Ma Duncan: Mother-in-Law & Murderer

Pop Culture Crime
5 min readOct 1, 2018

I know I’m not the only one transfixed by stories of awful mothers-in-law. Browsing these stories, I feel like I’m reading about awful villains devoid of compassion and common sense. The story of Elizabeth Ann Duncan, or Ma Duncan, is no different.

Ma Duncan, born in 1904, was a “drifter” with a Jocasta Complex. Ma married somewhere between 11 and 20 times throughout her life, often under the guise of inheriting money and allowing the men to cash in alongside her. She also operated a San Francisco brothel at some point.

Stories dispute the number of children Ma Duncan had in several news articles. However, one child, Frank, was her favorite. In 1948, she even opted to move in with him after her younger daughter, Patty Ann, died of “spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage.”

In the 1950s, Frank and Elizabeth moved to Santa Barbara, California. There, Elizabeth followed her totally adult lawyer son from courtroom to courtroom, applauding when he was successful. Apparently, she even married one of Frank’s classmates by lying about her age and finances.

Frank and Elizabeth fought a lot, surprising to nobody. He kicked her out one day, only for her to attempt suicide with prescription medications. The joke was on Elizabeth as Frank fell in love with the nurse taking care of her at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital. Olga Kupczyk and Frank married in secret despite Ma Duncan’s threats.

When Elizabeth found out about the marriage, she was incensed and overcome with jealousy. All the while, Frank kept running back and forth from his mother to his wife. Supposedly, he had an arrangement to live with his mother until the birth of his first child with Olga.

Olga, seven months pregnant, heard a knock at the door one night. Nobody saw her alive again. In fact, Frank had not seen her in the final 10 days of her life. He’d gone back to his mother’s house. A co-worker who found Olga‘s door open after she failed to show up for a surgery reported her missing.

Soon after Olga disappeared, Elizabeth and a man she hired posed as Olga and Frank to secure an annulment in court. How anybody believed she was a 30-year-old woman remains a mystery.

Elizabeth was totally inept as a criminal. She’d harassed Olga so much that the young woman had reported the abuse to her father in writing. Even Olga’s landlady knew Ma Duncan was out to get her.

Pop Culture Crime

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