The real murder that shook the life of the author of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”

Lois Duncan became known for her thrillers and detective stories – many of them with teenagers. In fact, it was one of those stories that led to the 1997 film “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which was a huge box-office hit. Now there’s a series of the same name, inspired by the same book, that premieres on October 15th on Amazon Prime Video.

Coincidentally, the murder of Kaitlyn Duncan, the youngest daughter of Lois Duncan, who was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 1989 when she was just 18 years old, has apparently been solved in the last few days – the case deeply shook Lois Duncan’s life the writer who stopped writing thrillers and detective stories. But it’s best to start at the beginning.

One July night, Kaitlyn Duncan’s body was found dead in her car that crashed into a phone booth. At first it was even thought it was the result of a car accident, but it was later discovered that Kaitlyn had two bullet holes in her body.

The family who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico were completely shocked. The street was deserted and there was virtually no trace of what had happened. Authorities initially considered it an isolated, arbitrary act of violence, but Lois Duncan did not believe that the life of her daughter, a young student who had just left home to live with her boyfriend, had been destroyed for no reason.

Unsatisfied with the police investigation, Lois Duncan soon hired a private detective to investigate separately. Although the family liked and even took in Kaitlyn’s boyfriend in some way – Nguyen was a poor Vietnamese immigrant who had come to the United States under difficult conditions – he quickly became a suspect to be investigated.

During the murder, Nguyen was in a bar with friends. When he went home, he was waiting for his girlfriend, but she never showed up. A gun residue test was performed on his hands, but the result was negative. The couple had quarreled lately, but a note allegedly written by Kaitlyn proved that things were relatively settled at the time of her death.

“Honey, where are you? I know you’re still angry. Sorry, ok? I miss you. I went to the mother’s house to return these books. See you soon,” read a paper signed by Kaitlyn, that stayed at their home and was the only evidence that the police identified and collected from the home.

Kaitlyn and Nguyen at home together.

A few days after Kaitlyn’s death, Nguyen was found in a bloody dormitory with friends. A knife was stuck in his abdomen. Nguyen said he tried to kill himself, that he felt guilty about his girlfriend’s death, that they would have been together that night if they weren’t upset. There were also those who suspected the alleged suicide attempt, as stabbing in the stomach is a difficult way of killing oneself.

A line of investigation began to follow between the authorities and the private investigations in which Lois Duncan was actively involved, aimed at local Vietnamese gangs. It turned out that Nguyen was involved in a fraudulent, bogus auto-accident program designed to hold money from insurance companies.

Kaitlyn would have discovered their involvement and the two would have been upset in any way – but there was never any evidence or evidence that these criminal organizations could be involved, although there were inconsistencies in Nguyen’s version of the story and in his behavior.

It was even suspected that the note Kaitlyn left was written by someone else – and there were calls to unregistered numbers from the apartment the night the 18-year-old girl was murdered. She had been murdered, Nguyen would be in a bar. There was never any conclusion about these mysterious phone calls.

During the investigation, Lois Duncan discovered details she did not know about her daughter. Apparently, from a young age Kaitlyn Duncan liked to take unknown travelers with her to tell her about her experiences. And he received letters from suitors, apparently in response to a girl’s advertisement that the young woman had posted somewhere.

After a while, two men were eventually charged with Kaitlyn’s murder. Miguel Garcia and Juvenal Escobedo were two local youths and authorities believed they had committed arbitrary violence. They were arrested and charged. But the testimonies they placed there quickly turned out to be full of errors and falsehoods. The gun they allegedly used had been in trouble for several months and wasn’t working. The main witness hadn’t been there. The charges were eventually dropped and there was no further investigation.

Lois Duncan turned to children’s books after the death of her daughter.

However, Lois Duncan began writing about the case. The author gathered everything that was known about the investigation, reported on her personal experiences, and described how she had even consulted a medium in order to desperately search for the truth. “Who killed my daughter?” was released in 1992. Many years later, in 2013, it released a sequel – essentially an updated version of the story – called “One to the Wolves.” The author died three years later, in 2016, at the age of 82, without really knowing what had happened to her daughter.

In the past few days, a man has come forward to confess to the crime. His name is Paul Apodaca, he is now 53 years old and has admitted that he murdered Kaitlyn Duncan as an arbitrary act of violence. Apodaca’s name had already been investigated, but it had never been properly addressed by the authorities.

When the first detective got to Kaitlyn’s car, there was a man near the vehicle who allegedly happened to be nearby and heard the impact. His name was Paul Apodaca. He was in his early twenties but by then was already charged with multiple attacks on women and robbery. After this murder, he spent many years in jail for other crimes, including rape of an underage family member.

The police kept the data from Apodaca, but he was never investigated. Her name wasn’t even entered into the database to search for possible criminal records. A builder had seen another car near Kaitlyns – the same make as Apodaca’s. A long investigation could have been short and easy if handled properly by the authorities, which Lois Duncan already suspected.

Now, Paul Apodaca has not yet been charged with the murder of Kaitlyn Duncan by the US authorities, but is awaiting trial for another murder – the man has recently confessed to several crimes in addition to those for which he was already known. The story could have come from one of Lois Duncan’s books – the author never wanted to write stories about murderous crimes and psychopaths again after this incident.

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