The story of Eva Dugan is gruesome.
The convicted murderer inadvertently became one of Arizona’s capital punishment pioneers when she was hung 87 years ago for killing a Tucson rancher.
On February 21, 1930, she approached the gallows and remained silent and stoic before her hanging. But then something went awry.
The rope sliced Dugan’s neck and she was decapitated. As Pinal County Historical Society President Lynn Smith likes to tell it, “Her head popped off when she was hanged and it went across the room and scared all the witnesses.”
Sixty people saw the botched and bloody hanging that would cause the state Legislature to switch to gas chamber executions, according to an Arizona Daily Star report from back then.
“It was before sunrise and everybody ran out into the dark and her body went down into the basement,” Smith said.
Smith oversees a collection of over 20 nooses used to carry out early executions at the Arizona State Prison at the Pinal County Historical Society and Museum. Dugan’s is one of them.
Smith says people have mixed reactions when they hear this story.
Eva Dugan’s booking photos after she killed a rancher
“They think it’s gory, but if you’re a murderer, people don’t feel too bad for you,” Smith said. “All the people we have hanged supposedly were murderers.”
Unlike states like Georgia and Texas, where women have been executed within the last five years, Arizona hasn’t executed a woman since Dugan.
But that all could change.
Sammantha Allen joined two other Arizona women on death row in the state this week when she was sentenced for the 2011 murder of her younger cousin, Ame Deal.
Deal suffocated to death after Allen…
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