To this day, one can only assume what happened inside the little
duplex on North Second Street, in Phoenix, Arizona, at approximately
10:25 p.m., October 16, 1931. History accepts this much: Two young
women were shot to death with a .25 calibre handgun fired by their
former roommate, pretty, svelte 26-year-old Winnie Ruth Judd –
perhaps in self defense. As well, someone (Mrs. Judd claimed it wasn't
she) devised a plan to hack the bodies into pieces so that they would
fit neatly into shipping trunks for tidy disposal. Taking blame for both
the killings and the mutilations, Winnie Ruth Judd earned the sordid
moniker "The Trunk Murderess".
But...over the years – and because of sleuthing supplied by many
people, including investigative reporter Jana Bommersbach – the
story of that night and its subsequent events has taken on a mien that
reeks of political chicanery. With their research, a behind-the-scenes
cabal has materialized that appears to have been wholly devoid of
conscience in using "The Trunk Murderess," the woman and that
infamy, as its way to escape its thoroughly deserved punishment.
The following article is stitched together from several sources, in
particular Miss Bommersbach's revelations. The facts are compiled in
as chronological an order as possible in order to tell the foundation of
a compelling story -- while keeping a tension line and a particular point
of view flowing in the same direction.
Like so many gruesome tales of this genre, this version cannot be
considered the final, inclusive story. It is, rather, an interpretation
founded on the works of the most recent findings.
I would like to thank Ms. Lyn Cisneros for her time in sharing with
Dark Horse her one-on-one experiences with Winnie Ruth Judd. Her
recollections, which appear here in print for the very first time (final
chapter), offer an insightful and very human view of the subject
Around him, passengers in stylish Stetsons and feminine cloches
rushed to and from their trains amid the hustle-bustle of redcaps and
stewards and baggage men like himself who staffed Los Angeles Union
Station this Monday morning, October 19. The human activity was
accompanied by the shrill screech of arriving steam engines and the
incessant, almost automaton voice of the clerk announcing departures
and arrivals. George Brooker, in blue uniform and wearing the blue,
round cap that identified him as a baggage-checker, had been hard at
work several hours already. All of the cases, trunks, valises, parcels
and packages that had been unloaded from that morning's arrival of
the Golden State Limited from Phoenix, Arizona, had long been picked
up by their owners, but two trunks, he noted, remained on the flatbed
truck. Checking his baggage list against those trunks, he ensured that
those pieces did indeed come off the said train. He decided to wait a
few more minutes before returning them to storage; someone may call
for them yet.
Both were black with great silver latch-type locks. One was a large
packer trunk, 40" by 24" by 38," and had been weighed in at 235
pounds. The other was an average-sized stream trunk, 15" by 18" by
36," weighing some 50 pounds less.
Besides, he had a particular interest in talking to the owner of those
two trunks. It was his job to act as inspector of any suspect luggage,
and God forbid should he pass on any contraband such as illegal
firearms or liquor; this was 1931, Prohibition was in effect, and he had
been given strict orders from the Southern Pacific for whom he worked
to keep an eye peeled for bootleg hooch or tommy guns in transit.
But, that pair of seemingly abandoned trunks surely didn't smell of
alcohol nor of gunpowder. But, they had an odor that he best described
to himself as something foul, something... nauseating. It wasn't
uncommon for hunters returning from the mountains to try to smuggle
their catch through rail customs – venison, or deer, or even bear meat.
Worse, he had noticed a dark fluid dripping though the corners of the
lid onto his truck.
A few minutes before noon, Brooker noticed a Ford roadster backing
up toward the receiving dock. Alighting was an attractive young
couple, a blondish woman with a face like movie star Norma Shearer
and a handsome college-age male, several years younger than the
woman. The former asked for her trunks, presenting a claim ticket for
both. She and her associate ascended the few wooden steps to the
Brooker's boss, baggage agent Jim Anderson, with whom he had
earlier shared his observations of the shipment, stepped out of his
office and signaled to the other that he would take over.
"Have to ask, ma'am: What're the contents?" Anderson inquired,
thumbing her two large baggage trunks.
"Oh, nothing. Personal articles," the woman answered. Anderson, as
did Brooker, noted she seemed uneasy. As she was closer now to him,
Anderson thought she looked a trifle bruised about the face.
"Your personal items?" the agent pursued.
"Er.... yes, they are my trunks," she explained. She tried to smile.
"Sorry I'm a little late picking them up, but I had to wait for my
brother" – she motioned the boy – "to drive over here and help me.
They're rather heavy."
"Ah, I see," Anderson reasoned to remain personable, "and yes, they
are – heavy. Ma'am, excuse me, but there seems to be a stench
coming from inside each."
"Really?" She intoned a surprise. A panic darkened her pretty features.
Her brother, however, laughed. "You're kidding!" And he leaned over to
sniff. One whiff and he grimaced. "Hmm, you're right, sir" he turned to
the baggage man, nodding. "And look, Ruth, something seems to be
The woman intimated nonchalance. She claimed she smelled nothing –
well, maybe a little something; and as for whatever that was dripping
-- for the life of her she couldn't figure out what that was. After all, as
far as she remembered she had only clothing and ladies' private things
stored inside them.
"Nevertheless, ma'am," Anderson sounded stern this time. "I have to
ask you to unlock them for my inspection. Please open the trunks,
"The woman seemed hesitant (but) opened her purse and fumbled
around inside with her one good hand – Anderson now noticed that the
other was bandaged – as though looking for the keys to unlock the
trunks," says Jana Bommersbach in her book, The Trunk Murderess:
Winnie Ruth Judd. "'My husband has the keys,' she told him, and
Anderson took it for a lie right away."
When her inquirer offered to let her use his station phone, she
declined, telling him that she would have to fetch her husband in
person; she could not recall his telephone number verbatim. Suddenly,
she had alerted and, as both Brooker and his superior noticed, could
not wait to get away from them. On the same token, her brother
seemed as equally puzzled as his sibling tugged him down the steps
toward the automobile, not looking back, not once, as the Ford
wheeled out of the lot.
Suspicious, Anderson phoned the L.A.P.D. A Lieutenant Frank Ryan
answered the call. Hearing the railman's tale, the detective picked the
lock of the larger trunk first. Even before he opened it, his decade of
experience warned him, by the smell and its putrid leaking, to expect
the worst. Opening the lid, he was momentarily overcome by more
than the odor. Lifting a layer of rags and clothing from a corner, the
decomposing face of a dead woman stared blankly back at him. He
dropped the lid closed.
"Holy sh---" A wail of a locomotive from the tracks beyond drowned
out his expletive.
Regaining his senses, he dared to examine both trunks.
A headline article that would appear in the following morning's Los
Angeles Examiner detailed what Lt. Ryan found: "In the larger one was
the body of an older and larger woman. She had been shoved into the
trunk and partly hidden by a mass of clothing, blankets, letters and a
jumble of other material, apparently thrown hastily on top of the
corpse...In the body of (a) younger woman were three bullet wounds.
One was through the left temple, one in the left breast and one in the
left shoulder...She had been stuffed into the smaller trunk, for the
body had been severed by a keen-edged instrument – cut completely
into three pieces, but the portion from the waist to the knees was
Both women appeared to have been dead about two days.
The missing pieces of the younger woman soon turned up. A janitor in
the ladies' restroom at the depot discovered that evening, a beige
valise and hatbox, hidden behind the door of the ladies' restroom.
Police recovered the items and, as they had with the two trunks,
removed them to the morgue where they were searched. In the valise
was the remaining lower torso, wearing shreds of pink pajamas. This
was bundled in blankets.
The matching hatbox contained a surgeon's kit of instruments, the
type used to dissect, a Colt .25 calibre automatic pistol, one box of .25
caliber Winchester cartridges, a bread knife and an assortment of
In no time, the police verified that the wayward pieces of luggage
belonged to passenger Winnie Ruth Judd who had boarded the train
Sunday evening in Phoenix.
Winnie, who most people called Ruthie or Ruth, was the daughter of
Reverend and Mrs. McKinnell from Darlington, Indiana, plunked deep
within the rural Methodist wheatbelt. She was 26 years old in 1931,
seven years married to a doctor whose practice had waned with his
drug habit. It wasn't Dr. William C. Judd's fault, Winnie would protest,
defending him, for he had become addicted through morphine he
received to treat a wound during the world war of 1918.
Nevertheless, their marriage had been a disappointment. She needed
Life with Dr. Judd, her senior by 22 years, had never delivered its early
expectations. At the time she met him, he practiced at a psychiatric
hospital where she typed and filed; he was smitten with the cute,
fragile, hundred-pound dishwater blonde who, in return, was overcome
with his brainpower. While dating, he spoke of adventure, of how he
would love to travel the world, practicing his profession, she at his
side. After they married in April, 1924, they wound up in northern
Mexico where her dreams of having a baby broke the monotony. Twice
she became joyously pregnant, twice she miscarried. Her frail,
weakened form soon contracted a slight form of tuberculosis. Her
husband placed her in a sanatorium in California.
Dr Judd (standing) with Ruth's parents
After this first attempt to recover her health, she tried several times to
rejoin her husband in Mexico, following him from one indigent town to
another. Tending to Mexico's poor spoke well of his principles, but this
practice did not support a young wife who was neither accustomed to
living in poverty nor, more practically, was she physically strong
enough to endure these conditions because of health problems. In
1930, she traveled back to the U.S. He remained in Mexico. Their
communication was constant, but Ruth found she required more than
Xs on a letter.
In 1930, she moved to Phoenix, Arizona, known for its tubercular
She cut her long hair and sported the fashionable "bob" cut of the day.
And she fell in love with smiling, debonair, bedroom-eyed and saucy
Her first job was as governess to the wealthy Leigh Ford family, a
position she loved. Halloran, the Ford's next-door neighbor, proved to
be a side benefit. Their over-the-fence chats developed into much
more and every chance they had she would steal from the Ford
homestead, and he from his wife and three children, for a rendezvous
under the desert skies of Phoenix.
"Halloran was 44 years old and one of the town's success stories,"
reads Jana Bommersbach's heavily researched The Trunk Murderess.
"When anyone in Phoenix named the movers and shakers, Jack
Halloran's name was on the list... If you wanted a political favor, Jack
Halloran knew who to ask. People remember him as a take-charge
kind of guy whose laugh could fill a room."
He probably emanated a charm that the complacent William Judd
never could, and exploded sexuality totally foreign to the good doctor.
Phoenix in the early Thirties, despite its jabs at modernity and a large
population of good people just trying to live and let live, was in many
ways still a Wild West personality, full of modern-day desperadoes. It
uniquely bore the raw and rough- and-tumble-ahead, carefree rapport
with life that was slowly disappearing in other, older cities behind a
somber, more prayerful and conscientious hope for industry thrust
upon them by a national Depression.
Phoenix's boardwalks were full of the regular john does who sought
the most peaceful life possible; they had heard that Arizona, the
newest state in the Union, offered that. Miles of desert between itself
and other metropolises seemed to have cut, at least escaped from, a
reality of past problems.
But, the desperadoes straddled the same boardwalks, and they were
everywhere. They didn't come this time with a snarl, waving guns and
staging shootouts at high noon. They smiled now, and wore pinstriped
suits and stole the advantage of the town rather than the money from
its banks outright. They were rustlers, like Jack Halloran, who enjoyed
running Phoenix like a Saturday night hootenanny and shooting from
the hip with swagger and verbosity; the meter of their caliber was
lethal: political savvy and an assured grin. They were the roustabouts,
boasting a clutch on the throttle of the town administration, scuffing
their path with invisible spurs, even up the sacred aisles of Municipal
Hall to address the civic committees to promise their support for a
more God-Fearing and Better Phoenix.
Because Phoenix had grown basically out of the desert ether, that is
from a hitching-post town to one with an emerging art deco skyline, it
was able to creep up ungoverned while the rest of the country was
unaware of it. The reformers were watching Chicago, as was New York
and Kansas City and St. Paul. But, Phoenix was viewed as a
blossoming cactus of the Southwest, its needles albeit unobserved. On
the surface, it wore a strict code of family morals and wedded loyalty –
and most of the 50,000 residents practiced what they preached – but
there was the element who found the motto, "a city of homes,
churches and schools" a convenient mask to camouflage their
There was a league of Jack Hallorans there, big biters and big takers
and big kickers. Suddenly rich on the pastel Sonora Desert, they ran
Phoenix for the pleasure of their own pocketbook and libido. Americans
didn't think of Phoenix as a Gomorrah, and that was its greatest
Jack Halloran was part owner of one of the largest lumberyards in this
modern-day garden of sin. And owning a lumberyard in a burgeoning
garden-turned-metropolis is a virtue that speaks for itself. A member
of the Phoenix Country Club, he rubbed shoulders with the denizens of
smoke-filled political backrooms, mayor on down, as well as patrons of
business who, because they hoped to maintain an industry there,
became very adept at psalming, "Yes, sir, mayor!" with an efficient nod
of the head. Jack probably started out as a yes-man, too, but now he
was one of the rich and favored.
Winnie Ruth Judd didn't realize the dangerous company she was giving
herself to in the back seat of Model Citizen Jack's luxury sedan. She
may have had misgivings – she continued to pour out her love to Dr.
Judd in ink and, in fact, wrote him that she hoped he would come to
Phoenix – but in the interim she
obviously was feeling the freedom of the new girl in town. Attracting
male stares made her feel like a woman, not just a preacher's
daughter. Sensing the space and experimenting with what a woman
can find in that space, she was having the time of her unconventional
After a few months with the Ford family, Winnie sought a financial step
up as a medical secretary at the private Grunow Clinic. Her salary of
$75 was quite good for the year 1931; it afforded her monthly rent for
a small cottage at 1102 East Brill Street, food in the Kelvinator ice box,
and a little left over to send her husband who had left Mexico for
California where he had admitted himself into a hospital for drug cure.
Ruth's best friends were Anne LeRoi, a 32-year-old Oregonian divorcee
who was an X-ray technician at Grunow, and 24-year-old Hedvig (or
"Sammy") Samuelson from North Dakota who, because she was
suffering from TB, had taken a hiatus from a teaching career. Before
coming to Phoenix in early February of 1931, both these professional
women worked in Alaska. It was there that they met and where they
decided to move together down south because of Sammy's worsening
After their deaths, certain newspapers would hint at Anne's
"mannishness" and term their friendship as a "queer love," a
derogatory term for lesbianism in the first decades of the 20th
Century. That they were bisexual might be true, for their relationship
does seem to have extended to that. But, simultaneously, they also
openly exhibited an interest in certain men, especially Ruth's male
companion, who they called "Happy Jack".
They lived at 2929 North Second Street, in a small studio-type duplex,
"a trolley ride away," according to Bommersbach, from Ruth's Brill
Street place. There, they often threw small parties for Ruth and
Halloran and the latter's married business buddies whom he brought
along for revel.
He also brought crates of bootlegged booze. The men wined and dined
the girls throughout the evening while their wives figured hubby was
at the office working
hard. Rather, hubby was hardly working. Because these knights of big
business and big city dealings tended to leave behind them a wad of
money for the girls' hospitality, one might conclude without so
skeptical a mind that the hospitality may have included more than a
tray of pastrami sandwiches and a leisurely bowl of popcorn.
Ruth knew that Jack tended to visit the two girls on his own and
would, many times, begift them rolls of greenery and bundles of
presents, but according to what is known she never balked. Still,
author Bommersbach hints in her book The Trunk Murderess that
beneath the amiability and, in fact, secret-sharing relationship the
three girlfriends had, there was indeed a semblance of kinetic rivalry.
If she had been a fool, Ruth might have totally overlooked Jack's
generosity to her female friends, but she was not a fool. Jack, she
determined, was not a benefactor Santa Claus. Anne was a tall, well-
built, stunning brunette with chiseled features, and blonde, dimpled
Sammy did not exactly leave men cold. Both were charismatic, fun
loving and, what Jack liked best, adventurous.
In autumn, 1931, the three girls attempted space sharing in the small
quarters on North Second Street. Living under one roof produced
problems, though. They began arguing daily, mostly over differences in
housekeeping. Ruth was casual in her habits; the other two were
obsessively neat. To placate, Ruth returned to her old digs at Brill
But, a feeling of animosity was developing nevertheless, and not over
tidiness. The bond between Anne and Sammy had always been
impenetrable; they were sisters in one thought for so long and,
whether sexual or spiritual, they doted on each other, protecting each
other to no extent; Anne was the breadwinner and Sammy the
homemaker. They were a family of two. Winnie, in a manner of
speaking, was an outsider who, probably because she felt that way,
had chosen to give them the freedom they needed to once again live
the way they required.
Not that she wished to penetrate their circle – she was independently
happy and lost in the throes of romance with her Jack – and fighting
conscience over her
betrayal of Dr. Judd -- but, no doubt, the interplay that existed
between her and Jack, and Jack and her friends, almost certainly
caused a sensation of distrust among all parties.
This negative underplay came to a combustive and startling – and
deadly – head on Friday, October 16, 1931. Trouble began to twitch
the evening before, on Thursday. During the week, Ruth learned that
Jack and his crones had been planning a deer-hunting party in the
White Mountains of northern Arizona. She offered to introduce Jack to
a fellow employee at Grunow Clinic, a pretty, young nurse named
Lucille Moore, who had come from that part of the country and was
familiar with its wildlife. Jack agreed to meet Miss Moore and on
Thursday he first picked up Ruth, then Moore, and headed back to
Ruth's house where she had dinner in the oven.
On their way back, Jack remembered that he had promised to stop at
Anne and Sammy's house to see a couple friends who were visiting
there. Ruth felt uncomfortable because she had earlier turned down a
dinner invitation telling Anne that she had business that night; she
hadn't wanted to go into the history of the planned hunting excursion
and Lucille Moore's involvement. While her reasons are unclear, they
strongly and strangely suggest that she might have sensed a jealousy
that would have raged had the girls known that she was introducing
Jack to another good-looking woman. Later presumptions conclude
that Ruth knew, or strongly suspected, that she had been sharing
Jack's bed with Anne and, possibly, Sammy, too.
Jack went into the house to see his buddies, and Ruth's friends came
out to say hello to Ruth and Miss Moore (whom Anne slightly knew
from the clinic). Ruth observed no resentment in their actions; they
were highly cordial – even asked them to stay for dinner, which Ruth
had to turn down because of her dinner waiting at home. It would not
be until the following night that Ruth realized her initial suspicions had
Anne LeRoi and Sammy Samuelson hadn't liked the idea of pretty,
young Lucille Moore one bit.
On Friday, October 16, 1931, Winnie Ruth Judd shot Anne LeRoi and
Sammy Samuelson to death. That's what history says and, for that
matter, what Ruth herself said. Details remain sketchy, however. To
present a depiction of what seems to have occurred that evening and
over the weekend, the following events are based on a transcript of a
confession Ruth made to a sheriff after her trial. Evidence uncovered
from the crime scene supports this story, including her testimony that
she killed in self defense.
There are holes, nonetheless, considering sensible theories that sprang
up afterwards. None of these discredit Ruth, but they suggest that
Jack Halloran's role in the crime was larger than his being the after-
the-fact participant exhibited here. (These suspicions will be presented
Friday: The Murders
Ruth arrived home from work around 6:30 p.m. that Friday evening,
fed her cat, then waited for Jack Halloran to take her to dinner. She
waited until nearly nine when she realized Jack had stood her up. This
wasn't the first time. Angry, she resolved to leave him waiting, and
grabbed the Indian School Trolley to visit with Anne and Sammy on
Second Street. She knew that they were playing bridge that evening
with a mutual friend and figured she would join them.
By the time she arrived, their company had departed, but the girls
asked her to stay the night. The trolley line would soon shut down for
the night and, since both Ruth and Anne worked at the clinic on
Saturdays, they could go to work together in the morning. Ruth
They dressed for bed, but continued to sit up in their beds for a while,
sipping warm milk and talking. That is when an argument started.
Anne suddenly started berating Ruth for setting up the meeting
between Jack Halloran and Lucille Moore; she claimed the nurse was
being treated for syphilis and that in introducing Jack to her she had
endangered Jack's life. (Syphilis in the Thirties was as dreaded as
AIDS is today.) Ruth rebutted by saying that, firstly, she didn't expect
Jack to be interested in Moore romantically and, secondly, if it was true
about the woman's affliction, such information should remain in the
clinic and not made public.
Name calling erupted, and threats. Anne and Sammy joined forces to
intimidate Ruth. They insinuated that she was a slut, and wouldn't her
husband be happy to know how she was sleeping around! Ruth
counter-attacked by admitting that everyone at the clinic considered
the two as lesbians and no more than "perverts". When Anne, in
retaliation, threatened to tell Jack about Moore's disease, Ruth swore
that, if she did, she would tell the doctors at the clinic how Anne had,
in a fit of rage one day, purposely broke an expensive piece of X-ray
"This was no longer just a quarrel between girlfriends that would
eventually end with tears and promises to forgive and forget," Jana
Bommersbach asserts in The Trunk Murderess. "This was now a bitter
fight with each side threatening to destroy the other – socially and
The verbal daggers had pierced enough, Ruth determined, and left the
bedroom to put her cup of milk in the kitchen sink. The time was, Ruth
estimated later, about 10:25 p.m. From the corner of her eye, she saw
a movement and heard a grunt; turning, she saw Sammy behind her
with a gun whose barrel she placed against her chest. Ruth screamed,
shoving the gun away, simultaneously reaching for a bread knife from
the kitchen counter.
The women grappled, and the gun discharged a bullet into Ruth's left
hand. She faltered and, as Sammy re-aimed at her chest again, Ruth
stabbed Sammy across the shoulder in self-defense. Both women were
stunned, but recovered instantly, only to fall to the floor. Locked and
fighting over possession of the firearm, it fired, striking Sammy in the
left shoulder, but the latter still held on.
As Ruth testified: "I grabbed the gun and her hand was yet on the
trigger when that shot went through her chest, and she never relaxed
on the gun one bit until after she was shot..."
In the meantime, Anne had approached them, smacking Ruth atop her
head with an ironing board yelling for Sammy to "Shoot...Shoot her!"
After Sammy lay still, Anne continued to "brain" her with the board
and wouldn't stop despite Ruth's cries. In getting up, Ruth, now in
control of the gun, thought it had discharged again and that the shot
had gone wild because she had no time to pause between Anne's
wallops. Anne continued to bat her until Ruth was forced to fire.
All action was a blur, she wasn't even sure how many times she shot in
Anne's direction. She seemed to recall Anne listing, then recoiling, but
that too was part of the bad dream. Dizzy, she must have wavered for
a moment, because it wasn't long after that she found herself on the
floor, aching, flanked by two lifeless bodies.
Anne's body had fallen, according to Ruth, "back towards the stove.
Sammy's head...was in towards the breakfast room, the feet towards
the kitchen door...I must have fell too, afterwards, because (when I
came to) I was sitting on the floor...I put my dress on and nothing
else, just my shoes and my dress."
She went straight back to her house to get her pocketbook. The ride
home took a little longer than usual, since the trolley line was closing
and she couldn't take the car the full way. She walked the last few
blocks to her doorstep. When she arrived home, about 11:30 p.m., she
saw Jack Halloran waiting there, "dead drunk". Her intention had been
to call her husband, but Jack talked her out of it. Instead, she relied on
"I told him what had happened (but) he wouldn't believe it...And I
couldn't convince him." To prove it, she had him drive her back to
North Second Street. They parked on adjacent Pinchot Street, and
then entered the scene of the fight through the front door. After
examining the aftermath, Halloran "picked up Sammy and carried her
to Anne's bed." When he dropped the corpse onto the mattress, blood
splattered from Sammy's hair across the mattress and walls – tiny
drops of blood.
Ruth, meanwhile, began to mop the kitchen tiles, but broke down and
could not finish. She was shaking; her left hand, which had taken a .25
calibre bullet, throbbed like the devil. Jack completed the job himself.
He seemed annoyed when Ruth suggested giving herself up to the
police. "He scared me of the police, he scared me of the state's
attorney...he scared the life out of me, what it would mean. He told
me...that he would take care of this himself...and that everything
would be all right (but) to say absolutely nothing (to no one)."
Jack insisted that he let an associate of his, a Dr. Brown, come over to
attend to her hand. When Ruth protested,
worried that the doctor might in turn implicate Jack in the crime, the
latter smirked and ensured her that Brown would prove to be a willing
accomplice. According to Ruth, Jack said he "had enough on Brown to
hang him." Several attempts to reach Brown by phone failed, however,
and Halloran never mentioned his name again.
The mopping completed, Jack carried a good-sized packer trunk in
from the garage. Because she was still hysterical, he insisted that she
go home – he would drive her – and that she calm down. He would
return alone to the girls' house, he said, to finish up what needed to be
done. His plan was to force the two dead bodies into the trunk and
dispose of it in the desert. She agreed that that might be best for
everybody. On her way out of the house, she dropped the murder
weapon, a .25 calibre Winchester revolver, into her purse. Ten minutes
later she was home, but spent the evening weeping and wringing her
hands, wondering what Jack was up to and hoping that he would
Saturday: Best-Laid Plans
Early in the morning, she called work and begged to take a day off, but
her employers insisted she come in. To avoid suspicion, she obliged.
Performing her duties was difficult, not only because she was on pins
and needles – she hadn't heard from Halloran – but because she was
in pain from the gunshot. Her hand festered and felt swollen under a
bandage she had applied hours earlier.
Finally, about noon, Jack phoned her. He asked that she meet him at
the girls' house that evening; they needed to talk things over. She did
as he asked, taking the trolley directly to North Second Street from
work. Entering the front room, Ruth was disappointed to see the
packing trunk still there, hoping it was gone.
Halloran explained that it was too risky dumping corpses in the
countryside; the highway patrol scoured those roads constantly; and,
besides, if the remains were ever found, Ruth would be implicated
immediately, she being their friend and one-time roommate.
Jack opted another plan: that she take the trunk herself to Los Angeles
where it could be gotten rid of safely, away from Phoenix. "He wanted
me to take (it) and he said there would be someone there to meet
me...at Los Angeles," Ruth reported, "that he had a man by the name
of Williams, or Wilson, (who) would meet me."
The plan made sense. It appealed to Ruth. Doctor Judd currently lived
there; he could remove the bullet. Also, she had wanted to visit her
brother, Burton, who was attending college in Los Angeles. And, as
Halloran underscored, the trip gave her an ideal double-alibi for going
to L.A. – to see her husband and brother – just in case questions were
asked later. Jack promised to get her a ticket for the Golden State
Limited express train leaving Phoenix the following evening for the
She nodded. So that his Mr. Wilson could identify her at the busy train
station, she told Jack to tell him to look out for a short thin blonde in a
But, there were other things to consider first, before L.A. and brown
suits. As for those other things, they had been neatly packaged in the
Ruth's eyes surveyed the gruesome black oblong thing. "You were able
to fit the...girls in there?" she asked.
"I forced Anne in the bottom and, well, there wasn't a whole lot of
room left. Sammy was...er, operated on. That's the only way they
would both compact," Jack admitted. Ruth grew nauseated at the
thought even though, she noticed, he had chosen the more discrete
operated on over the harsher cut up. Her eyes rejected the sight of the
Halloran then left her alone at the house- turned- mausoleum while he
went off to procure a train ticket for her. It would be waiting and paid
for at the ticket window, he explained. He also left with her a phone
number for the Lightning Delivery Service. "Call them ahead of time,"
he directed, "and have them ship the trunk to the station. They will
load it on the train you're taking and it will be waiting for you and my
associate when you arrive in L.A."
"You're sure that this Wilson or whatever his name is will be there
when I am?"
"Trust me," he patted her hand. And left. She believed him, everything
he said. Especially that he would keep in touch with her. He lied. No
contact would meet her in Los Angeles, nor would he ever try to see
her again. After that night, it was as if he had never known her.
To paraphrase the old moral about "best laid plans," Ruth's went sour.
When the drivers from Lightning Delivery showed up later Saturday
night they told her the case was too heavy to be shipped by rail freight
and advised her to separate whatever was in it into two boxes before
sending it on. Caught unprepared, she told them to deliver it then to
her Brill Street address. The tradesmen thought her request, and her
bearing, were very odd – but she was the customer. They transported
the trunks and Ruth, to Brill.
In the early hours of Saturday night, Ruth was left alone with the
gruesome task of dividing up the contents of the bodies into other
containers. ("I had to," she later justified her actions, "because that
trunk was too heavy to go by express and I didn't know what else to
do.") She had tried to find Jack to help her, but he had disappeared.
According to her testimony to come, she removed several of the
smaller anatomical slivers from the packing trunk (with a Turkish
towel) into a larger steamer trunk she had had at home for storage. As
she sickened and the macabre task overwhelmed her, she sought the
relief of fresh air outside before plunging back to her chore. Wanting to
end this hell as soon as possible, she decided to try another strategy:
"I didn't lift (the body parts), I lowered them over the edge and they
fell into the lower (trunk). The piece I lowered, it was on top. I pulled
it over the edge into the (larger) trunk at the side of it...I had the big
trunk and the little trunk at the side and I pulled (the latter) over the
edge and lowered it into the other – you can't lift that big trunk."
After she felt she had equally dispersed all pieces, she quickly drew
out one more grisly section from the smaller trunk and stuffed it under
wads of soft materials in her valise. The glance she afforded that final
cutting told her it was Sammy's severed limbs.
When the revolting session was done, she raced to the bathroom and
released from her gut the curdling horrors of the weekend. By then,
the Sunday sun had risen to erase the gloom and vapors of the night.
Sunday: Leaving Phoenix
Only one hurdle remained this morning, Oct. 18: getting the two
heavy trunks to the train station for the eight o'clock evening
departure of the Golden Star Liner. (Again, Jack Halloran proved
inaccessible and she hoped he had at least fulfilled his promise of
reserving her a seat on the train.) For muscle, she sought the help of
her landlord, Howard Grimm, who lived in a small house behind hers.
Grimm was delighted to lend a hand and promised that he and his son
Kenneth would stop by her place at 6:30 p.m. to get her to the depot
At the appointed hour, says Jana Bommersbach, "(Ruth) pointed them
toward the bedroom, where they found two black trunks. Grimm
recalled grunting as he tried to lift the big trunk. Mrs. Judd apologized
for its weight, explaining that it contained her husband's medical
books...It took the strength of two men to carry the trunk to the
touring car (but) Kenneth managed the smaller trunk himself...Winnie
Ruth carried out a battered suitcase and a hatbox."
When weighed at the station, the large trunk came in 175 pounds
overweight. Ruth's heart fell, sure that the handlers would refuse to
accept it. But, when she was told she would have to pay $4.50 extra
for its excess weight, she realized she was home scot-free. The
baggage man then clipped a numbered claim check to each of the
trunk's handles, had her sign the receipt, and wheeled the things from
her sight. She watched, thankfully, as they disappeared behind the
baggage room door.
Picking up her ticket (Jack had prepaid it), she boarded the train and
rested her head back upon the cold leather of the cushion. Through
the skylight grating, she could see that the sky overhead had
darkened. A few stars twinkled in easy harmony.
Twelve hours from now she would be in Los Angeles. Twelve hours.
She hoped Jack's Mr. Wilson would recognize her; she wore the brown
suit, the one she told Jack to tell his friend to watch for.
What would become of the trunks, she didn’t know, hadn't asked. She
didn't need to. She knew that Jack always had a way of getting things
done. He knew people, knew how to deal. This time, she was sure,
would be no different.
But...at Los Angeles Union Station Mr. Wilson, or Williams, or whatever
his name was supposed to have been, never materialized.
And when she phoned, the Halloran's housekeeper told her the master
was not available; he had gone hunting and would be unreachable for
quite some time.
It didn't take the newspapers long to find a name for Winnie Ruth
Judd, and it was "The Trunk Murderess." Plain and simple. For a while
they toyed with "The Tiger Woman," but that seemed too generic and
didn't quite fit the genre of this woman whose petite, angelic face ran
large on the front pages of every newspaper across the nation. It was
the kind of face that men fell in love with and women gaped at unable
to understand how a face like that belonged to, obviously, a femme
fatale. They thought that if a Hollywood director were to cast someone
in a role of a character whose activities resembled her insidious
actions, they never would cast anyone who looked like Winnie Ruth
Newspapers clawed for information, anything they could find on the
Indiana preacher's daughter gone haywire. They uncovered her
clothing sizes, her favorite foods, her bouts with TB, her family's first
names, her marital history, even that she had a suspected boyfriend
named Jack Halloran. And in the morals-conscious milieux of 1931, the
fact she may have been adulterous met with as much scorn as her
Major gazettes offered rewards for her capture, and every columnist in
every city fell upon each other for "hot-button" tips and the latest
police findings in Phoenix and Los Angeles, the two cities currently
sharing a history of the Winnie Ruth Judd crime and getaway.
While Los Angeles police combed their city for Winnie, who had
vanished into thin air after departing in haste from the train station,
they wasted no time in tracking down her husband, Dr. Judd, and her
brother, Burton McKinnell. After briefly questioning both parties, they
quickly realized that neither of them, who had strong alibis for their
whereabouts over the weekend, had any previous knowledge of the
crime. William Judd was clearly overcome with shock and anxiety.
Burton, because he had accompanied his sister to the train station to
pick up the telltale luggage, had at first been labeled a solid suspect,
but his explanation of how he innocently happened to be with her was
Ruth had showed up on campus looking for him after her L.A. contact
fizzled out. Knowing there was no one else to help her, he dodged his
classes and drove her back to the station. It was only after they pulled
out of the depot that he realized his sibling had no intention of
retrieving them and was, in fact, preparing to go into hiding from the
law. As they cruised through Los Angeles' lunchtime traffic, she grew
When he asked her jokingly, "Ruth, what's in that trunk, a man or a
woman?" she answered, quite solemnly, "I'm not going to answer any
questions, and I can justify everything." She refused to talk about
what had happened, her brother said, interested only in getting away.
"She asked me for money because she said she had to leave, and I
said 'I think that is the best thing you can do. I wish you all the luck in
the world, kid.' And she left." Making him pull alongside a downtown
curb, she alit from his Ford and melted into the noonday crowd.
After an unparalleled manhunt, she was found on October 23 hiding in,
of all places, a funeral parlor. When questioned, she replied, "I am
Winnie Ruth Judd." Hungry, disheveled, worn, she accompanied police
to the jail where reporters enveloped her. "I had to do it," she moaned,
"I had to."
But, with the first stuttering of self-defense, the entire case turned
topsy-turvy; no one, the public nor the police, expected it. When
newscasters announced the killer was apprehended, America braced to
meet a snarling Hydra gloating over her wicked, wicked ways; instead,
they were introduced to photos in the newspaper of a wide-eyed,
tearful waif in handcuffs whose visage bespoke a blend of crucifixion
and apology, and whose sobs of I had to do it brought the house
down. Almost from the start, America sympathized with her; all except
Looking back, Phoenix was very much a Coliseum of lions and Winnie
Ruth Judd the hapless Christian. Awaiting her extradition back to
Arizona, the town's administration turned curiously – and vindictively
-- bent on Ruth's destruction.
To the point of sabotage.
City authorities closed ears to debate. Belief in City Hall Phoenix was
that Ruth Judd had killed her two victims in cold blood while they
slept. To corroborate this, they pointed to the fact that the mattresses
of both the girls' beds were missing – a finding that, when Ruth first
heard it, puzzled and shocked her. (The last glimpse she had had of
the bedroom, the mattresses were in place upon Anne and Sammy's
beds.) But, in the detectives' assumption, the only reason why a
suspect would have disposed of them was because they were soaked
by incriminating blood.
There was a splattering of blood on the walls near one of the beds –
and Ruth knew that must have come from Jack Halloran's transporting
of Sammy to the bedroom. But, they refused to listen to her
explanations about the mattresses or the splatters. The intrigue was
growing; she felt it tightening; and her words were not being heard.
After all, they were falling on those deaf ears.
To keep the smoky light of guilt on Ruth, Phoenix administrators kept
autopsy reports of the murdered women vague. If they had not, the
American public would have read that the mutilations performed on
Sammy were not "mutilations" at all – whoever cut up the girl had
been experienced in anatomy. The dissections were clean and
accurate. And not performed by an amateur like Ruth.
As well, police also surfaced their discovery of an ominous letter
written by Sammy Samuelson the day she died. The three-page
document, addressed to her sister, was found un-mailed at the scene
of the crime. To the press, a police spokesperson cited a fragment of
that letter as reading, "We are much happier by ourselves as Ruth and
Anne clashed on so many things and their quarrels were sometimes
The actual letter read, "We are so much happier here by ourselves.
Ruth and Anne clashed in many things. We get along so well but it
shows there has to be a lot of tolerance which comes from love."
When Ruth told her story to the police, she spoke of a scuffle, of
Sammy attacking her with a pistol, of a .25 caliber bullet entering her
hand while she tried to ward off the attack, of Anne clubbing her with
an ironing board. She was left with bruises that, if apprised honestly
by the police and prosecution, would have held weight in her defense.
Hospital photo of some of Ruth Judd's wounds
When arrested, Ruth received emergency surgery to remove the bullet
that had lodged in her palm; the hand had turned gangrenous. In the
same examination, Dr. Grace Homman found an extraordinary number
of fresh welts, cuts and discolorations – 147 of them – across her
body. They were the type usually produced by assault. (Photographs
still extant today) were taken that graphically depict the extent of the
injuries. The attending physician's diagnosis was that, as she later
wrote, "Mrs. Judd put up a tremendous fight for her life."
But, somehow the diagnosis and photographs of the wounds that Ruth
suffered evaporated from the investigation reports as if they had never
Police called Ruth a liar. Of her hand wound, they proclaimed she shot
herself after the fact on Saturday to insinuate a struggle the night
before. They had not uncovered one person who saw Ruth with a
bandaged hand the day after the supposed attack – so they asserted.
Yet, in the most botched or plotted mishap of the whole investigation,
they ignored the testimonies of five people who vouched they had
seen her left hand bandaged early Saturday morning at work, as well
as a crucial piece of testimony given by the streetcar driver who drove
her home Friday night after the fracas.
Ruth's bandaged hand, after her arrest
Patients Grace Mitchell and Stella and Mike Kerkes saw the bandage
and commented on it that Saturday morning at Grunow Clinic. Medical
Secretary Faye Ayres and handyman Emil Clemmons vividly
remembered her left hand in gauze. And as for the trolleyman B.
Jurgemeyer, he had told police that when he picked her up at
approximately 11:30 Friday night, to take her back towards her home,
"her left hand was completely wrapped."
In retrospect, the bandaged hand did not fit with what the police
wanted to say: that Ruth shot and killed her two friends in their sleep,
butchered the bodies, shoved the pieces into an array of portables,
went home to sleep soundly, appeared at work the following morning,
blew a bullet into her hand for illusion of innocence in case she was
suspected, then proceeded to machinate her escape plans to Los
The reason for the suspected cover-up: to shield Phoenix's man of the
hour, Jack Halloran. Ergo, had Ruth's hand been accepted as actually
invalidated during the melee, then there wouldn't have been a ghost of
a chance for any sane man or woman to believe that a 100-pound
woman, by herself, with tuberculosis, and with one good hand, had
lifted the much-heavier Anne LeRoi into a trunk, cleaved Sammy,
cleaned the house and disposed of the mattresses.
Quite evident of Phoenix's fear of itself – that is, its reputation – was
the fact that when Jack's name became implicated in the bloody mess
– as either Ruth's boyfriend or as an alleged accomplice – all papers
across the country, except in Phoenix, printed his name. According to
Miss Bommersbach, the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette
referred to him only as Mr. X.
Several neighbors had spotted Halloran's automobile on North Second
Street, parked near the scene of the fatality, on both Friday and
Saturday evenings. Ruth's neighbor, idling in the suspect's driveway on
Friday, had also seen it. Police heard them out, checked the reported
license plates against state records and concluded the car, a gray
Packard, was indeed registered to Halloran. Sharp newspapermen got
a hold of this bit of dynamite and, as every other major news outlet in
the union ran the information page one, the local press in Phoenix
simply disregarded it. As did the police when they failed to include the
findings in the prosecution's dossier.
While American newspapers continued to consider a possible "other-
person" theory, Phoenix mouthpieces refuted it. They disregarded Mr.
X's presence as hearsay and never took pains in pursuing either an
abettor or, for that matter, a motive that might have involved anyone
else outside of Mrs. Judd's personal jealousy/animosity.
Considering all this, imagine the behind -the- scenes dither that must
have ensued when the International Wire Service leaked a report that
a diary belonging to Anne LeRoi had been discovered in her home, a
diary that named certain members of Phoenix's upper-elite who had
patronized the two women. According to the Wire, the alleged diary
contained "intimate details" of the slain girls and their beaus. The
State's Attorneys office was forced to admit its existence, but refused
Everyone wondered what was in that diary – and [whom]. From its
suggestion, it sounded like it name-dropped not only Jack Halloran but
also several other married and prominent men in town of recognized
high standing and moral caliber. "Hanky was the name and panky was
the game," wrote Don Dedera, a well-known Arizona journalist in
afterwards summing up the hypocrisy that these men led. They played
the community pillar, but cracked its foundation in the interim.
Respected and likeable, they glossed their activities by pose and
But, of the general public, very few were fooled. They learned about
the "summer bachelors" who sent their wives and children away to the
cottage every June and July so they could party with the single pert
young girls who saw their chance for a job promotion, a diamond ring,
a fur coat or perhaps an advantage they could store away until they
thought of something specific.
Releasing LeRoi's diary would have probably meant ruination for too
many people, instant ejection from high seats and an embarrassing
scandal all around for Arizona. But, whatever chaos ran amok among
the conspirators was brief, for soon all further mention of the
reputation-breaker was muzzled. Prosecutors forgot it and the diary
never found its way into Ruth's trial.
The dissemblers remained safe.
McFadden (in hat) escorting Ruth to trial
Among the dark knights of Phoenix there was one – one – who wore
shining armor, and meant it. Sheriff John McFadden believed that there
was much more to the story than the local yokels were being fed.
From Ruth's incarceration through her trial and afterwards he would
prove to be Winnie Ruth Judd's greatest ally – and lifesaver.
What set McFadden on his course were the autopsy pictures of Sammy
Samuelson's cut-up body. Helen McFadden, the sheriff's daughter,
recalls that in viewing the photographs her dad came to the conclusion
that the dismemberment "had to be done by a professional – a
surgeon or a doctor. He said Ruth was incapable of doing it."
Ruth had remembered that Jack Halloran had told her Sammy was
"operated on". She assumed he was telling her, in a most polite way,
that he disjointed her carcass. In her confused and frightened state,
she hadn't stopped to consider anything else. Unless autopsy prints lie,
which of course they do not, Halloran could not have performed such a
neat, clean job, as illustrated.
Who could have done it? Scholars point to one man: Dr. Charles W.
Brown, the same physician who Halloran claimed lay in his debt. One
theory is that Halloran, who had earlier tried to reach Brown to remove
Ruth's bullet, may have at last found him after he brought Ruth home.
The two men very likely returned to the death house on North Second
Street where the intimidated Brown conducted the dissection.
Not long after Ruth was incarcerated at Arizona State Prison, the
warden heard from the guards that a man calling himself Dr. Brown,
drunk and disorderly, had wobbled into the front office insisting to see
Winnie Ruth Judd. When they asked why, he blurted, "Because I am
the only man alive who knows the truth!" Before they could quiz him
further, he hotfooted.
A few days later, he died. The coroner pronounced it a coronary, but
many believed he had committed suicide.
Sheriff McFadden's initial suspicions were becoming concrete as
incidences such as these prevailed. The lawman's real contribution,
however, will be discussed later, but it adds to the story now to
mention that, during his independent investigations, he was proving a
source of worry to someone. Says Helen of her father, "He was getting
telephone threats that something would happen to his family if he
didn't back off."
McFadden would have had a confederate had Hugh Ennis worn a badge
in 1931. Ennis, a 22-year veteran with the Phoenix Police Force was
not a professional lawman during the Judd trial, but joined the muster
roll later, working in the homicide, vice and narcotics departments. The
force that he knew was nothing like the politically run group of the
Thirties; he is proud to have been a member of what he considers an
honest, hard-working and intelligent organization. He retired as
captain in 1981.
However, he openly condemns the botched and suspicious way the
Winnie Ruth Judd investigation was handled by his predecessors. "So
much...smacks of exactly what it probably was -- political
interference," he told Jana Bommersbach when she interviewed him
for her expose, The Trunk Murderess early in the 1990s
Ennis has studied the case for years, he has read the original police
reports and has gone over everything relating to the case that he
could get his hands on, published and non. In reviewing the trial
transcripts and copies of police interviews with eyewitnesses, he
presents his overall judgment of the case: the police indeed "took
care" of the investigation so that the pieces fit someone's private
puzzle, not the truth.
He focused on four particular areas:
Basic Mishandling of Crime Scene
"(The police) sent officers out there who let reporters traipse all
through the place. Right then, they no longer had a crime scene. Any
crime scene integrity was gone...Who knows what evidence was
destroyed as those people were milling around? Who knows what was
moved or taken away? Who knows what fingerprints were wiped out?
The police clearly acted like this was a small hick town the way they
handled this case."
To make matters worse, says Ennis, the county's blood expert didn't
arrive to take blood samples until twenty-eight days after the murders
– and after the landlord had opened the place to the public, charging
admission to literally thousands of curiosity seekers who paraded
through it. By then, Ennis reports, blood sampling became "a useless
Determining where the victims were slain
Ennis cannot understand how the state could uphold their claim that
Winnie shot her two friends in their bedroom while they slept. He
attests, "There just wasn't enough blood in that bedroom. If she'd shot
the women as the prosecution said...there should have been a lot of
blood in that bedroom around both beds. You don't kill somebody –
especially shooting them in the head – without a lot of blood.
"The (lack of) blood in the bedroom alone shows the state's theory
was wrong. So...where and how were those girls killed?" Ennis
continues. "And why would Ruth Judd make up a story where she
admits shooting them, but puts the shooting in the wrong place? What
did she have to gain? If she was there, she's got to know what the
physical evidence shows. Why didn't she say the fight happened in the
bedroom if that's the only place she knows the blood will show up? It
doesn't make any sense that she'd insist the girls died in the kitchen
unless that's what she remembered. Those are the questions the
police should have been asking, but they weren't."
The issue of the absentee mattresses
His views on the disappearing mattresses is plain and simple: "There
was either something on the mattresses the perpetrator didn't want
seen, or the mattresses didn't fit the state's case – if there was no
blood on them, how do you explain a scenario where the girls were
shot in their beds?"
The alleged "missing mattresses"
Ennis notes that the missing-mattress factor should have been
considered a highly important focus. The police quickly dropped the
issue and no investigation took place. A conscientious police force
would have recognized the value of those mattresses as evidence and
a hunt to find them would have been mandated.
One more point: Why would Ruth Judd conceal the bloody mattresses,
yet leave blood across the walls that the police claimed was there?
Proving a defendant's premeditation of his or her criminal activity is a
vital part of a prosecutor's job; but, again, the state failed in that area.
"To show premeditation, you have to show where the gun was that
night. If she came over to kill them, they had to show she brought it
with her. They didn't do that. My guess is they didn't because they
couldn't explain where the gun was. There were never any tests done
to see if she'd ever fired a gun...a dermal nitrate test. It can even tell
what kind of gun was fired."
Of her actions in the week prior to the killings, there was nothing to
suggest a plan. "She wasn't conserving her resources to make a
getaway," adds Ennis. "The evidence you see presents a picture of a
person caught in a predicament who has to improvise. I couldn't take
the evidence the police gathered and get the case through a
preliminary hearing or a grand jury, to say nothing of a murder trial.
You'd pull the stunts today that they pulled and the judge would tell
you, 'Get outta town.' He'd throw the case out."
Shadow of a Trial
Jury selection for the long-awaited trial of Winnie Ruth Judd
commenced on January 19, 1932, at the Maricopa County Courthouse
in downtown Phoenix. Both the defense and the prosecution were very
particular whom they selected to sit on the panel; the high-profile
nature of the murders had generated distinct opinions by everyone in
the county and worries of a mis-trial over a slip of a tongue or a
nuance of bigotry were very real.
The state chose to try her for the death of Anne LeRoi only, to be
followed with a separate trial for Sammy Samuelson afterwards. The
second would never occur due to subsequent events.
Presiding over the three-week LeRoi murder trial – an event in itself
that condemned Winnie Ruth Judd in a comparatively unsensational
manner – was Judge Howard Speakman, who, as a former state
prosecutor and defender, had cued up a brilliant career. Popular County
Attorney Lloyd "Dogie" Andrews headed the case for the state.
Ruth had a combine of three lawyers, directed by well-known criminal
attorney Paul Schenck. But none of these, even Schenck, was effective
on her behalf. Less being more, they acted to surrender to her guilt
before the trial began, more concerned with pleading insanity than
The most anticipated event of the trial, the testimony proffered by the
defendant herself, surprisingly and sadly never happened. That Ruth
was not called to the stand disappointed Americans. Reporters in the
courtroom described how she sat at the counsel's table, day after day,
wringing her handkerchief, tugging at her bandage, pathetic in
character, miserable by accusation, silent and dismal throughout. Much
of the nation, in commenting on the suspicious nature of her being
kept "under wraps," so to speak, questioned her lawyers' ability and
the basic honesty of the ritual.
Jury foreman Scott Thompson later revealed that much of the evidence
laid forth against Winnie Ruth Judd was hard to understand because,
he felt, it was presented by the prosecution in a confusing and illogical
manner. The defense did next to nothing to contradict the prosecution
nor clarify said testimony. Scott wasn't alone in his opinions. In
researching the evidence on their own after the trial had ended,
Thompson and other jurors were alarmed to find that certain
important elements of the case – elements instrumental in helping
them formulate their verdict – were not satisfactorily explained. Much
seemed twisted to shape a particular conclusion.
One of these concerned the mattresses supposedly removed from the
girls' bedroom. The juror claims that he and his peers were led to
believe that a mattress found in the alley parallel to the murder scene
was definitely proven to be to one of the victim's mattresses and was
definitely blood-soaked. Neither proved true.
Prosecutors stood their ground on accusing Mrs. Judd of having killed
in jealous rage. To support the motive of jealousy born from illicit love,
they conjured up only two hazy witnesses – one that claimed Ruth was
at one time angry at Sammy for trying to steal Jack, and another who
spoke of seeing Ruth and Jack kissing and cuddling. Neither had heard
her state words of violence, nor of revenge, nor of anything pertaining
to a murder to come. And yet, by dropping from the jury all evidence
that would have given another side to the story of Winnie Ruth Judd's
relationship with the girls or her last night in their company, they
convinced it that the defendant was guilty. Defense counselors
waivered, unarmed because they hadn't done their homework, then
whithered under the duress of a kangaroo court they assumed, going
in, couldn't be beaten.
Mrs. Kate Kunz, whose husband sat on the jury and who watched the
trial proceedings daily, "came away from the trial with two major
impressions about what had happened," writes Jana Bommersbach in
The Trunk Murderess. "One, that Ruth Judd was guilty of shooting the
girls, and two, that 'there was no question' she had help somewhere
along the way...'We never understood why Jack Halloran was never
called,' (Mrs. Kunz) remembers. 'His name was brought up so often in
the case. He was sworn in, but he was never called to the stand.'"
The jury reached its verdict on the afternoon of February 8, 1932. She
was pronounced guilty. And before the session ended, they elected
that she should hang by the neck.
Winnie Ruth Judd was placed on death row at the Arizona State Prison
at Florence. Over the next several months, an appeals court juggled a
verdict, her proponents wanting a mistrial. But, eventually the court
reached its decision. It upheld the original verdict and punishment.
Ruth was sentenced to die February 17, 1933.
To Be or Not To Be...Insane
Sheriff John R. McFadden was not content with the jury's verdict.
After the trial, he convinced Ruth to talk, to tell her side of the story,
an opportunity she shamefully had not been given in court. . As head
of the jail where she was brought when extradited back from Los
Angeles, he had heard her initial self-defense story the night she was
brought in -- a story so simple yet blown out of proportion and rebuilt
in the meantime by others. Over the months as she sat in his cells, he
and his wife often visited her, extending her kindness, listening to her
informally describe that bloody evening of October 16, 1931. On his
own, McFadden had investigated elements of the crime, and from the
sidelines he watched those elements disregarded by the state; and his
conscience bothered him. He felt that he needed to do something to
save the accused from the burning stake. He made a last-ditch effort
to, metaphorically, douse the fires the witch hunters had ignited.
In the shadow of the gallows, her execution less than two months
away, Ruth was brought from her cell at the state prison and placed at
a table among several witnesses whom McFadden had gathered to
listen to her. His aim was to bring the transcript to the grand jury to
force a fresh hearing. He believed he could do it. Around that table
that evening of December 18, 1932, were, besides Ruth and Sheriff
McFadden, Oliver Willson, Ruth's new lawyer; William Delbridge, the
prison warden; Jeff Adams, one of McFadden's deputies; and a court
And she talked...
Whatever method McFadden used to convince the grand jury to listen
– Judd biographer Jana Bommersbach suggests he might have even
threatened to arrest Jack Halloran himself -- he was successful. The
efforts given by the convening grand jury proved to be not just
another sideshow, but a body of jurors interested in American Justice.
On the stand, Ruth related the entire story, the way it happened: the
argument... the fight...the attack on her person...the gunshots...the
deaths...Jack Halloran's admitted "operation" on Sammy
Samuelson...her flight to Los Angeles, funded by Halloran.
Van Beck, one of the jurors, in recalling the case, remembers how the
courtroom was "spellbound" as it heard, for the first recorded time, an
altogether new version of the crime, new revelations spilling out of
Winnie Ruth's mouth, revelations that not only made sense, but were
traceable to a source of truth. "We didn't believe it was cold-blooded
murder," he summarizes. "We felt positive she was unable to cut up
the body. We were told it took a professional...Most people in the
valley knew other people were involved in this crime, but there was
nothing they could do -- the other s involved were prominent married
Then, two amazing things happened. Not only did the grand jury
request that the Parole Board commute her death sentence to life
imprisonment – it was manslaughter, it said, not premeditated murder
-- but it also attempted to lighten Ruth's term further by bringing in
someone who could support her story. It indicted Jack Halloran.
McFadden eagerly volunteered to deliver the subpoena personally.
The Parole Board chose not to make a decision concerning Ruth's
death sentence until it heard the results of the Halloran hearing,
although it postponed the execution to Friday, April 14. In mid-
January, "Happy Jack" appeared in court to a tremendous popping of
flashbulbs and scratch-scratch-scratch of scores of reporters' cartridge
pens recording everything from his expression to the flashy necktie he
On the stand, Ruth re-told the story of Jack's abetting, but this time
she often lost herself to hysteria when she saw her former lover's
sneers. His presence in the courtroom was lethal, and his intimidating
manner not discouraged by the court. During testimony, the defendant
would begin crying hysterically and, instead of answering questions,
would rush off into a string of epithets. The horrors she was re-living
were aggravated by the appearance of the victor who gazed at her in
The proceeding showed the system had little sympathy for Ruth.
Again, after hearing her testimony, frenzied maybe but considerable
nonetheless, it freed Jack of all involvement in the case. Judgment,
said the court, was based on the fact that the woman's eccentric
manner and personal involvement with her one-time lover spoke of a
personal vendetta. No one ventured further investigation nor was Jack
brought to the stand; his lawyers spoke for him; and on January 24,
"Happy Jack" sauntered out never to be pulled back into this mess
Ruth returned to death row to die.
But, the final hearing had not been a total waste, for it spurred public
sentiment like never before, especially in Arizona. The public simply
believed she was innocent. McFadden had stirred the nation's – and in
particularly – the state's conscience. Local newspapers began asking
questions. The largest paper in the Arizona, the Republic, headlined
The new warden of Arizona State Prison, A.G. Walker, intervened –
probably not without a "reassuring wink from the governor," says
Bommersbach – and pleaded for an insanity hearing for his prisoner. It
would mean, most likely, a life-term stay at an institution, but it was
better than watching the lady being executed.
"There is good reason to believe that (Judd) has become insane after
the delivery...to the superintendent of the Arizona State Prison,"
Walker wrote to the parole commission. If the McFadden/Walker
faction was suddenly pulling strings, at least they had learned that to
beat a game one had to play as rough as the opponent. As if to get
this business over with – Arizona's reputation and its judicial system
were on the firing line – the state agreed to a sanity hearing, which
convened almost overnight in Pinal County Courthouse, near the
prison. It opened on April 14, the day Ruth would have died. About the
hour she had been destined to enter the execution chamber she
instead shuffled into the county's courthouse.
This time, Ruth's newly appointed defense team maneuvered well; one
of them was a young, brilliant attorney named Tom Fullbright, who
would go on to become one of the state's most honored – and honest
What happened over the next ten days was, speculatively, much of a
staged show, rehearsed by the "good guys." Their efforts may have
been effected, on the surface, for the benefit the governor, but they
were most assuredly done for the woman, Winnie Ruth Judd.
"(The) sanity hearing began. Winnie laughed uproariously, clapped her
hands and, at one time, rose up and said of the jury, 'They're all
gangsters!'" Jay Robert Nash explains the theatricals in Bloodletters
and Badmen. "Another time, she said loudly to her husband, William
C. Judd: 'Let me throw myself out that window!'
Moving to the asylum with her pet cat
"In desperation, Winnie's mother (took) the stand to state that
insanity ran through her family like a wild river. Then, Winnie's
father...rattled off numerous...loonies in his family tree."
Eventually, the defendant was pulled from the courtroom, but, as Nash
replies, "Winnie won". On April 24, 1933, Ruth returned to Phoenix.
Her new home was located at the corner of Van Buren and 24th
streets: the whitewashed, stucco edifice locals called "the looney
house" but, to be correct, it was the Arizona State Mental Hospital.
The Arizona State Mental Hospital, like most institutions of that nature
in the first half of the 20th Century, lacked proper facility and offered
little guidance. Hot, understaffed, short in benevolence but long on
razor-strap discipline, these types of places were more Bedlam than
TLC. The establishment in Phoenix to which Winnie Ruth Judd was
commuted was the most overcrowded in the country.
Ruth found herself alive, true, but thrust into a world of abstracts, a
place she could not understand. They said she was crazy – she often
wondered herself if perhaps she was -- but then how come she was
sane enough to sense the insanity of her situation? By now, having
been yanked by fate to all corners of hysteria, she learned to accept
small gifts of luck. She coped, and made the best of her new "home".
Ruth became the unofficial beautician for many of the women patients,
fixing them up for the occasional dances that the hospital sponsored
for the inmates. Her work was so good that the nurses began visiting
her, glad to pay her the small renumeration she charged.
An aide at the asylum, Anne Keim, remembers Ruth distinctly: "She
was more like a member of the staff than a patient. She worked
unusually hard – did more for that hospital than any two or three
people. She wasn't crazy, either, she was sane as anyone..."
Only one thing, Keim remembers, would drive Ruth over the edge,
something very understandable considering all she'd been through:
Jack Halloran would often show up at the dances, said she, merely to
"sneer and laugh real nasty at her and she'd just go to pieces." The
provoker was eventually banned from the grounds.
Harry Whitmer, the institution's business manager during the 1940s,
who came to know Ruth Judd well, became convinced of two things:
"As for being insane, no...(Also,) there was a major question in a lot of
people's minds if she (was guilty) or not, or if she was just taking the
Ruth became an escape artist. During her 30-plus years of
incarceration (1933 to 1971), she continuously gave the place the slip
– usually for a brief period of time, then ultimately for nearly seven
years. The board of directors babbled; they could not figure out how
she was able to duck out despite precautionary measures. Years later,
after she was given official freedom, Ruth admitted that one kind
nurse, who realized the injustice handed her, had given her a key to
the front door.
Between 1939 and 1962, Ruth escaped seven times:
October 24, 1939 (for six days). She returned on her own.
December 3, 1939 (for several days). Grabbing a bus to Yuma,
Arizona, 180 miles away, police found her there. For this escape she
was put into solitary confinement for 24 months, retained barefooted
and in pajamas.
May 11, 1947 (for 12 hours). She absconded in broad daylight, but
was picked up that night hiding on the grounds of a nearby resort.
November 29, 1951 (for a few hours). Authorities located her, stuck in
February 2, 1952 (for five days). While on the lam, she remained at
abetting friends' homes the while, eventually turning herself in.
November 23, 1952 (for two days). Escaped after Thanksgiving dinner,
and was found by police in the home of a friend.
October 8, 1962 (for 6-1/2 years).
This latter escape requires more than a capsule summary. Traipsing
around Arizona for several months, hiding out, particularly in Kingman,
Ruth wound up in Oakland, California. There she utilized a pseudonym,
Marian Lane, and even dared to apply at an employment agency for a
local job. Her brother was financing her, but she wished to make a go
of it on her own. Passing herself off as a maidservant, Ruth was hired
by the extremely wealthy Nichols family of San Francisco to serve as
both maid and sitter for the aging matriarch, affectionately called
Her employer lived in a huge mansion overlooking the Bay area. Up in
years, she found "Marian Lane" the ideal helper and companion. Ruth
worked hard, but loved it. She tended to the laundry, the cooking, the
general housecleaning, and when Mother Nichols entertained, the
setting up of delicate luncheons and afternoon teas. Ruth was in
When the old lady passed away just before Christmas of 1967, the
Nichols relatives invited Marian to stay with them in a cottage they
owned on their property north of San Francisco.
Police found her there on June 27, 1969. They had traced her through
the records of the state drivers' license bureau
When Ruth had been found "insane" in 1933, the ruling had not
altogether eradicated a possibility that she might eventually return to
the gallows if she ever recovered her mind. With this looming fear, she
time and time again appealed to the authorities to have that
aberration removed. In 1952, with the help of some supporters, she
was given another hearing to have the death penalty officially
voided...again she described that terrible night, again she described
Jack Halloran's flimflam. Again Jack Halloran dodged punishment. But,
first things first, and this time the first thing being her petition for
leniency, the state freed her once and for all from the noose.
Now, back in the custody of the asylum after her latest and longest
escape, Ruth demanded a sanity hearing knowing that if she was
found sane enough for the outside world it wouldn't mean that she
must die there.
Having had a taste of the normal life, she yearned freedom more than
ever. She phoned the world-famous attorney Melvin Belli in 1969; he
took her case immediately. Assisted by local (Arizona) attorney Larry
Debus, Belli convinced the state parole board to review the case
pending the possibility of release. In October, 1969, Belli appeared
before the hearing with a brilliant summary of her case, her life, and
brought forth many witnesses to attest to Winnie Ruth Judd – her
character, her innocence, her sanity.
Over decades, some things don't change. This was proven when the
board denied parole.
The attorneys campaigned; they built up a such a cry for her release
from among the American public and press that, when her case came
again before the same parole board in February, 1971, it listened this
time. After the parade of paparazzi, the testimony, the repetitions and
memories of so many years, the board declared:
"...The case is not one you sweep under the rug and forget about...As
time passes, more and more people will join the ranks of those who
think her sentence should be commuted. What we will see is not a
question of modern penology, but the portrayal of out-and-out
persecution of an elderly grandmother type unfortunate woman. It is
incumbent upon the board to give her a commutation of sentence
Early morning, December 21, 1971, Governor of Arizona Jack Williams
put pen to paper. That evening, Ruth walked out of the asylum, this
time without dodging the lights.
Winnie Ruth Judd returned to California, as Marian Lane where she
lived in Stockton with her dog, Skeeter. She died at the age of 93 in
her sleep, peacefully, on October 23, 1998.
John McFadden, the lawman who saved her from the gallows in the
nick of time, found his career politically ruined afterwards. Expecting
such, he retired from active duty. Embittered at the foulness of the
men who ran him out of office for trying to help a human being, he
claimed he would do it all over again, the same way, had he the
Jack Halloran was fired by his silent partners in his lumber business for
the scandal he created. He eventually disappeared into oblivion. Many
people today believe that he may have even been the man who killed
the two girls, but of course that cannot be, at this point in time,
substantiated. Theorists say he promised Ruth that if she stood in for
him on the killings, he would see that she was freed. He then paid his
way out and walked away.
Virginia Fetterer is one who believes Halloran was the killer. A daughter
of an Arizona legislator in the state's early days, Fetterer stands by the
story she told writer Jana Bommersbach in 1990 about her meeting
with him in the late 1930s.
It was New Year's Eve, and Fetterer and her husband dined at the
Adams Hotel, a hangout for local politicians. There, she says, they met
Halloran. She goes on: "Somebody asked him a question, like if he
could take care of a problem. And he was bragging that, sure, he could
fix it. Then he said – I can't recall his exact words, but it was to the
effect that if you knew the right people you could fix anything in this
town. He laughed and said that Winnie Ruth was out in the state
hospital paying for what he'd done. He was bragging about it."
What sort of person was Winnie Ruth Judd?
According to those who knew her – who spent real time with her – she
was the flip-side of everything the criminal court painted: not a
tigress; not vehement; [not] prone to either jealousies or abandon.
Rather, she emanated, throughout her life and despite her troubles, a
considerate quality of good will.
Dark Horse Multimedia is fortunate to have among its readership Lyn
Cisneros, who shares with us her personal recollection of Winnie Ruth
Judd. As a child, Lyn spent three days and nights with the woman
whom the world sadly knew only as the "Trunk Murderess".
Her memories speak fondness and affection.
Dark Horse is sincerely grateful to Ms. Cisneros for the following
After Ruth's seventh escape from the asylum in 1962, and before she
ventured to California, she spent several months in the town of
Kingman, Arizona. Kingman sits plunked in the scenic desert along the
intersection of Interstate 40 west of Flagstaff and U.S. Highway 93,
south from Las Vegas. While in town, Ruth the fugitive posed simply as
Mrs. Ruth Judd, a married woman fleeing an abusive spouse. The local
minister, Reverend Geesey, and his wife – as well as the members of
the local First Assembly of God church -- welcomed the woman with
open arms. Asking no questions, inviting her into its community of
worshippers, the congregation found its newest member, whom they
called "Sister Ruth," to be a sweet, intelligent, soft-spoken lady who
demonstrated a kind smile and expressed a warm heart to all she met.
"Sister Ruth was allowed to live in a small trailer adjacent to the
church parking lot and accessible to the church. She lived alone with
her Persian cat whom she called Whitey; the animal's color being
obvious," laughs Cisneros. "I've often wondered if the pastor knew her
real identity and accommodated her because he recognized the true
value in the real woman. He was that kind of man, very insightful. I
really do believe he might've known."
The congregation, Cisneros states, loved Ruth. "They brought her food
and helped her out in a number of ways. And, in turn, she returned
whatever favors she could by doing domestic work for different
families, cooking for them, cleaning for them. She earned a small
income performing various chores, the money which would keep her in
food and clothing."
Cisneros remembers that Sister Ruth often led the singing at church
and assisted in activities presented by the Missionettes, a girls'
Christian club sponsored by the church in which Cisneros belonged.
"To a child my age – I was 11 years old at the time -- Sister Ruth was
a curiosity. She came out of nowhere and, well, was just there one
day, as big as life. She didn't say much if encountering her on the
streets or crossing the church lot, but she always extended a friendly
greeting and magnificent smile. I'd see her out front her place, talking
to the pastor or just petting Whitey. She loved that cat."
Cisneros remembers vividly that scar on the lady's left hand. One day
she asked her about it, and Sister Ruth explained that a long time ago
she had been bitten by a spider. "It was a terrible bite," she remarked.
"My index finger still occasionally goes numb."
One day, little Lyn (who was then Lyn Dowling) received the shock of
her life. "I was and still am an avid reader, and I poured over the
pages of the Arizona Republic with veracity. My father, then head of
the town council, subscribed to that paper. Anyway, I happened to be
reading the paper when I caught an article about the latest flight-
from-justice of Winnie Ruth Judd, the 'Trunk Murderess'. I felt my
child's eyes nearly burst from their sockets when they fell on the
accompanying black-and-white of the infamous figure. I recognized
that face immediately as our beloved Sister Ruth."
The paper described the escapee's hair as fair, whereas Kingman's
newest citizen had black hair. "But," Cisneros adds, "I was old enough
to know about hair dye. As well, the article mentioned a [scar on her
left hand], from the gunshot wound. Imagine my shock!"
Bursting with news, she told everyone – her parents, her neighbors,
others in the church, even the pastor – that she had uncovered a
deep, dark secret about mysterious Sister Ruth, but, says she, "they
all rolled their eyes and laughed. The pastor smirked, patted me on
the head and told me, ''Now now, Lyn, don't worry about such things.'
You see, I was immediately tagged as the kid with an overactive
Cisneros will never forget the day her parents announced they were
taking a little trip out of town for three days – but, not to worry, for
they were keeping Lyn and her nine-year-old brother in capable
hands...Sister Ruth's! "Alone with the 'Trunk Murderess'! Just think
how I felt!" she shakes her head at the absurdity of the situation. "I
mean, this was something right out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie – two
defenseless kids, whom no one believes, dropped into the hands of a
They were three long days --- and nights. "The worst part of it was
bedtime. I distinctly remember pressing a chair under my bedroom
doorknob, cramming the chair dead right against it to keep her out. I
slept with a butcher knife beside my bed – that is, if I did sleep at all –
actually, I don’t think I closed my eyes once. I just laid there,
listening, waiting, expecting to hear the thump-thump-thump of a
trunk being dragged up the stairs toward my room."
She suddenly laughs. "What a silly child, but that goes to show the
power of the media, even in 1962. Now, in my maturity, I think back
to recall how consistently gentle she was, so loving to me and my
brother during those three days she watched us. She made us
excellent meals, looked out for our welfare and, for that matter, might
as well have been our godmother for all the care she proffered. She
was a wonderful woman."
When asked to give her overall impression of Winnie Ruth Judd the
person, Cisneros doesn't hesitate. "Everything about her seemed
positive, she wanted to please and she tried hard to do it. I believe in
my heart she was innocent of all crimes alleged against her. To me
she'll always be Sister Ruth.
"She is, no doubt, resting in peace today."
Bommersbach, Jana The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd NY:
Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Nash, Jay Robert Bloodletters and Badmen NY: M. Evans &
Company, Inc., 1995.
With Lyn Cisneros, personal recollection of Winnie Ruth Judd;
conducted June 3, 2000.
Sightseeing Tour of Phoenix, Arizona; article, "Winnie Ruth Judd:
Trunks of Blood,"
"Father of the GI Bill"
McFarland moved back to Arizona and passed the bar exam. From
1925 to1930, he served as Pinal County Attorney, his first elected
office. In private practice, he became an expert in agricultural and
water-use legislation, representing the San Carlos Irrigation and
Drainage District. He also defended the notorious "trunk murderess,"
Winnie Ruth Judd, who killed two of her closest friends. McFarland and
his law partner secured an insanity verdict, saving Judd from the death
penalty and raising their reputations within the state.
Herman Lewkowitz, the patriarch of the family, set his footprints in the
sand in 1914, two years after Arizona attained statehood and when the
city's population numbered about 19,000 hardy souls.
Born in Omaha, Neb., in 1893, Herman earned a law degree at age 19
before moving to Phoenix. After serving in World War I, he returned to
Phoenix and worked as a city attorney, county attorney and assistant
district attorney before opening his own law office in 1919, specializing
in criminal law.
In 1931, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst hired Herman
and two other prominent criminal-defense attorneys to defend Winnie
Ruth Judd, the "trunk murderess." The trial was held in Phoenix and
turned out to be one of the most sensational murder trials of the
Insane Murderess Dies of Old Age
Winnie Ruth Judd, who died at age 93, perpetrated a spectacularly
grotesque double murder. It was the crime
sensation of 1931.
Judd, 26, suffered from tuberculosis, and had
moved to Phoenix with her 56-year-old physician
husband for the dry air. When he couldn't find work
he moved to Los Angeles. Left alone, Winnie lived
in a disorderly way. She apparently engaged in a
lesbian love triangle while carrying on an affair
with a wealthy local lumberyard owner who
supplied the women with booze. The details will
never be known for certain, but seemingly as a
result of an argument over another man she shot
the two women to death while herself receiving a bullet wound to a
The lumberyard owner helped her pack the two corpses into trunks -
one of the corpses had to be dismembered to fit. Judd boarded a train
to Los Angeles with her grisly baggage in tow. When she arrived at
Union Station, her fetid bags were dripping blood and the
stationmaster refused to release them until they had been opened for
inspection. Judd escaped, but was soon nabbed in the waiting room of
a local mortuary.
She was convicted of the murder of the woman
whose corpse remained intact in a case that drew
nationwide attention. Judd was headlined as the "Trunk Murderess."
Although she claimed self-defense, she was sentenced to hang. An
intense lobbying effort on her behalf swept the nation - children sold
magazine subscriptions door to door to save her from the noose.
Clergymen and Arizona legislators worked for her cause. Eleanor
Roosevelt expressed concern. Just 72 hours before her date with the
hangman she was declared insane, and spent the next decades in a
She was said to be a model inmate, bathing and cooking for other
patients - except for her penchant for escape. She escaped five times,
but was always apprehended within a short time. A sixth escape, in
1962, was longer-lasting. She found work as a maid with a wealthy
family in northern California. Apprehended in 1969, her extradition to
Arizona was fought by no less than famed defense lawyer Melvin Belli.
In an appearance before a grand jury in 1954 Judd's testimony about
the involvement of the lumberyard owner had proven so successful
that her death sentence was commuted to life in prison. She was freed
in 1971 and returned to work for the family that had previously
employed her. She retired to Stockton and then moved back to
Phoenix, under an assumed name. She died in her sleep.
Judd, Winnie Ruth
(c. 1905-1998.10.23) "The Trunk Murderess"
Lived in Phoenix
Murdered, tried, imprisoned in
PhoenixWinnie Ruth Judd was the
26 year old wife of a 56 year old
physician. The couple had moved
to Phoenix in 1930 hoping that
the dry climate would keep
Winnie Ruth's tuberculosis in
check, and that Dr. Judd could
Dr. Judd was unable to find work
in Phoenix. In the summer of
1931 he left for Los Angeles
where he sought employment in
a clinic, leaving Winnie Ruth behind.
Winnie Ruth had developed very close friendship with two young
women roommates living nearby. Shortly after the doctor's departure
The duplex 2929 N. Second Street
where the murders occurred is to the
right. A 50's vintage duplex is on
one of the young women returned to her Oregon home to recuperate
from an illness. Winnie Ruth moved in to take her place.
When the roommate returned a few months later, tension developed
among the three women. Winnie Ruth thought it prudent to rent an
apartment elsewhere. The move apparently lessened the tension and
the three young women continued to be fast friends. They frequently
socialized and it was not uncommon for Winnie Ruth to spend the
night with the roommates.
The lobby of the Grunow Clinic, 926 E McDowell
Road, where Winnie worked as a secretary.
Winnie lived in an apartment just south and east
of the clinic at 1102 E. Brill Street. Her apartment
building has long since been razed and the
location is now in the middle of the Good
Samaritan Regional Medical Center at 1111 E.
The roommates were not the only ones sharing a substantial portion of
the young bride's time. Even before the doctor left, Winnie Ruth began
a torrid affair with Jack Halloran, a prosperous lumber yard owner.
Although married and a father of three, Halloran was a notorious
playboy and very popular with the among the Phoenix social set.
Halloran would visit Winnie Ruth and the other young women almost
every night, often bringing other male friends and plenty of illegal
On the evening of the murder, Winnie Ruth spent the night with the
two young ladies. An argument broke out involving the relationship
between the two young ladies as well as Winnie Ruth's introduction of
another young lady to Jack Halloran.
During or after the argument, the two young women were shot to
death. Winnie Ruth claims that
they were killed in self defense
during a struggle. The prosecution
claimed the young women had
been shot to death in their
sleep.Winnie Ruth returned to her
apartment after the shooting.
Moments later, Jack Halloran's car
pulled up in her driveway. He was
intoxicated. She was hysterical.
They returned to the young ladies'
apartment where he took care of
the bodies while she cleaned the
The body of one of the young
women fit easily into a trunk. A
second trunk could not be closed
with the other body in it. After the
body was dismembered and the
parts rearranged, the trunk closed nicely.
Winnie Ruth returned to work as a receptionist the next day. After
work, Winnie Ruth repacked the second trunk, putting some of the
parts in a valise to reduce its weight. She asked her landlord to take
the trunks to the train depot, explaining that they contained books
which were needed by her husband in Los Angeles.
Winnie Ruth made the 400 mile trip to Los Angeles on the Union Pacific
train with the trunks in the baggage car and the valise of body parts at
Winnie Ruth Judd boarded the train
for Los Angeles carrying a valise of
body parts with her, and checked
the luggage containing the rest of
the bodies. The Union Pacific
Station where she boarded still
stands at 401 W. Harrison.
The Arizona Superior Court
for Maricopa County at 125
W. Washington was
completed in 1928.
The plan went awry when the baggage handler at Union Station in Los
Angeles was overcome with nausea from the odor coming from the
trunks. He also noticed a liquid oozing from the trunks which appeared
to be blood. The station agent refused to release the trunks and
requested a key. Winnie Ruth explained that she would have to get the
key from her husband and disappeared.
Four days later the police found Winnie Ruth Judd sitting on a couch in
a mortuary, precisely where Dr. Judd's attorney said she would be. A
caravan of heavily armed lawmen escorted her back to Phoenix where
twenty thousand people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the
murderess. The owner of the duplex where the murders occurred sold
ten cent tickets to tour the murder site. The press descended on
Winnie Ruth Judd was tried for the murder of only one of the young
women (the one not cut up). She was found guilty and sentenced to
death by hanging. She was moved to the state prison in Florence to
await execution. The Warden petitioned for a sanity hearing, and just
72 hours before the scheduled execution, Winnie Ruth was pronounced
Winnie Ruth was transported to the State Hospital at 24th and Van
Buren Streets where she became a model prisoner. In 1939 she
wandered off the hospital grounds and was missing for six days. Six
weeks later, she was missing
again for twelve days. In 1947,
she escaped for twelve hours,
and in 1951, she was absent for
thirteen hours.In 1952, she left
again and returned upon the
promise of the administrator that
she be permitted to appear
before a grand jury. Her
testimony regarding Halloran's
involvement was so persuasive
that the grand jury recommended
that her death sentence be
commuted to life imprisonment.
The parole board and the
In 1962 she inserted her key in
the front door of the State Hospital and walked away. She made her
way to Northern California where she lived in a mansion as the maid
and companion of a wealthy doctor and his wife. Six and one-half
years later, she was again taken into custody.
Just before Christmas, 1971, Winnie Ruth Judd was released as a free
woman after 40 years of confinement. She returned to Northern
In the 1990's she returned to Phoenix where she lived under the
assumed name of Marian Lane. She died quietly in her sleep on Friday,
October 23, 1998 at a friend's home. She was 93.
Story Location: http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/
WOMEN WHO KILL: PART TWO
Murder or Self-Defense?
The Arizona State hospital at where
Winnie Ruth Judd spent 40 years of
her life is located on the northeast
corner of 24th and Van Buren
Streets. She escaped from the
hospital five times.
Winnie Ruth Judd
Among American crime legends is that of Winnie Ruth Judd, otherwise
known as "tiger woman," "wolf woman," the "blond butcher," and the
"velvet tigress." Journalist Jana Bommersbach read the local news
articles in Arizona library archives and then tracked down people
familiar with the case, including Judd herself, to retell the story in The
Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. From Bommersbach's point of
view, there was much to question about the investigation, sentencing,
and subsequent punishment of a woman who insisted that the facts
are different than the legend allows. Edward D. Radin, in Women Who
Kill indicates that the Judd's many conflicting statements during her
trial point to her guilt.
October 16 in 1931 landed on a Friday. Winnie Ruth Judd, 26, was a
medical secretary and the daughter of a minister. She was an
attractive blue-eyed blonde in her mid-twenties, living in Phoenix,
Arizona, where the crime took place. That night, she had planned to be
with her closest friend, Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson; and Sammy's
housemate, Agnes Anne LeRoi. In fact, they were to spend the next
three days together, but something happened around 11 p.m. that
night. According to those who arrested and prosecuted her, Winnie
Ruth waited until her friends were asleep and then shot them to death.
Her motive was to eliminate them as competition for the married man
On October 19, the Southern Pacific train arrived in Los Angeles,
coming in overnight from Phoenix. The baggage handler claimed that
two trunks in one of his cars smelled pretty bad, and one was leaking
brownish liquid. They were set aside for inspection. A blonde tried to
collect them with a claim check, but when they insisted the trunks be
opened before she could have them, she walked away and