Born in Ocala, Fla., Duke graduated from high school in Tampa. Little is known about his early adult years–family members claimed he was in the Air Force for eight years, but that could not be confirmed.
In the mid-1990s, Duke had drifted to the Florida Panhandle–not the spring break-filled sugar sand beaches, but the remote and wooded inland.
The ’90s were a blur of court hearings and personal conflicts.
He divorced a woman named Anita in 1995 and at some point, had a daughter. He was sued by a property management company in 1999. In 2000, he was convicted for waiting in the woods for his ex-wife with a rifle, wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest. She confronted him and then tried to leave in a vehicle, but Duke shot the vehicle’s tires. His second wife, Rebecca, said the incident was a misunderstanding and that he went to his ex-wife’s house because the ex-wife “wouldn’t leave them alone.”
Duke’s attorney on the case, Ben Bollinger, remembered Duke as especially paranoid about the new millennium.
“He was one of these Y2k people,” he said, referring to a computer bug that some people thought was going to cause massive problems and economic chaos Jan. 1, 2000. “He was one of those believers that the world was going to turn for worst and he was stockpiling weapons, assault weapons.”
Bollinger said Duke took a plea agreement: Five years in prison followed by 10 years probation. A judge relieved him of the probation obligations in January after Duke said he was unemployed and his wife might soon be as well. He said he was looking to move to a better place to find a job, according to court documents posted on the Smoking Gun website.
He also sought psychiatric help and took his medications as ordered and completed his probation, his lawyer said.
“He was competent but he was one of those people had a mood disorder where they could be depressed one day and all excited another day. I just remember the doctor saying he had a personality disorder,” Bollinger recalled.
While in prison, Duke filed for bankruptcy.