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Winnie Ruth JUDD






A.K.A.: "The Trunk Murderess"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Shot her two room mates, hacked their bodies into pieces and hid them into travel trunks
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: October 16, 1931
Date of arrest: October 23, 1931 (surrendered to police)
Date of birth: January 29, 1905
Victim profile: Agnes Anne LeRoi, 32, and Hedvig Samuelson, 24
Method of murder: Shooting (.25 caliber handgun)
Location: Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on February 17, 1933. The death sentence was repealed after a ten-day hearing found her mentally incompetent; she was then sent to Arizona State Asylum for the Insane on April 24, 1933. Paroled and released on December 22, 1971. Died on October 23, 1998
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Winnie Ruth Judd (January 29, 1905 – October 23, 1998) was a Phoenix, Arizona medical secretary found guilty of murdering and dismembering two of her friends and stuffing them into travel trunks. Newspaper coverage and suspicious circumstances; the sentence she received raised debate over capital punishment.


Born Winnie Ruth, while employed at the Grunow Medical Clinic in Phoenix, Judd met Agnes Anne LeRoi, an X-Ray Technician who worked at the clinic, and her roommate, Hedvig Samuelson. LeRoi and Samuelson had become close friends while living in Alaska and then moved together to Phoenix for its drier climate after Samuelson contracted tuberculosis.

In August 1931, Dr. Judd left Phoenix to start a practice in Los Angeles, leaving his wife in Phoenix. At this time, Judd moved in with LeRoi and Samuelson, but in early October, she moved out in order to be nearer to the Grunow Clinic where she was employed. At the time of the murders Judd was 26 years old, LeRoi 32, and Samuelson, 24.

The murders

According to police, on the night of October 16, 1931, LeRoi and Samuelson were murdered by Judd after an alleged fight among the three women over a conflict of interest—reportedly, all three were interested in the same man, prominent Phoenix businessman John J. "Happy Jack" Halloran. Halloran, 44, was a married local businessman and a friend of all three women. The prosecution at Judd's murder trial would suggest that quarrels over men and the relationship between LeRoi and Samuelson broke up the friendship of the three women, and that jealousy was the motive for the killings.

The two victims were killed with a .25 caliber handgun in their rented bungalow located at 2929 (now 2947) N. 2nd Street. According to prosecutors, after the two women were murdered, Judd and an accomplice dismembered the body of Samuelson and stuffed the head, torso, and lower legs into a black shipping trunk, with the upper legs being placed in a beige valise and hatbox. LeRoi's body was stuffed intact into a second black shipping trunk.

Flight to Los Angeles

Two days after the murders, on Sunday, October 18, Judd boarded the Golden State Limited passenger train from Phoenix's Union Station with the trunks containing the bodies; with her left hand bandaged from a gunshot wound, she traveled overnight to Los Angeles. Upon arrival at 7:45 the next morning, the trunks were immediately under suspicion because of the foul odor detected by station personnel as well as fluids escaping from the trunks. Thinking at first the trunks contained contraband such as a dead deer, the baggage agent, Arthur V. Anderson, wanted the trunks opened and tagged them to be held. He asked Judd for the key, but she stated she didn't have it with her.

Burton McKinnell, Judd's brother and a junior at the University of Southern California, picked Judd up from the train station unaware of the crime or the bodies. At around 4:30 that afternoon, Anderson called the Los Angeles Police Department to report the suspicious trunks. After picking the locks of each trunk, the police discovered the bodies. Meanwhile, Judd's brother had dropped his sister off somewhere in Los Angeles where she proceeded to disappear. Judd hid out until she surrendered to police in a funeral home the following Friday, October 23, 1931.

The murder was reported in headlines across the country and Judd came to be referred to in the press as "Tiger Woman" and "The Blonde Butcher". Eventually, the case itself came to be known in the media as "The Trunk Murders".

Trial and conviction

On Monday evening, October 19, the Phoenix police entered the bungalow where LeRoi and Samuelson resided for the first time; neighbors and reporters were also allowed in and subsequently destroyed the original integrity of the crime scene. The following day the bungalow's landlord took out ads to be placed in The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Evening Gazette newspapers informing the public that tours of the home were available for ten cents per person. In the next three weeks, hundreds of curiosity seekers toured the three room bungalow. During the trial, Judd's defense protested by stating, "By the advertisements in the newspapers, the entire population of Maricopa County visited that place."

The police maintained the two women were shot while asleep in their beds. The two mattresses were missing the night the police entered. Although one mattress was later found with no blood stains on it miles away in a vacant lot, the other remained missing. No explanation was ever offered as to why one was found so far away nor what ever became of the other mattress.

The trial began January 19, 1932, three months after the bodies had been discovered in the trunks. The state argued that Judd acted with pre-meditation, that the relations between the three women had deteriorated over some weeks, and that they had argued over the affections of Jack Halloran. According to the prosecution, all of this culminated with the murders. They maintained that Judd had self-inflicted the gunshot wound to her left hand to try to bolster her self-defense explanation. Judd's defense took the stance that she was innocent because she was insane, but did not introduce the "self-defense" argument for the record. None of the dismembering aspect of the double slaying was addressed in court because Judd was tried only of the murder of Mrs. LeRoi, whose body was not dismembered. Judd did not take the stand in her own defense.

The jury found her guilty of first-degree murder on February 8, 1932. An appeal was unsuccessful. Judd was sentenced to be hanged February 17, 1933, and sent to Arizona State Prison in Florence, Arizona. The death sentence was repealed after a ten-day hearing found her mentally incompetent; she was then sent to Arizona State Asylum for the Insane on April 24, 1933.

Jack Halloran

When it was discovered during the course of the trial that Halloran and Judd had been involved in an illicit affair, Halloran also became suspect of having complicity in the killings. A known playboy and philanderer, Halloran was indicted by a grand jury as an accomplice to murder on December 30, 1932 following new testimony from Judd. Judd referred to this testimony as "the whole truth".

A preliminary hearing on the charge against Halloran was held in mid-January 1933; Judd was the star witness. In testimony that lasted almost three days, an emotional Judd told her story, saying

"I am going to be hanged for something Jack Halloran is responsible for ... I was convicted of murder, but I shot in self-defense. Jack Halloran removed every bit of evidence. He is responsible for me going through all this. He is guilty of anything I am guilty of."

Judd testified she had gone to the apartment on an invitation to play bridge, and a fourth woman who had also been invited to the get-together had already left. She testified that there was an argument about Judd's introduction of Halloran to another woman, and that she killed LeRoi and Samuelson in self-defense after they physically attacked her.

According to Judd, she met up with Halloran shortly after the killings and returned with him to the apartment. After seeing the bodies he went out to the garage, returned with a "great, heavy trunk" and told her not to tell anyone. Under cross-examination, Judd admitted repacking Samuelson's dismembered body in a trunk and other luggage two days after the murders.

Halloran did not take the stand in his own defense. His attorney told the court that Judd's story was nothing more "than the story of an insane person" and argued that since Judd had testified that the two women were killed in self-defense, there was, in fact, no crime committed, therefore Halloran could not be tried for anything. Halloran's attorney then asked for the charges against his client to be dismissed. On January 25, 1933 the judge freed Halloran, saying that the state's case was inconsistent, and that trying him would be "an idle gesture".

Escapes and parole

After her death sentence was repealed, Judd was committed to the state's only mental institution, Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix. From 1933 to 1963, Judd escaped from the institution six times, in one instance walking all the way to Yuma, Arizona, along the old Southern Pacific railroad tracks.

She escaped for the final time on October 8, 1963, using a key to the front door of the hospital a friend had given her. Judd ended up in the San Francisco Bay Area where she became a live-in maid for a wealthy family living in a mansion overlooking the bay, using the name Marian Lane. Her freedom lasted six and a half years. Her identity in California was eventually discovered and she was taken back to Arizona on August 18, 1969.

Judd hired famed San Francisco defense attorney Melvin Belli. Belli needed an Arizona-licensed attorney to help him", so he hired then "unknown Phoenix attorney" Larry Debus. Gov. Jack Williams was going to sign for Judd's release as long as the meeting was kept "hush, hush". In the following days, Belli called a press conference calling for the immediate release of Judd, therefore Debus had to fire Belli from getting in the way of Judd's release. Judd was paroled and released on December 22, 1971 after two years of legal wrangling.

Judd moved to Stockton, California. In 1983, the state of Arizona issued her an "absolute discharge," meaning she was no longer a parolee. She died 23 October 1998 at the age of ninety-three, 67 years to the day from her surrender to Los Angeles police in 1931.

Subsequent investigations

Subsequent unofficial investigations, most notably by investigative journalist Jana Bommersbach, revealed many people close to the investigation believed Judd was guilty only of killing in self-defense—what Judd had maintained all along—not of first-degree murder. After Bommersbach had initially written about her investigation of the Judd case as a series of articles in the Phoenix New Times, she then published a book about Judd, The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. For the book, Bommersbach extensively interviewed Judd herself. During the course of Bommerbach's investigations, the police and prosecution were found to have been biased against Judd in a number of ways. According to the book, due to Phoenix's small population in 1931, members of the Phoenix police knew Jack Halloran well, who he associated with, and who his friends—and girlfriends—were. Some police also knew the victims. Some even believe Judd hadn't killed anyone, even in self-defense, but was only covering up for the misdeeds of Jack Halloran, and possibly other people. Many believe Judd wasn't capable of dismembering Sammy Samuelson's body, of being "The Blonde Butcher," as the mainstream press had labeled her, or of being able to lift the bodies. There are indications that someone with surgical skills had performed the dismembering, a skill Judd hadn't possessed. According to autopsy photos, the body was not "butchered," but cleanly dissected in several places. Jack Halloran being let go was considered by many a miscarriage of justice; his exoneration a political cover-up. His gray Packard had been spotted at the crime scene the night of the murders, and again there the next day. At the very least, he should have been tried as an accomplice. Although officially exonerated by the law, Halloran eventually fell out of favor with the local Phoenix population, losing his valuable business associates and social status.

Bommersbach also introduces the possibility that a second gun may have been involved because of early newspaper reports that LeRoi was shot with a larger caliber bullet. The October 20, 1931 edition of The Arizona Republic stated, "Two different calibre revolvers were used, autopsy surgeons said." On the same date, The Los Angeles Times reported, "The killer is believed to have used a .25 calibre automatic to murder Miss Samuelson, but a larger calibre weapon was used to kill Mrs. LeRoi." No police reports, however, say anything about a second gun and no written autopsy reports could be located. Eventually, the unfounded reports of a "second gun" ceased.

Addressing the possibility that a person who possessed surgical skills dissected Samuelson's body, Bommersbach writes about a nurse she interviewed for her book named Ann Miller who said that while she was working at the Arizona State Mental Hospital in 1936 and had become friends with Ruth Judd, Judd had confided in her that a Dr. Brown had come to see her while she was in prison and told her he was going to confess everything. Later, after Miller told a Phoenix attorney of Judd's story, he stated, "I'm sure she told you that. Dr. Brown came up to my office and wanted to tell the whole story. He made an appointment for the next week, but he died the day before the appointment." Dr. Brown died in June 1932 of heart disease at the age of forty-four. According to Bommersbach, some speculate he might have been contemplating suicide. Bommersbach writes, "As the New York Mirror reported the day Halloran's indictment was announced,

'A second man would probably have been indicted, according to widespread rumor, if death had not intervened. Mrs. Judd's story included the declaration that a physician, who has since committed suicide, was summoned to the murder bungalow to aid in the disposal of the bodies.' "

The first feature-length film about the Judd case was 2007's "Murderess" (written and directed by Scott Coblio and featuring an all-marionette cast) which debuted at Rochester New York's Little Theater in October of that year and has played annually ever since at The Trunk Space in Phoenix, Arizona, always on October 16, the date of the fateful shooting.

The 2005 British film "Keeping Mum" is also loosely based on the story. The main character, played by Maggie Smith, is a murderess who has escaped from prison and is working as a nanny and housekeeper. Her dismembered victims were found in two bloody steamer trunks as she was traveling by train, though her victims are not female friends as in the true story. "Keeping Mum" also stars Rowan Atikinson, Kristin Scott Thomas and Patrick Swayze.


Winnie Ruth Judd, The Trunk Murders by J. Dwight Dobkins, Robert J. Hendricks

Winnie Ruth McKinnell Judd was born in 1905 to a Methodist Minster and his wife named Rev. and Mrs. McKinnell. Born during a blizzard in Darlington, Indiana she was raised in a Free Methodist household. Going to every service where pentecostal worship and manifestations were routine.

Even as a child, she wanted a baby. When she was 7 yrs old she told her school friends that her mother was having a baby. As the neighbors came to congratulate Mrs. McKinnell they were told the truth... there was no baby due.

As a teenager she accused her boyfriend of getting her pregnant although she had never had sex with him or with any boy. Her parents took her to a doctor who denied she was pregnant or that she had had sex but she continued to claim she was pregnant. Eventually she ran away from home and when she came back she said she had been kidnapped and had given birth but there was no baby. These lies and machinations as a child/teen could be the result of immaturity and selfishness but it was causing adult consequences. It also showed her emotional unbalance. It seems she was a nervous child and woman.

She went to work at Indiana State Hospital as an attendent. She did so well there that they were relying on this teenager to take on more responsibility. She met her husband, Dr. William C. Judd, there. Dr. Judd was a veteran of WWI and had become addicted to morphine due to war wounds. He was never able to hold a job for long.

At the time he was on staff at the State Hospital when she met him. He was 26 years her senior and she was only 17 yrs old when they married. They went to New Orleans for their honeymoon and then moved to Mexico so he could be a doctor for a large mining company. She left a small town, religious family who had to live on a small salary to a marriage that led to a lot of travelling, more money, her husband's drug and alcohol addiction and no religious affiliation. There was no stability.

Her marriage in 1924 to Dr. Judd didn't turn out to be as wonderful as she had hoped. Due to his addiction and his inability to settle down and hold a job, he was unwilling to have children. She would beg him to let her have a baby but he insisted on a form of birth control. But she soon quit the birth control without telling him and she got pregnant. Proving her immaturity and her ability to manipulate to get what she wanted. He decided that she was not emotionally or physically able to have the child and performed an abortion on her. She fell into a deep depression. When she got pregnant a second time, she left but miscarried anyway.

These events were traumatic to her and probably caused a lot of emotional pain. I would imagine her feelings towards her husband would have been hard to handle. His addiction, his own demons and selfishness, his demand that she abort the first baby, her trying to run away from him to save the 2nd baby. But she always loved him and tried to get him off narcotics. But, when he lost his job at the copper mine in Mexico they made the cross country trek and when they arrived in Laredo, he used all their money and sold their car in order to buy drugs again. This time she had a nervous breakdown and left him. She went to live in Phoenix, AZ and got a job. She brought Dr. Judd from El Paso to Phoenix and had him committed to the veteran's hospital.

Her first job was as governess to the wealthy Leigh Ford family, a position she loved. She met their friend and next door neighbor, Jack Halloran. Jack Halloran was part owner of one of the largest lumberyards in Phoenix and was one of the town's movers and shakers. He was 44 yrs old and a successful business man with a lot of charm. He liked to party. He was a good ole boy par excellence. His wealth made him attractive and he liked the women despite being married. Lonely, overwrought, still beautiful, Ruth fell for Jack Halloran and began an affair with him. Torn between her love for her husband and her religious values and the feeling of being attractive to a dashing Jack Halloran with his money and power.

Winnie got a better job as a medical secretary at the private Grunow Clinic where she met Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson. They became best friends. Anne was a 32 yr old twice divorced woman from Oregon and was the X-ray technician. Sammy was a 24 yr old woman from North Dakota who had been a teacher but was now struggling with tuberculosis. It was possible that Anne and Sammy were bi-sexual and had a relationship. Anne and Sammy were living together in 2929 North Second Street, a small studio-type duplex.

Ruth moved in with the women for a short time but living in too close quarters caused problems so Ruth moved to Brill Street. Halloran would bring along his married friends and lots of bootleg booze, to would party with the 3 women. The men often gave them gifts and money. It seems that Anne and Sammy were interested in Jack themselves and he would often visit them without Ruth. Dr. Judd came back to Phoenix and moved back in with Ruth but all the partying got him drinking despite her pleas to her friends to stop including Dr. Judd in their parties. Then Dr. Judd took a job in California and he left again.

One night in the Fall of 1931, Ruth introduced Halloran to another nurse named Lucy Moore. There was a hunting trip planned and Lucy Moore was from the hunt area. After Jack and Ruth picked up Lucy, Jack wanted to make a stop at Anne and Sammy's duplex. Ruth had turned down their earlier invitation to party by telling them she had work to do. So she was embarrassed and didn't want to go in but Jack went in and told them Ruth was in the car. So Sammy and Anne came out and Ruth introduced them to Lucille Moore. Although nothing was said that night, it seems the jealous Anne and Sammy were none too happy that Ruth had introduced the pretty Lucy to Halloran.

The next night, Ruth was again invited to Anne and Sammy's to play Bridge with another friend but she declined saying she had too much work to do. But she later changed her mind and went over. Their other friend was just leaving. They wanted to know how Jack knew Lucy Moore and Ruth told them she had introduced them. That started an argument. They threatened to tell Jack that Ruth had introduced him to a woman that had VD. Ruth told them they couldn't tell that because it was confidential information and if they did tell it then she would retaliate by telling the doctors at the clinic that Anne and Sammy were lesbians. She went into the kitchen and turned around to find Sammy standing there with a gun pointing at her and shouting that she better not tell anyone anything bad about Anne.

According to Ruth, they struggled with the gun and Anne started hitting Ruth with an ironing board. At first Ruth was shot in the hand as she grabbed the gun barrell. After strugging and fighting for the gun she said it went off and killed Sammy. As Anne came at her again, she struggled to get up and she shot Anne too. Then in a panic she put the bodies in a trunk.

The next day she had the trunk taken to her home. It was too heavy to be shipped. She said she wanted to ship the body to the coast and get her little brother to help her dump the bodies in the ocean. Supposedly, at her home, she dismembered the body of Sammy and put them in different trunks and baggage. She had it shipped to California. But, by now, it was smelling and a baggage handler brought it to the attention of the police. When it was opened they were shocked to see Anne and Sammy's body parts. They arrested Ruth.

In 1932, Ruth was convicted of the murder of the two women. Her parents and husband, Dr. Judd, stood by her through it all. She was sentenced to death by hanging but it was changed when she was declared insane. She was sent to the insane assylum where she remained. She was a model patient and was greatly loved by staff and patients alike. But she escaped 7 times from the assylum.

The last time was in 1962 and she was missing for 6 1/2 yrs before being captured again. She had spent her time taking care of an invalid and housekeeping. In 1971 it was decided that she could be released. 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.

Jack Halloran was fired by his silent partners in his lumber business for the scandal he created. He eventually disappeared into oblivion. Dr. Judd died while she was in the assylum. Her parents had moved to the area so they could be with her. Her father died after a stroke. Her mother lived a long time. She was put in the same assylum as Ruth when she became senile. Ruth nursed her until her death.

Almost from the beginning, people suspected there was more to the case. It's possible that Jack Halloran was involved either in the murders themselves or in the cover up afterwards and the dismembering of the body. Prosecutors said that she entered the residence while the two slept, then shot them in the head out of jealousy over attentions paid to them by her married boyfriend. But she claimed self defense.

After she was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, Ruth began to tell a different story. She said that after the murders, she called Jack Halloran and he took care of everything after that. But he was exonerated. Did the police cover up for him.


Winnie Ruth Judd: "The Trunk Murderess" In Perspective

by Joseph Geringer


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 character.

The Trunks

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 platform.

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 oozing out."

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, ma'am."

"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 missing!"

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 cosmetics.

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 Ruth Judd

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 a break.

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.

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 relief.

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 Jack Halloran.

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 lifestyles.

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 power.

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 life.

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 health.

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 Street.

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 been correct.

Anne LeRoi and Sammy Samuelson hadn't liked the idea of pretty, young Lucille Moore one bit.

Tangled Web

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 later.)


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 agreed.

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 equipment.

"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 financially."

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 his help.

"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 remain safe.

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 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 West Coast.

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 brown suit.

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 trunk.

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, 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 disgusting object.

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.

Never cared.

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 on time.

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.

Twelve hours.

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. 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 Judd.

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 alleged murder.

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 quite satisfactory.

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 more frightened.

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 Phoenix officialdom.

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 violent."

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."

Quite different.

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.

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 existed.

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.

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 Angeles.

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 to comment.

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 charm.

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.


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:

"(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 gesture".

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."

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?"

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 exonerating her.

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 stenographer.

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 men."

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 wore.

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 triumph.

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 again.

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 McFadden's doubts.

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 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 -- jurists.

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!'

"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.

In-and-Out Inmate

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 rap."

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 Phoenix.

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 "Mother Nichols".

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 heaven.

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 now..."

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 chance.

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."

Remembering Winnie

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 anecdote.


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 imagination."

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 psycho!"

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.



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