Kenneth Allen McDuff (March 21, 1946 – November 17, 1998) was an American serial killer. He was convicted of murdering sixteen-year-old Edna Sullivan; her boyfriend, seventeen-year-old Robert Brand; and Robert’s cousin, fifteen-year-old Mark Dunnam, who was visiting from California. They were all strangers whom McDuff abducted after noticing Sullivan; she was repeatedly raped before having her neck broken with a broomstick. McDuff was given three death sentences and subsequently convicted of having offered a bribe to a member of the parole board. He was freed in 1989. He was given a new death sentence and executed for a murder committed after his release and is suspected to have been responsible for many other killings.
Early life and background
Kenneth Allen McDuff was born at 201 Linden Street in the central Texas town of Rosebud (Falls County), the fifth of six children born to John and Addie McDuff. His father ran a successful concrete business during the Texas construction boom of the 1960s. McDuff was indulged by his family particularly his mother Addie nicknamed the 'pistol packing momma' because she threatened a school bus driver with a gun after the driver kicked off Kenneth's older brother Lonnie. Kenneth McDuff got the reputation of being a bully who was careful to pick only on the weak, after the large (as an adult he was a burly six-foot-three) but not strong McDuff lost a fight he had picked with an athletic and popular boy. As a result he quit school and worked for his father's business doing manual labor. He would often brag in later interviews that the old ladies loved the way he mowed their lawns, making others jealous. McDuff was convicted of a series of burglaries and put in prison.
Earlier criminal activities
His criminal record began two years before his first murder conviction. In 1964 at age 18 McDuff was convicted of 12 counts of burglary and attempted burglary in three Texas counties: Bell, Milam, and Falls. He was sentenced to 12 four-year prison terms, to be served concurrently; however, he made parole in December 1965. He briefly returned to prison after becoming involved in a fight, but he was soon released. While he had not been convicted of any murders at this time, his accomplice in the 1966 triple murder, Roy Dale Green, said that McDuff bragged openly about his criminal record and claimed to have raped and killed two young women.
On August 6, 1966, McDuff and new friend 18-year-old Roy Dale Green, whom he had met around a month earlier through a mutual acquaintance, spent the day pouring concrete for McDuff's father. They then drove around, as McDuff said he was looking for a girl. At 10pm, Robert Brand (aged 17), his girlfriend Edna Louise Sullivan (aged 16), and Brand's 15-year-old cousin Mark Dunman were standing beside their parked car on a baseball field in Everman, Texas.
While cruising around, McDuff noticed the pretty Sullivan and parked around 150 yards away from the soon-to-be victims. McDuff threatened the trio with his .38 Colt revolver and ordered them to get into the trunk of their car. With Green following in McDuff's car, McDuff drove the victims' Ford along a highway and then into a field, where he ordered Edna Sullivan out of the trunk of the Ford and instructed Green to put her into the trunk of his Dodge Coronet. At this point, according to Green's statement, McDuff said he would have to "knock 'em off"; he proceeded to fire six shots into the trunk of the Ford in spite of Dunman's and Brand's pleas not to. McDuff then instructed Green to wipe the fingerprints off the Ford. They then drove to another location, where first McDuff and then Green, allegedly under duress, raped Sullivan. After he and Green had repeatedly raped Sullivan, McDuff asked Green for something to strangle her with. Green gave him his belt. However, in the end McDuff opted to use a 3-foot-long (0.91 m) piece of broomstick from his car. He choked Sullivan, and then he and Green dumped her body in some bushes. They purchased some Coca-Cola from a Hillsboro gas station before driving to Green's house to spend the night. The following day, McDuff buried his revolver beside Green's garage, and their mutual acquaintance Richard Boyd allowed McDuff to wash his car at his house. The next day Green confessed to Boyd's parents, who told Green's mother, who convinced him to turn himself in.
McDuff received three death sentences for Texas's electric chair; Green was released after eleven years. McDuff's death sentences were commuted to a life sentence, and he hired a lawyer, who amassed a dossier of various evidence that claimed to show that Green was the real killer. Some members of the parole board were impressed by the dossier. During a one-on-one interview with a board member, McDuff offered him a bribe to secure a favorable decision on the parole application. He was given a two-year sentence for trying to bribe the official. It proved meaningless, as board members thought McDuff could still 'contribute to society' and decided to grant him a parole. He was released in 1989.
McDuff was one of 20 former death row inmates and 127 murderers to be paroled. After being released, he got a job at a gas station making $4 an hour and took a class at Texas State Technical College in Waco. Within three days of his release, it is widely believed that he began killing again. The body of 31-year-old Sarafia Parker was discovered on October 14, 1989, in Temple, a town 48 miles south of Waco along the I-35 corridor. McDuff was not charged with this crime. However, he was soon returned to prison on a parole violation for making death threats to a youth in Rosebud.
Addie McDuff paid $1,500, plus an additional $700 for expenses, to two Huntsville attorneys in return for their "evaluating" her son's prospect of release. On December 18, 1990, McDuff was again released from prison. On October 10, 1991, McDuff picked up a prostitute and drug addict named Brenda Thompson in Waco. He tied her up but then stopped his truck approaching a Waco Police Department checkpoint. McDuff stopped approximately 50 ft before the checkpoint. One policeman walked toward McDuff's vehicle. On seeing the police officer, Thompson repeatedly kicked at the windshield of McDuff's truck, cracking it several times. McDuff accelerated very quickly and drove at the officers. According to a statement filed by the officers later, three of them had to jump to avoid being hit. The policemen gave chase, but it was night-time, and McDuff eluded them by turning off his lights and traveling the wrong way down one-way streets. Ultimately, he parked his truck in a wooded area near US 84. He inflicted a torturous death upon Thompson. Her body was not discovered until 1998.
Five days later, on October 15, 1991, McDuff and a 17-year-old prostitute named Regenia DeAnne Moore were witnessed having an argument at a Waco motel. Shortly thereafter, the pair drove in McDuff's pickup truck to a remote area beside Highway 6, near Waco. McDuff tied her arms and legs with stockings before killing her. She had been missing from home for seven years by the time her body was discovered on September 29, 1998. McDuff is also believed to have murdered Cynthia Renee Gonzalez. Gonzalez, 23, was found dead in a creek bed near CR 313 in heavily wood terrain one mile west of I-35 on September 21, 1991, some six days after she was reported missing in Arlington.
He killed again on December 29, 1991. His victim was Colleen Reed, a Louisiana native. He and an accomplice, Alva Hank Worley, drove to an Austin car wash where Reed was. McDuff kidnapped her in plain sight of eyewitnesses, and he and Worley drove her away. Worley admitted in an April 1992 interview with the Bell County Sheriff's Dept. that he had raped & tortured Reed with cigarettes, but he stated that he did not participate in her murder.
His next victim was Valencia Joshua, a prostitute who was last seen alive knocking on McDuff's door. While a student, McDuff had taken up drug dealing, selling crack cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and marijuana to fellow students to supplement his student grant. McDuff strangled Joshua on February 24, 1992. Her body was discovered on March 15 at a golf course near their college. McDuff's next victim was Melissa Northrup, a 22-year-old store clerk at a Waco Quik-pak (the same one that McDuff had worked in at one point), who was pregnant when she went missing from the store. The kidnapper also took $250 from the cash register. McDuff was a suspect because he had been seen in the vicinity of the Quik-pak at the time of Northrup's disappearance. During the investigation before the body was found, a college friend of McDuff's told police officers that McDuff had attempted to enlist his help in robbing the store. Northrup died on March 1, 1992, and a fisherman found Northrup's body on April 26.
A major problem for investigators was that McDuff's post-release victims were spread out across several Texas counties. This made a single coordinated investigation difficult. However, the police learned that McDuff was peddling drugs and had an illegal firearm, both federal offenses. Consequently, on March 6, 1992, a local State Attorney issued a warrant for McDuff's arrest. In April 1992 the police made a major breakthrough. Bell County Sheriff's Department investigators had brought in Alva Hank Worley for questioning on the basis that he was a known acquaintance of McDuff. Worley admitted to his involvement in the kidnapping of Colleen Reed. He was held in a Travis County jail while the police continued their search for McDuff.
McDuff had moved to Kansas City, where he was working at a refuse collection company and living under the assumed name of Richard Fowler. On May 1, 1992, a coworker of his named Gary Smithee watched an American television program entitled America's Most Wanted. Smithee noticed how similar McDuff, who was featured on the program, was to his new coworker. After discussing the matter with another coworker, Smithee telephoned the Kansas City Police, who searched Fowler's name and found he had been arrested and fingerprinted for soliciting prostitutes. A comparison of the fingerprints taken from Fowler to those of McDuff showed they were the same. On May 4, 1992, a surveillance team of six officers arrested McDuff as he drove to a landfill south of Kansas City.
Trial and execution
McDuff was indicted on one count of capital murder for the death of Melissa Northrup in McLennan County, Texas, on June 26, 1992. He was found guilty. In Texas, juries determine whether or not an individual convicted of capital murder receives life imprisonment or the death penalty. Journalist Gary Cartwright expressed the hope he would be executed, saying: "If there has ever been a good argument for the death penalty, it's Kenneth McDuff."
On February 18, 1993, the jury, in a special punishment hearing, opted to sentence him to death. Following a number of delays while appeals were heard, the Western District Court denied habeas corpus relief and rescheduled the execution date for November 17, 1998. As he was denied authorisation for another, he gave up Colleen Reed's burial location a couple of weeks before his execution.
McDuff is buried in the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery, also known as "Peckerwood Hill," in Huntsville, Texas. Prisoners buried there are those whose family choose not to claim their remains. His headstone contains only his date of execution, 11-17-98 as well as an "X" meaning he was executed by the State of Texas, and the number 999055—his Death Row number. His final meal, according to death row chef Brian Price, was a hamburger fashioned to resemble his request of a steak.