• Rod Kackley

Cheerful Eva Dugan and the Last of the Cowboy Sheriffs: A Shocking True Crime Story

The rain is pouring down so hard outside my home, that a municipal street sweeper has parked his purring rig under a tree in front of my house to wait out the storm.

Meanwhile, I am inside with a steaming hot mug of coffee to my right and my dog, Bella, a Staffordshire Terrier Mix, sleeping peacefully at my feet.

And I thought to myself, this would be the perfect time to give you an idea of what I am working on, a book about the first and last woman to be executed for the crime of murder in Arizona, Eva Dugan.

(Cheerful Eva's mugshot)

It's four o'clock in the morning, February 21, 1930.

There is not enough coffee to break through the bleary brains of a dozen reporters who are awake long before they want to be.

But the adrenaline flowing through these scribes should be enough to make up the difference.

All twelve are being led at this ungodly hour to the cell of convicted murderess Eva Dugan to begin the process of witnessing the ungodly task of the woman's execution.

She's lived in a cell on Death Row, inside Arizona's state prison in Florence, for several years. But, Eva was such a happy soul that prison guards and fellow inmates dubbed her "Cheerful Eva."

Cheerful Eva was also a killer, or at least so said a jury of her peers.

Eva had led a rough life. Born in 1878, it had been a long time since she worked as a trained nurse. It had also been a while since Eva held a steady job, drifting from one town to another.

Eventually, she wound up near Tucson, Arizona, and went to work for a rancher, Andrew (A.J.) Mathis, as his nurse and housekeeper.

However, both A.J., sometimes known as "Old Man Mathis," and forty-year-old Eva vanished in early 1927.

Before she left, though, Eva told A.J.'s friends and family that the old guy had taken it into his head to sell everything and travel to California.

That didn't sit well with A.J. friends and family, nor did it pass the muster of Sheriff Jim McDonald.

On horseback, the sheriff rode over to the old man's place. Inside the empty house, McDonald didn't find anything suspicious. Not a single sign of violence. But if there was anything out of the ordinary, it was that the house was so damn clean.

"Seemed funny he'd light out to Californian without telling anybody," said McDonald. But then again, McDonald knew old men can do queer things.

Maybe A.J. did take off.

Suppose A.J. had indeed decided to move to California on a moment's notice. Why wouldn't he leave his forty-year-old nurse behind to clean up and then close up the property?

After she was finished, the nurse, Eva, would naturally take off, too. What else was she to do? There was nothing left here for Eva.

But that was all conjecture. Sheriff McDonald needed to find out if his theory was indeed fact.

Since he was nothing if not a conscientious and persistent cowboy sheriff, McDonald went to work.

After talking to A.J.'s friends and family, the first thing McDonald did was ride into Tucson. He wanted to sit down for a discussion with A.J.'s banker. Made sense to the sheriff that if Mathis was heading for greener pastures, he'd like to make some cash along for the ride.

It didn't take Sheriff McDonald long to learn that something was wrong. A.J. hadn't withdrawn a dime recently, nor had he cashed any checks.

Wait a minute, McDonald thought. A.J. needed money in his pocket to travel.

What did A.J. do? Head off somewhere that he wouldn't have to worry about any expenses?

"Only two places I know where you can do that," said McDonald, "jail and the cold ground."

Now McDonald went after Eva. He knew she had to be complicit in the disappearance of A.J. But where was she?

This wasn't going to be easy.

Eva had a three-day head start on the sheriff and hadn't left a single clue behind. McDonald had no idea which direction to turn.

Or did he?

(Sheriff McDonald and Eva in the state penitentiary in Florence, Arizona.)

Okay. That's enough for now. Obviously there's much much more to this story. My plan is go publish this book in June 2022.

Well, even though the rain is still coming down, the street sweeper has driven off through an amazingly deep puddle on the street in front of my house. So, I will let you go.

But first, I wanted to tell you that even though I've written more than a dozen Shocking True Crime books, there are moments when I just get tired of clouding the issue with facts.

That's what I have done with my latest book, "Never Again: An Internet Killer Thriller."

"Never Again: An Internet Thriller Killer is available as a paperback or hardcover book. And, of course, as an ebook, for you Kindle readers.

Until next time, thanks for reading.


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