Serial killer Kenneth Allen McDuff, 1946-1998, murdered early and often.
On Nov. 17, 1998, he was executed by the jurisdiction he offended most frequently, the state of Texas.
But before that fateful day, he inflicted more mayhem than ever should have been possible for one human being.
McDuff was convicted of three murders in 1966 and sentenced to death.
The sentence was commuted to life when the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty. McDuff was unthinkably paroled in 1989.
He was known to have killed again in 1992 and was implicated in a number of other homicides. On the loose in Kansas City, he was captured and returned to Texas to be put to death.
His last words were said to be: “I’m ready to be released. Release me.”
Criminologists have since debated not only whom McDuff killed but whom he might have killed without anyone being able to prove it.
One of the latter individuals was Cynthia Renee Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 23, was found dead Sept. 21, 1991, some six days after she was reported missing in Arlington, in a creek bed near CR 313 in heavily wooded terrain one mile west of I-35.
The death certificate is dated Sept. 22. According to the Sept. 23 Times-Review, “Gonzalez had been reported missing since Monday after she went to a strippergram appointment in the Arlington area.
Gonzalez was the owner of a business in Arlington called Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast provided adult entertainment for special occasions.
Gonzalez, or Renee as she called herself, was the star attraction — until she was found with multiple gunshot wounds.
The body was identified Sept. 23. Arlington police officers provided her matching fingerprints.
McDuff’s name surfaced quickly as a possible suspect.
He was believed to have abducted a victim from a car wash in Austin.
Gonzalez’s car, a two-seat Pontiac Fiero, was seen parked at a car wash in Arlington the day she disappeared.
Jim Ford, longtime Arlington police officer and a renowned homicide investigator, has looked at McDuff in connection with Gonzalez for going on 18 years. He’s never been able to make a match or mismatch.
“There were similarities in the Austin case and Cynthia Renee Gonzalez case,” Ford said. “He kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed his victim at a car wash in Austin. He dumped the bodies of several of his victims in rural areas. He killed several victims by shooting them.
“We never could specifically put McDuff in Johnson County or in the Arlington area at the time of the [Gonzalez] crime through any form of records we had access to.”
They couldn’t definitely determine that McDuff was on the street at the time, either.
“But we couldn’t find him to have been incarcerated anywhere at the time,” Ford said. “There were no documents showing where he was at the time of that murder.”
Is there any lab work that could be performed now to link him to the Gonzalez murder?
“Not that I’m aware of,” Ford said.
Ballistics evidence could still be helpful, Ford said.
“A ballistics match would be great. I’d rather not say what caliber ammunition was used. I’m thinking [McDuff] was known to use several different handguns. Bullets recovered from the victim’s body did not match any firearms connected to McDuff or anyone else.”
Could the murder weapon still exist?
“It’s hard to say,” Ford said. “I don’t know why people don’t always destroy murder weapons. Often times, they don’t.”
Because of Gonzalez’s profession — she had also danced at area topless clubs — there were persons of interests galore.
“It depends on your definition of suspect,” Ford said. “There is no one that we developed probable cause on to arrest or file charges on.”
Persons of interest he talked with, Ford said, were cooperative, “but that doesn’t mean anything. There are varying degrees of cooperation. Some cooperate to a certain extent, and some cooperate fully. Most everyone we looked at was an acquaintance or relative. Most of them we were able to eliminate sufficiently through alibis and other means. We did polygraph work on most of the persons of interest.”
The Times-Review interviewed Gonzalez’s daughter, Jessica, in 2003. Ford said he would like to interview the girl, now in her 20s.
Jessica Gonzalez told the Times-Review recently that she would be willing to talk to a Texas Ranger.
What might be learned from her, and how, is another matter.
“Hypnosis is not necessarily a proven practice, and there are issues about it being admissable in court,” Ford said. “I’m not sure she would have any memory of that particular day in 1991 other than it being a tragic day. But I would love to talk to her.”
Cynthia and husband Don Gonzalez had been separated for several months when the murder occurred.
“They got along in regards to the raising of the child,” Ford said. “The daughter lived with Don, and Don would provide the daughter to Cindy for visitation. To my knowledge, the only relationship Cindy and Don had at that time [of the murder] was through the child. They had no romantic relationship then.”
Was Cindy Gonzalez romantically linked to anyone else at the time of her death?
“Yes,” Ford said. “He was one of the persons of interest. We were able to clear him.”
Because of the unusual location of the body dump, Ford and other officers looked for persons of interest with a connection to Johnson County.
“There was one young man who was one of her customers,” Ford said. “His dad owned a business in Johnson County. He was ruled out as well.”
The case generated considerable publicity in Arlington. It might still generate more.
“A witness may have seen a suspect driving her car,” Ford said. “We had people who saw her car unoccupied at the car wash. Then the car was located about a mile and a half away, parked on a residential street. The presumption was maybe that the suspect drove it there. But she could have driven it over there before the crime.
“We canvassed the neighborhood, but no information was obtained which led to the identity of the suspect.”
Ford said Gonzalez was in the process of buying her vehicle from a tote-the-note dealer in Arlington.
“I think they ended up repossessing the car after the murder,” he said. “We processed the car for prints. I don’t think there were any prints besides hers inside. We have not matched fingerprints from the victim’s car to any unknown suspects.”
Gonzalez’s car was probably not used in the dump.
“There wasn’t any blood, and it was a small vehicle,” Ford said.
Possible scenarios? There are many, and most would fit Kenneth McDuff.
“She could have gotten into somebody else’s vehicle and gone to the appointment with the idea that the other person would bring her back,” Ford said. “It’s also possible she could have returned from that appointment and then gone on another appointment. The suspect could have moved the car later.”
Ford is immensely bothered that the case has never been solved.
“She was an attractive, nice, young lady and certainly did not deserve to die,” he said. “We would love to find out who did it so justice can be served.”
He still hopes that will happen.
“Maybe some of the alliances or loyalties have changed. Maybe there’s not a fear factor involved. I went back over this case in 2005 to see if anything different could be done with modern technology. I did some computer work to find out where some of the persons of interest are located now. Perhaps I can go talk to them again.”
Serial killer Kenneth Allen McDuff, 1946-1998, murdered early and often.
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