When Olga Kupzyck met her husband, she had no idea that it would spell her death at the hands of her own mother-in-law.
A Soul Connection
Elizabeth Ann Duncan – known as “Ma” was born in about 1904. Her early life was very transient; she travelled a lot, and married more than 20 different men for financial gain – all illegally and bigamously. When she wasn’t living off the livelihood of her ‘husbands’, she was the Madam of a brothel in San Francisco. When she gave birth to her son Frank she claimed that there was an instant connection between the two. A soul connection. She vowed nothing would ever come between them.
In 1956, 27 year old Frank began his career as a lawyer in Santa Barbara, California, and shared an apartment with his mother. He was described as being a very intelligent, nice young man, and a very capable lawyer. Many of his friends believed that once he left the clutches of his mother, he would thrive.
His mother, on the other hand, was petrified that one day he would leave her. She followed him from courtroom to courtroom, applauding when he would win a case, cooking his dinner, cleaning up after him, acting in most ways (and some speculate ALL ways) as a wife would. Although the subject of incest was never raised directly, there have been many oblique references to it over the years. Whether or not Frank and his mother had a sexual relationship went with Ma to the grave, but it seems very likely.
Frank tried to break out of his mother’s clutches. He threatened her that if she didn’t loosen her hold he would move out. This petrified her so much that she took an overdose of sleeping pills – purely to scare her son – and was rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped.
While in hospital she was cared for a pretty young nurse named Olga. When Frank would come to the hospital to visit his mother he would make sure he spent some time with Olga as well. A lovely romance was obviously blossoming between the two of them, and Ma did not like it. Not one little bit.
A Secret Marriage
Olga won the first round though, and on 20 June, 1958, Frank and Olga were married in secret. Ma eventually found out about the marriage, and adamantly declared that she would not allow the married couple to live together. Ma had such a hold over Frank that at first he went along with the sham, staying at home with his mother and visiting his wife at her apartment. One night while Frank was spending time with his wife, his mother showed up on Olga’s doorstep, banging on the front door and demanding angrily that Frank leave immediately. An argument ensued, and although Frank left with his mother, he and Olga moved in to a different apartment again a few days later, and Frank did not give the address to his mother. Again, he did not last long in wedded bliss before hearing a rumour that his mother was sourcing a hit-man to ‘get rid’ of Olga, so moved back in with his mother to save his wife’s life.
In August that same year Ma paid an ex-convict named Ralph Winterstein to act as her son, while she pretended to be Olga. Together they faced the court and received an annulment to the marriage. Obviously this woman would stop at nothing to have her son by her side. She also approached Ralph, asking him if he would consider ‘offing’ Olga. He refused, and did not report the matter to the police for fear of being caught out due to the fraudulent annulment.
When Ma found out that Olga was pregnant, she knew she had to finish her once and for all. After many indiscreet enquires she finally met 21 year old Luis Moya and 26 year old Gus Baldonado. She told the men that Olga was blackmailing Frank, and that she needed to be gotten rid of. She agreed to pay $3,000 to them upfront, and another $3,000 within six months of the ‘job being done’.
So all was arranged! They would get rid of Olga.
“I knocked on the door and asked if her husband was Frank Duncan. She said ‘Yes’. I said I had met him at a bar, and that he was pretty drunk and had a lot of money on him. I said I had him in the car and wondered if she would help be bring him up.
She said ‘Sure, I’ll help you bring him up.’ When she opened the door of the car I hit her a blow over the head with the pistol to try to knock her out.
It was a very hard blow, but I didn’t knock her out. Baldonado grabbed her and I shoved her into the car.”
They drove to a nearby beach, knocked her unconscious, tied her up and then continued driving. Their rental car was playing up, so instead of heading to Mexico as they first had planned, they headed to a nearby mountain area, dragged Olga out of the car and took turns strangling her. When they were convinced she was dead they dug a shallow hole with their hands and buried her.
Elizabeth Ann “Ma” Duncan was executed via the gas chamber on 8 August, 1962. Frank was not at the execution, as he was in San Francisco fighting her case in the Federal Court. Ma’s last recorded words were said to be “Where’s Frank? I want to see my son.”
Put together by Ashley Hall 2014