Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Doris Duke

Real Name: Doris Duke
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Beverly Hills, California
Date: October 28, 1993


Details: Doris Duke was the only child of wealthy tobacco farmer James Buchanan Duke. She was just twelve when her father died, leaving her with $100 million, a third of his holdings. As she grew up, her fortune grew into the billions. She led an eccentric and lavish lifestyle. She married twice, divorced twice, and had dozens of lovers. She had only child who died at birth. When she was in her seventies, she adopted a thirty-five-year-old woman named Chandi Heffner. In 1987, she re-wrote her will and named Chandi executor of her estate. Some time later, she introduced Doris to Bernard Lafferty, who would later become her butler. According to family members, she did not like Lafferty, as he was a sloppy alcoholic.
In 1991, Doris removed Chandi as executor and replaced her with Dr. Harry Demopoulos, a self-styled longevity specialist. At the time, she had also considered her nephew and a few others. However, within a year, Dr. Demopoulos was dropped and replaced by Doris's accountant, who was later replaced by Doris's half-nephew and Lafferty.
Although some claim that Lafferty was a close friend and confidant of Doris, others disagree. Doris's former housekeeper Ann Bostich and personal chef Colin Shanley believe that Lafferty was a manipulator and was in control of Doris's life. Within days of appointing Lafferty as co-executor, Doris elected to undergo extensive cosmetic surgery. The surgeon was recommended by Lafferty. Just two days after the surgery, Doris fell at home and broke her hip. She was referred to Dr. Charles Kivowitz, who became her primary physician.
During the next few months, she was in and out of the hospital several times. She was also suffering from bouts of confusion. In March of 1993, she changed her will to leave practically all of her money to Lafferty; she also made him power of attorney. Papers were drawn up by two attorneys associated with Dr. Kivowitz. The papers were signed at Cedar-Sinai hospital. Ann and Colin were present; they do not believe that Doris knew what she was doing when she signed the papers. To them, it appeared that one of the attorneys, William Doyle, was guiding her into signing the papers. Doyle, however, claims that Doris was of sound mind and signed the papers of her own volition.
A few weeks later, Lafferty was also named sole individual executor of the estate. He allegedly went on a spending spree, buying thousands of dollars worth of clothing, jewelry, and gifts. In July of 1993, Doris suffered a stroke. After two months in the hospital, she returned home. Her bedroom was transformed into an intensive care unit with round-the-clock nursing supervision. Dr. Kivowitz claimed that her medical situation was terminal. One of the nurses, Tammy Payette, claimed that he had Doris placed on a massive sedation regime at the request of Lafferty. However, Payette has since lost credibility as she was later convicted of stealing valuables from several of her patients.
On October 7, Dr. Kivowitz began to administer Demerol by injection, even though Payette claims that Doris was not in pain. Payette also claims that Doris's request to return to the hospital was ignored. Nine days later, Dr. Kivowitz had her receive Demerol by continuous drip, rather than injection. By October 26, he believed that she was near death. The next day, a parcel was delivered to the mansion, addressed to one of the nurses. Colin claims that Lafferty took the package from the nurse and went downstairs. A few minutes later, he came back upstairs and stated "Ms. Duke is going to die tonight". Ann also heard Lafferty state this.
That night, Dr. Kivowitz switched Doris's morphine for Demerol. Payette claims that Lafferty seemed excited and impatient because Doris was lingering. He called Dr. Kivowitz, telling him that she had not yet died. He then returned to the mansion and administered another ten milligrams of morphine by IV push. He claimed that she was suffering from a build-up of fluid in the lungs. However, Payette refutes this.
By 4AM on October 28, Doris was clinging to life and Dr. Kivowitz increased the morphine. According to another nurse, another dose of Demerol was added to the morphine drip. An hour later, she passed away. Although her death was ruled to be the result of natural causes, some people believe that she was murdered for her fortune.
Since her death, six lawsuits have been filed, challenging her will.

Bernard Lafferty

Suspects: Some of Doris's employees and other associates believe that she was murdered by her doctor, Charles Kivowitz, her butler Bernard Lafferty, and some of her lawyers. They believe that they gave her high amounts of morphine and Demerol in order to kill her. Their apparent motive was to access her inheritance.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the April 26, 1996 episode. A mini-series, Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke, was created about Doris and her death.
Results: Solved. After an extensive investigation, the Los Angeles DA's office found no credible evidence that there was foul play involved in the death of Doris Duke. The civil suit challenging Doris's will, filed by her former housekeeper and cook, was dismissed. Bernard Lafferty passed away in November of 1996 at the age of fifty-one.