On June 15, 2016 the literary world lost a revolutionary voice of horror and suspense. The author of the tension-fueled I Know What You Did Last Summer, Lois Duncan, died at the age of 82. Duncan had penned classic mysteries for young readers like Killing Mr. Griffin and Stranger With My Face, before stopping in 1997 to pursue the cause most important to her: finding her daughter’s killer.
Duncan’s 18-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette, was found shot to death on July 16, 1989 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The high school graduate was on her way to her mother’s house after having dinner with a friend. A car pulled up next to Kaitlyn’s and shot her twice in the head. She was rushed to a nearby hospital where she fell into a coma, and later passed away from her injuries.
Police told Lois Duncan and her husband that Kaitlyn was the victim of a random drive-by shooting, but the seasoned mystery writer refused to believe it. The mother would subsequently embark on an investigation, spanning three decades, into the truth behind her daughter’s death, delving deeper and deeper into a dark world filled with Asian gangs and insurance fraud.
Lois Duncan detailed her findings on a website, Who Killed Kait Arquette, which was similarly dedicated to solving her daughter’s murder, and also wrote the bestselling non-fiction book about the case, Who Killed My Daughter? Duncan’s dedication to the mystery even garnered the case national publicity on popular television programs such as Unsolved Mysteries.
According to reports, Kaitlyn was extremely upset the night she was murdered. Her friend, Sharon, spoke with her on the phone that night, crying about her boyfriend, Dung. Kaitlyn told Sharon that she did not want to return to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, and asked if she could call to see if he was home. Dung never answered any of the multiple calls Kaitlyn’s friend made that night, leading the two of them believe he wasn’t home.
The day after Kaitlyn was murdered, her friends informed Lois Duncan and her family that their daughter’s boyfriend was a member of an Asian organized crime ring. Kaitlyn knew information that could expose them, and it was heavily suggested that she was murdered to keep her quiet.
The information to which Kaitlyn was privy seemed to revolve around insurance fraud. Basically, the gang of which Dung was a part would steal cars and stage accidents in order to claim insurance money. Dung participated in the scheme himself, and Kaitlyn witnessed one particular incident firsthand. Dung confessed to the police about this, and admitted that up to 20 others were involved in the crimes.
Dung and the rest of the crime ring weren’t the only suspects on Lois’s list. She also looked into possible hit-men, and dirty cops who could have covered up the crime. Duncan even travelled to the darkest parts of New Mexico, trying to uncover the truth of her daughter’s passing.
No matter what stood in her way, Duncan was determined to find justice for her daughter. She later commented about the case, stating; “In dreams, Kaitlyn tells me, ‘Don’t give up, mother.’ It’s not a matter of revenge. It’s a matter of Kait being worth the truth.”
Ultimately, Duncan would never find the truth. She died before solving the murder, and the mystery remains unsolved. While she played a huge part in bringing forth vital information to the case, there were never any solid answers. One can only hope that the influential writer has found peace in death, and has been reunited with her lost daughter.