Born in 1878, Eva Dugan worked in cabaret before being hired as a housekeeper by Andrew J. Mathis, a Pima County, Arizona, resident. For reasons unknown, Mathis fired Dugan and shortly afterwards, he disappeared, seemingly into thin air. While his home was not in disarray, his cash box as well as his car were missing. Neighbours of Mathis reported that Dugan had recently been selling some of his belongings, however, when investigators went to question her, she was nowhere to be found. An investigation into her background revealed that she had been married five times. All five husbands had inexplicably disappeared. Eventually investigators tracked Dugan down - she was working in a hospital in White Plains. On 4 March, 1927, she was extradited back to Arizona. Months later, Mathis’ slain body was discovered in a shallow grave on his land.
Dugan denied any involvement in the murder and all evidence entered into trial was purely circumstantial. The prosecution claimed that Dugan had been assisted by a teenage boy named Jack. However, Jack was never identified or found. Despite the lack of evidence, she was found guilty and sentenced to hang. While incarcerated, she permitted interviews for $1 and knitted handkerchiefs which she sold. With the money earned, she purchased her own coffin. As her execution date loomed, a rumour began to circulate that Dugan was going to end her own life as opposed to die at the gallows. The morning before her execution, a search of her cell turned up a bottle of raw ammonia as well as three razor blades. She was led to the gallows at 5AM on 21 February, 1930. The noose was tied around her neck and the trap was sprung. The executioner had misjudged the distance and the snap of the rope decapitated Dugan, with her head rolling into the group of spectators.
Following the gruesome execution, the gallows were replaced by the gas chamber, making Eva Dugan the only woman to be executed by hanging in Arizona.