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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: "Mad Dog" Irvin

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

Leslie "Mad Dog" Irvin

A horrifyingly graphic scene in Henderson County in 1955 caused a community-wide stir, as three people had been brutally murdered near Geneva in what The Gleaner described as “a bloody rampage by a maniacal killer.” A muddy nearby field yielded the bodies of a man and his twenty-year old son. Both had been bound, marched to their execution site, and shot in the backs of their heads with a 32-caliber automatic pistol. Three miles away, a young woman was found in a farmhouse bedroom, face-down on a bed. She was nude from the waist down, bound at the wrists with a lamp cord, and slaughtered in the same manner. A fourth victim, in an adjoining bedroom, managed to live, but was left permanently blind and handicapped by a shot to her temple.

The perpetrator was serial-killer Leslie Irvin, and the victims in this macabre spectacle were Goebel Duncan, 51, and his son and daughter-in-law, Raymond and Mabel Duncan, 19. The living victim, Mr. Duncan’s wife, Mamie, had no recollection of the gory, traumatic incident, and a two-year-old little girl and her fifteen-hour-old baby sibling were parentless. Upon entering the house, police found the girl on the bed with her mother. Her explanation of her mother’s state was simply “Mommy is sleepy.” When later questioned as to why he had spared the child’s life, Irvin responded “I like kids.” Leslie Irvin had already killed three others within the tri-state area, and he was on the run.

Irvin was arrested in a Warrick County power plant on April 8th, 1955, and, on December 20th, he was convicted and scheduled to be executed on June 12th, 1956. He was quickly moved to an “inescapable” jail in Princeton, Indiana, where, just days before he was to be moved to Indiana State Prison, he shocked the public by escaping through three locked doors using two keys fashioned out of a paperback book cover, tin foil, and glue. In just twenty days, he was discovered in San Francisco, over 2,000 miles away. After a retrial, Irvin was sentenced to life in the Indiana State Prison, where he died of lung cancer in 1983.

Photo is of Leslie Irvin (center) and his two attorneys.

To read original newspaper articles describing Irvin’s crimes, capture, and trial visit us at the library. As always, you can also visit our genealogy page or read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries. A special thanks goes to researcher Peggy Newton, who has presented her research on Leslie Irvin at Willard Library.

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