death row dodger
Kenneth Allen McDuff was a remorseless killing machine, devoid of any flicker of humanity, whose only gift to society was his own death
How vile Broomstick triplemurderer Kenneth McDuff was freed to kill again and again
Commonly considered to be ‘ the poster child for capital punishment in Texas’, Kenneth McDuff somehow managed to be sentenced to death, paroled, re- arrested for further murders and returned to death row, before finally being executed in 1998. His prolific history of crime is a deeply depressing one, but it is the ineptitude of the state of Texas during his violent career that truly beggars belief. Mistakes were made and lessons were eventually learned, but far too late and at the expense of many innocent lives.
The Bad Boy of Rosebud
Kenneth Allen McDuff was a vicious bully with a violent temper. His father was hardworking but weak and ineffectual, and his mother was a domineering woman who ruled over her husband with a fist of iron while doting on her precious baby boy. Such family dynamics often end in disaster, and this particular perfect storm was no different.
The McDuff household lived in the Texan heart of the Blackland Prairies in a little farming community called Rosebud. It was a safe place to raise a family, full of decent church- going people, and John Allen and his wife Addie soon settled in. It was an idyllic life for the children, who had the freedom to play out in the fields while their parents both brought in a regular wage and kept a smart two- storey house to live in.
However, home was not as stable as it outwardly appeared. Addie McDuff was a highly unpredictable woman who wasn’t above taking on anyone who stood in her way. The ‘ Pistol- Packing Mama McDuff ’, as she was commonly known, became particularly volatile when any of her neighbours dared to besmirch her beloved sons, Kenneth and Lonnie. In her somewhat warped view, the boys could do no wrong and she wasn’t afraid to put people straight.
As a result, the pair naturally believed that they could do whatever they wanted with little or no fear of reprisals. They could be rude, vicious and cruel and then wait for ‘ Mama’ to clear things up. It seemed to Kenneth McDuff that he was untouchable. Rules were for everybody else but not for the McDuff boys, and their father bowed his head and silently confirmed their opinion.
Kenneth McDuff was a thief from an early age, stealing money from the purses he found at his mother’s laundromat. Naturally, his mother defended the boy, claiming there must have been a mistake, but things just kept going missing. Although his IQ was low, at 92, his substantial size meant that he could intimidate those around him into doing his bidding and, when he stole from his classmates, Addie would storm in and start yelling. However, after another boy eventually had enough and retaliated with a couple of punches to the head, Kenneth McDuff decided that he’d had his fill of school and went to work with his father at the family concrete business. It was at this point, in 1964, that his petty thievery developed into a series of local burglaries that would signify the beginning of his adult criminal career.
It soon became apparent that McDuff didn’t
when his new friend declared he knew ‘ where people park and we can kill ‘ em’, he thought it was just another adventure
like working alone. For all his loud- mouthed bravado and swagger, he needed an accomplice to bully into accompanying him on his wild, illegal adventures. Whether he was too scared to go it alone, or, more likely, he wanted someone to witness his unpleasant antics, the need for an audience would eventually backfire and lead him to death row. But at this point the young, impressionable boys he cajoled into helping him merely kept lookout and carried the goods while he stole everything from shotgun ammunition to ice cream bars.
It was only a matter of time before the police caught up with him, and in 1965 he was charged with 14 counts of burglary and theft. The multiple sentences totalled 52 years but were to run concurrently, so he ultimately got a mere four- year stint in jail at the most.
Free to Kill
McDuff made parole just nine months and two weeks later. Having sauntered back into Rosebud with a worse attitude than he’d had before they took him away, Kenneth McDuff picked up where he left off, working at his father’s concrete factory. It was here that he met Roy Dale Green, an easily impressed, quiet boy who followed
McDuff around like a rock star’s groupie. On
Saturday 6 August
1966, when McDuff announced that he was going out to ‘ find girls’ and that Green could come too, the impressionable, dim- witted kid was thrilled to be invited along. It would prove to be the worst decision he ever made in his short life.
McDuff had filled Green’s head with horrible stories of rape and murder that the boy had considered nothing more than tall tales, but, sadly, he had also found them cool and exciting. So, when his new friend declared that he knew “where people park and we can kill ‘ em”, he thought it was just another adventure. It wasn’t.
Robert Brand and his cousin Marcus Dunnam had parked up with Robert’s girlfriend, Edna Louise Sullivan, and were chatting away when McDuff ordered the kids out of their car at gunpoint. Green played along since he thought the whole thing was nothing more than a big joke, designed to scare the kids and maybe steal their money. McDuff
was clearly calling the shots, which Green later pointed out, stating, “He told the kids in the car to get out or he would shoot them”. All three teenagers were ordered into the boot of the car, and McDuff started the engine. Meanwhile he told Green “to get in his car and follow him”. Like a fool, Green obeyed, and the two cars drove around until McDuff found a suitable field.
After they had parked up, Green was told to take Edna Louise out of their car and into the boot of McDuff ’s car. At this point Green became scared. Suddenly it didn’t look like a game anymore and McDuff clearly had every intention of killing the two boys, because, he claimed, they had both seen his face.
During McDuff ’s trial, Green’s account of what took place was both chilling and deeply disturbing. If the boy was to be believed, his ‘ cool friend’ was in fact a calculating monster. “He stuck the gun into the trunk where the boys were and started shooting… He shot six times. He shot one twice in the head, and he shot the other boy four times in the head.”
However, more was to come. Having murdered the two boys, McDuff and Green wiped the car clean of fingerprints and then proceeded to drive around with the terrified girl in the boot. Eventually McDuff found a quiet spot and forced Edna Louise out of the boot and into the backseat, where he raped her. He then ordered Green to “have a go”. Although he claimed to have been “dying of fright” Green did as he was told and then watched as McDuff raped the girl again, then sexually assaulted her with an old broomstick handle that he discovered in the back of the car.
After the ordeal was over, she was dragged out of the car and murdered. Green described her final moments in graphic detail: “He started choking her with the piece of broomstick. He mashed down hard, and she started waving her arms and kicking her legs. He told me to grab her legs and I didn’t want to, and he said, ‘ It’s gotta be done’, and I grabbed her legs, and held them for a second or so, then let them go.” Green later recalled that as she died, “it sounded like air escaping out of a balloon or air hose.”
After the event Green was told to keep his mouth shut, but within 24 hours he had confessed everything and was placed in jail, where he cried, “My God, I’ve got to tell somebody about it. I can’t sleep. I can’t think. I can’t do nothing.” The weak- willed kid had gone along with what he initially thought was just a cruel joke that had mutated into a living nightmare, and now he wanted nothing to do with his one- time friend. But McDuff had a different story to tell – and it made Green the monstrous perpetrator. Who would the courts believe?
Despite an impressive campaign to prove that Green was the primary killer, the courts were unconvinced and McDuff was handed down three death sentences, while Green received a 25- year sentence and was subsequently released after serving 13 years behind bars.
Rosebud’s collective sigh of relief was shortlived. For a few critical years in US judicial history, the right of a jury to impose the death sentence on a defendant was deemed unconstitutional, and McDuff ’s date with the electric chair was reduced to a life sentence. Unfortunately, his good luck was only just beginning to kick in.
Released Once More
McDuff ’s repeated requests for parole were finally granted on 11 October 1989. He had served less than 21 years for the ‘ broomstick murders’.
Three days later, the body of a prostitute by the name of Sarafia Parker was discovered in a field in Temple. A witness later testified that he had seen Sarafia in a truck owned by McDuff and, although nothing was ever proven, McDuff was certainly in Temple at the time, reporting to his parole officer.
A further incident with a group of young AfricanAmericans, in which McDuff pulled a hunting knife, resulted in him returning to prison a year after he had been released. He would not remain behind bars for long. Due to prison overcrowding, two months later he walked free again. Kenneth McDuff ’s luck was still in, and he chose to spend that good fortune cheating drug dealers and threatening prostitutes alongside his latest sidekick, Alva Hank Worley. Like Green, he was another weak- minded simpleton.
Drug- addled prostitute Brenda Kay Thompson was last seen alive, bound and clearly in distress in the back of McDuff ’s truck. When a Special Operations team tried to flag him down, the cold- blooded murderer careered through the officers and disappeared.
A few days later, a local prostitute by the name of Regenia DeAnn Moore was abducted by McDuff less than 100 metres away from where he had picked up Thompson. Kenneth McDuff was more convinced than ever that he was utterly unstoppable and, sadly, he appeared to be correct.
On 29 December 1991 Colleen Reed was standing at a car wash booth when McDuff grabbed her by the throat and
McDuff’s date with the electric chair was reduced to a life sentence. Unfortunately, his good luck was only
just beginning to kick in
dragged her back to his Ford Thunderbird. Alva Hank Worley later claimed that he had had no idea of McDuff ’s plans to kidnap a woman, but this was highly unlikely, and in any case, he admitted to helping his friend get the terrified woman in the back of the car. McDuff drove away at breakneck speed but soon ordered Worley to drive so that he could get in the back with Colleen. What followed was a devastatingly brutal series of rapes interspersed with moments of excruciating torture. McDuff repeatedly burnt Colleen’s vagina with a lit cigarette before ordering Worley to have sex with her. “I did rape her”, he later admitted, but claimed that this was to protect the girl from McDuff, who clearly intended to kill her once she had been “used up”.
Eventually, McDuff decided to finish Colleen off. During the trial, Worley gave a detailed description of her last moments: “He hit her so hard I heard a loud pop or crack. I started backing away from him. It sounded like a big tree breaking… she fell backwards toward the weeds, and her head bounced off of the ground. She did not move at all.” McDuff had broken her neck with one vicious punch.
As before, McDuff later claimed that it was Worley who had wanted to abduct a woman, and he had merely wanted to score some drugs.
A few weeks later, on 24 February, Valencia Kay Joshua, a prostitute from Waco, went missing. She had last been seen alive knocking on McDuff ’s front door. Her corpse was discovered the following month. The monster had struck again, but he was not done yet. On 1 March 1992 pregnant Melissa Northrup was working the graveyard shift at a convenience store in Waco when she had the misfortune to come across Kenneth McDuff. When her husband phoned the shop to check up on her, he got no reply and knew that something must be wrong. Panic quickly set in when he arrived at the store to find a customer waiting, Melissa’s purse under the counter, her car in the car park but no sign of her anywhere. The police were alerted, but McDuff was already on Interstate Highway 35, heading out towards Dallas
County. No one knows exactly what barbarous torture the killer put Melissa through, but one thing is known: having parked the car in a small area known as Combine, Kenneth McDuff frogmarched the pregnant woman across some farmland before tying her hands and feet with her socks and shoelaces. Her poor, broken body was later discovered in a nearby flooded gravel pit.
Back Where He Belongs
Kenneth McDuff ’s lucky streak was not going to last forever, but the blow that started the beginning of the end for this seemingly untouchable killer was struck by a highly unexpected character – his mother.
Shortly after Melissa’s abduction, Addie McDuff made a bizarre phone call to the police claiming that her son had gone missing and was almost certainly dead. This struck the officers as rather odd, since the unreliable McDuff had often disappeared for days at a time. It seemed totally out of character for Addie to suddenly assume that her adult son was dead just because he hadn’t been heard from for a few days. It was highly suspicious, and the police decided to keep a close eye on Addie’s house. Whatever she was up to, she had unwittingly alerted the police that he had gone underground and they wanted to know why. Investigators discovered a bloodstained hat, a cloth with unidentified stains, hair that clearly didn’t belong to Kenneth McDuff himself and a piece of paper with an address and the name ‘ Beverly’ scribbled on it. Maybe this woman knew where McDuff was.
Meanwhile, forensic experts were examining his car, ostensibly to help find him, while other officers were desperately looking for Melissa. Further afield, the police were also searching for Colleen.
Although the police were all investigating different situations, Austin police officer Sonya Urubek felt that there was a connection between the kidnappings and the
missing McDuff, which she intended to prove. The more she discovered about the nature of Kenneth McDuff, the more convinced she became and, gradually, officers from each case joined her on the quest to hunt him down.
Although McDuff seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth, a new man by the name of Richard Dale Fowler, who looked remarkably like Kenneth McDuff, showed up at the Kansas City Disposal Services asking for a job. He was offered a slot collecting rubbish and quickly found himself an apartment, where he promptly started regaling the other boarders with tales of sexual depravity and thievery. Nobody liked him but, just as before, they didn’t believe him either.
The police began to round up any known accomplices of McDuff, knowing his propensity to show off and ‘ perform’ in front of an audience. After interviewing ‘ Beverly’, the woman on the scrap of paper, they were pointed in the direction of Alva Hank Worley, who was obviously hiding something. All the investigating officers had to do was get him to talk, and it didn’t take them too long. His words were frighteningly similar to those of Roy Dale Green all those years ago: “McDuff is the one who took that girl from the car wash in Austin… her screams were so loud they hurt my ears. And finally she could not scream anymore.”
An arrest warrant was speedily acquired, but McDuff was still a missing person. However, when an episode of America’s Most Wanted aired that week, showing the Colleen Reed abduction and a mugshot of McDuff, a Kansas City Disposal employee noticed the similarity between his new co- worker and the chilling image on the screen. He phoned in just to be on the safe side, and the multiple- killer was finally apprehended.
Kenneth Allen McDuff had been committing murders across Texas, creating a jurisdictional nightmare, but eventually two separate trials were arranged, one for the Colleen Reed murder, the other for Melissa Northrup. The evidence was overwhelming – after all, McDuff couldn’t keep his mouth shut for long and had spent most of his life bragging about the heinous crimes he had committed. Physical evidence in the form of victims’ hair and bloodstains confirmed his stories. Ultimately, his need to prove himself in front of simple- minded accomplices led him to death row once and for all. McDuff ’s lucky streak had finally run out, and this time there was no last- minute reprieve. He was executed by lethal injection on 17 November 1998, 30 years after his initial placement on death row.
After the execution, the state of Texas vowed that it would never allow a criminal to benefit from such lenient parole protocols ever again. A massive overhaul of the prison service was undertaken, instigating a crackdown on parole offers, a major prison- building initiative and improved monitoring of dangerous and violent parolees. They are collectively known as the ‘ McDuff Rules’.
The state of Texas is often harangued over its use of capital punishment, but when asked to comment on the subject, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Chairman Victor Rodriguez has been quoted as saying, “If there’s a reason, Kenneth McDuff is the reason. He’s a poster child for capital punishment in Texas.”
McDuff is the one who took that girl... her screams were so loud they hurt my ears. And
finally she could not scream anymore
Roy Dale green wanted to hang out with the big boys in order to scare the locals and pick up girls by acting tough. He could never have guessed how badly a night out with McDuff would end below The charming hamlet of Rosebud in the heart of the Blackland Prairies, where the city hall acts as the municipal court, police station and general hub of the community
above- left Alva Hank Worley was, just like Roy Dale Green, a weak- willed, easily led fool who idolised and feared McDuffbelow Kenneth McDuff’s 1966 Dodge Coronet was used to spirit away Edna Louise Sullivan during the horrific ‘ broomstick murders’. She had been separated from her two companions and stuffed in the boot
above The motion signed by Judge Byron Matthews regarding the involvement of Roy Dale Green in the ‘ broomstick murders’. His compliance would be used by McDuff in his defence, but would not be believed by the jury
above Kenneth’s mother, Addie McDuff, took the stand on 3 February 1993, claiming, “I just can’t believe Kenneth could do such a thing.” His father was not so sure
below Also known as ‘ Peckerwood Hill’, Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery has the dubious honour of being Kenneth McDuff’s final resting place. His death row number, 999055, adorns the gravestone rather than his name. No one came to claim his remains