Kenneth Allen McDuff

one of the most hated and reviled names in Texas criminal history. Often called “the Poster Boy of Capital Punishment,” he is the only man in US history to be sentenced to death, released from death row and then sentenced to death again and executed for a different crime.

McDuff was born in 1946 in Rosebud, a small town in central Texas. Early on he displayed antisocial behavior and was often in trouble at school. He was a confirmed bully, always trying to intimidate weaker students, but he was also a coward and would back off if a victim showed no fear and fought back. His teachers’s efforts to discipline McDuff were hampered by his mother Addie, a bossy and domineering woman who steadfastly refused to believe that her son could ever do anything bad. Addie’s distorted view of her son would persist until the very end.

McDuff dropped out of high school early on and went to work with his father John Allen (J.a) pouring concrete. When he wasn’t working he was out drinking, fighting, womanizing and racing around in a succession of cars, all of which he eventually wrecked. He was also into burglary, and in 1965 he was sent to prison on 14 separate counts of it. He was releasd after less than a year and had clearly not learned the lesson.

McDuff had no real friends, being almost universally disliked and feared by people in Rosebud, but he had a few hangers-on, mostly young men who were impressed by his grandiose stories and who were not especially intelligent. One of these was an 18-year-old named Roy Dale Green. On August 6, 1966, McDuff and Green were driving amilessly around central Texas, as was their habit. In the Fort Worth suburb of Everman, they spotted a car parked at a baseball diamond. Green claimed later that he thought that he and McDuff were only going to harass and scare the people in the car, but McDuff obviously had other ideas. In the car was Robert Brand, 17; his girlfriend, Edna Louise Sullivan, 16; and Brand’s cousin, Marcus Dunnam, 15. They were taking a break after giving Louise lessons on parallel parking.

McDuff and Green approached the car, ordered all three out and abducted them, locking the boys and the girl in the trunks of both cars. Green drove one car and McDuff the other, taking their captives to a secluded area where McDuff shot the boys point-blank in the head while they knelt in the trunk begging for their lives. Afterward, Louise Sullivan was raped several times by both men, and also with the broken handle of a broomstick. After that, she was made to kneel with her head on the ground while Green restrained her and McDuff slowly strangled her by pressing the broomstick across her throat. The next day, Green heard about the crime on the radio and broke down and confessed, and he and McDuff were arrested. Green received a lesser sentence in exchange for testifying against his partner. McDuff insisted on taking the stand and did not impress the jury at all. He was sentenced to die for the murder of Robert Brand.

The death sentence was overturned when the US Supreme Court abolished capital punishment in 1972, and at about the same time, the case of Ruiz vs. Texas was calling attention to poor conditions and overcrowding in Texas prisons. Because of the reforms resulting from this case, hardly any prisoner was serving out his full sentence. McDuff was convicted of bribery, a felony, while in prison after he offered a parole board member $10000 for an early release. But even this did not stop him from winning parole in October of 1989. Three days later, the body of Sarafia Parker was found. While McDuff was never officially connected to her death, she is believed to be his victim.

While on parole McDuff made no attempt to even pretend he had been reformed. He was convicted of making terroristic threats after trying to pick a fight with a group of black teenagers, and also for DUI and public drunkenness. He became addicted to crack cocaine and spent most of his time hanging out with people on the very fringes of society. Even though he was enrolled at Texas State Technical Institute where he was studying to be a machinist, he spent most of his time getting high and drunk, picking up prostitutes and regaling his hangers-on with embellished accounts of his exploits. He talked obsessively about obtaining guns with which to rob and kill crack dealers, but his entourage just brushed off the bragging as beer talk. It wasn’t.

In October of 1991, McDuff’s car ran a roadblock in Waco. Police and other witnesses observed a woman in the passenger seat, her hands behind her, apparently trying to kick out the windshield. For unknown reasons, the car was not stopped and the woman, later identified as a 37-year-old prostitute named Brenda Thompson, was never seen alive again. Just a few days later, another prostitute, 22-year-old Reginia “Gina” Moore, vanished without a trace. On December 29, 1991, McDuff and a life-long alcoholic named Alva Hank Worley were driving around Austin Texas looking for drugs. Worley would later testify that McDuff several times pointed out attractive women and implied that he would like to “take them.” Eventually they spotted Colleen Reed, a 28-year-old accountant, washing her black Mazda at a car wash. McDuff grabbed her and forced her into their car. Witnesses heard her screams and called police but it was too late. Reed was driven out of town and raped by both men. Worley said later that eventually she tried to resist McDuff, possibly by biting him, and that McDuff struck her so hard Worley thought he heard bones breaking and Reed appeared to be unconscious or dead. Worley was dropped off soon after this and McDuff disposed of the body.

McDuff had briefly held a job at a Quik-Pak market near the TSTI campus in Waco, and was paired with a more senior employee named Aaron Northrup. Northrup’s 22-year-old wife Melissa also worked at the store, and McDuff evidently took a liking to her. He told several friends that he wanted to rob the store and “take” the girl who worked the night shift there. Again, nobody took him seriously. On March 1, 1992, Aaron Northrup became concerned when Melissa failed to return home from her shift at the Quik-Pak, and a police investigation was launched. McDuff’s car was found near the store, and Northrup’s car was located in a wooded area in Dallas County. Eyewitness accounts placed McDuff in the area of the abduction and also at the site of where Colleen Reed was kidnapped.

A month later, a fisherman found Melissa Northrup’s body in a gravel pit near where her car had been recovered. She had been bound hand and foot and probably strangled. She was two months pregnant. At about the same time, a worker on his lunch break found a badly decomposed body in the woods near the TSTI property. She was a prostitute named Valencia Kay Joshua, who’d last been seen in February on the campus, looking for McDuff’s dorm room.

By now, McDuff was out of Texas. He never revealed how he was able to get a new car and fake ID, but he was then in Kansas City, Missouri, working as a garbage collector. Texas Rangers and US Marshals began hunting him in earnest after Melissa Northrup’s body was found, and on May 1, 1992, he was profiled on “Americ’s Most Wanted.” Just a day later, a co-worker contacted police to say he knew where the fugitive was. The garbage truck was pulled over during its regular run and McDuff thus became AMW’s 208th successful capture.

McDuff stood trial first in the Northrup case. He was disruptive and obnoxious in court, tried to act as his own lawyer, and could never give a satisfactory account of his whereabouts on the night the young woman was killed. He was sentenced to die for her murder, and then stood trial for the Reed murder, even though her body had not been found. McDuff was even more disruptive during this trial than he had been before, probably because the judge was black and McDuff was a classic bigot. He was convicted of Reed’s killing on the basis of strong circumstantial evidence eyewitness accounts, Worley’s testimony and five of Reed’s hairs found in his car. He received a second death sentence.

After McDuff’s arrest, Texas launched a massive overhaul of its prison system to try and ensure that nobody like him ever won early parole again. The tightened parole rules, prison-building projects and improved monitoring of parolees are collectively known in Texas as McDuff Laws. Only in the fall of 1998, as his date with the executioner drew closer, did McDuff reveal the location of Reginia Moore and Brenda Thompson. When his directions failed to produce Reed’s remains, he was taken out of prison under tight security and even tighter secrecy and driven to the location where he’d said he had left Reed. He provided a more detailed set of directions and Reed’s remains were quickly found.

McDuff’s time ran out finally on November 17, 1998. Just after six P.M he was put to death by lethal injection in the Huntsville prison. Justice had been served, 32 years too late.
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