterious circumstances.

Defiant and tough to the end, Eva’s final comments to the jury she said, “Wal, 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.”

On her way to the gallows Eva told the guards to not hold her arms to tight lest the witnesses think she was scared.

The noose was placed around her neck and the trap door opened. Unfortunately the drop was set too long and Eva was accidentally decapitated. The sight was so ghastly that there was an immediate outcry for the state to switch to the gas chamber. Eva became the last person to be legally hanged in Arizona.

She was accidentally decapitated so three years later the state began using the gas chamber.

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