The Trunk Murderess

While this case takes place in the early 1930's and the same issues as previous cases, when it comes to time and accuracy occurs, this case is a little easier to separate most of the fact and fiction.  

This is the case of Winnie Ruth Judd.  She was born in 1905 in Indiana and by 1931 she had been married to a much older man, Dr. William C. Judd, for about 7 years.  Her marriage was waning and reports differ on some things involving where each of the married parties were at particular times.  Some reports say that Dr. Judd had moved from Phoenix, where they lived together, to Los Angelos in 1931 to reestablish a practice where other reports claim that he was in Mexico moving from town to town practicing.  Some reports also claim that Dr. Judd's practice was waning also due to a drug addiction.  

What is known is that in 1931 Winnie Ruth was working as a medical secretary in Phoenix and by at least October of that year Dr. Judd was not with her and she had began an affair with prominent, and married, businessman, John "Jack" Halloran.  For a short period of time Winnie had shared an apartment with the two women she would later be convicted of murdering, Agnes "Anne" LeRoi and Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson. She had supposed only lived with them for a few months and moved out to her own apartment, but remained friends with them and worked with Anne.  

On October 18th, Winnie got on a train from Phoenix bound to Los Angelos (giving credence that this was where Dr. Judd was likely residing, although I have found no more mention of him).  She boarded the train with two shipping trunks.  The following morning when she arrived at her destination and the trunks were unloaded staff noticed an odor and a fluid coming from the trunks.  Winnie was asked for the keys so they could be inspected but she said she did not have one.  She subsequently left the train station while the trunks remained.  The police were notified and when the locks were picked they found a body in each trunk.  Most reports state that one body was intact while the other was dismembered and only part of the body was in the trunk.  Apparently the bodies were quickly identified because while the news of the bodies in the trunks spread like wild flowers even the Phoenix police were at the apartment shared by Anne and Sammy on the 19th, the day of discovery.  

While even immediately the crime scene was contaminated the police reported that the mattresses to the beds were missing. Using this information, and the fact that it was discovered that the victims had been shot, the prosecutors theorized at trial that the victims were murdered in their beds.  Some reports state that one mattress was found at a later date, at a far away location, and that no blood was found, but these reports seem to be unconfirmed.  It was never explained or determined with certainty that any mattress found was in fact one from the crime scene or why both would not have been found at the same time. When police entered the apartment they apparently let reporters inside with them and by the following day the landlord of the building began running an ad in the newspaper announcing tours of the apartment.

On October 23, 1931 Winnie Ruth Judd surrendered to police and was arrested. Her trial began on January 19, 1932.  She pled innocent but insane.  It appears she was only tried for Anne's murder and because her body was not dismembered that was left out of her trial.  It had been suspected throughout that Winnie had an accomplice for a few reasons.  One was that she did not seem physically capable to moving the bodies as well as the precision used in the dismemberment of Sammy was suspected to have been done by someone with medical training.  At her trial it was revealed about her affair with Halloran.  She did not testify in her own behalf and was found guilty of 1st degree murder on February 8, 1932.  She was sentenced to be hanged on February 17, 1933 but it was repealed and she was found mentally incompetent and in April of 1933 was remanded to the Arizona State Asylum for the Insane.

Since the revelation at her trial that she and Jack Halloran had been having an affair, and amid reports that his car was spotted at the crime scene both the night of the murders as well as the day after, he was indicted by a grand jury for being an accomplice on December 30, 1932.  There was a preliminary hearing held the next month in which Winnie testified.  She claimed then that she killed the victims in self defense when they attacked her and that she had called Jack Halloran who helped her with the dismemberment and the clean up.  However, the judge freed him on January 25, 1933 after this hearing saying that the state's case was inconsistent.  Many were outraged and shocked by this ruling and believe that political, financial and social standing played a role in his release.  Eventually in the end, due to the role he played, whether rumored or not, his social and political status fell to nonexistence.  

Winnie remained in the Asylum until 1971.  Well, off and on that is since she escaped a total of six times from 1933 to 1963.  Her last escape occurred on October 8, 1963 when she obtained actual keys to the Asylum and simply walked out.  She set up residence in California as a live in maid for a wealthy family and remained free until August of 1969.  She fought for freedom and was eventually paroled on December 22, 1971.  In 1983 she was discharged from parole and on October 23, 1998 (exactly 67 years to the day of her surrender to police) she passed away at the age of 93. 

Over the many years since the crime it has been investigated and researched many times. Many believe that Anne's story of self defense, combined with the evidence was likely true.  Many also believe that Jack Halloran was involved as well as a man by the name of Dr. Brown.  It had been reported that this Dr. Brown had spoken to Winnie and supposedly planned to confess his role, as well as had made an appointment with an attorney indicating his plan but that he committed suicide prior to this happening.  There does seem to be reports that while newspapers did not seemingly know who the person was at the time that there had been plans for another person to be charged but the person had 'died.'  Early reports indicated that there may have actually been two different guns used in the murders but they seem to have been discounted as unconfirmed.  Newspapers had reported that the ME had stated this but over time no autopsy reports have been found to confirm this. 

We have to keep in mind that this was in a time where there was still a lot of "yellow journalism" going on. Yellow journalism can be compared today to supermarket tabloids, the difference being this was the daily news.  When a sensational case such as this hit the wires things were often reported that were made up or unbelievable in order to get readers to buy more newspapers. Reporters were known to make friendly with police to get the 'scoops' and as in this case that is why when police entered a crime scene they were often immediately accompanied by reporters.  It does seem that when things were reported but have not been confirmed for sure that over the years they have lost credence.  Of course that does not mean that everything that was reported was not true or that some of the things that were unconfirmed were not either.  

Many believe that Winnie's story of self defense meshes with the evidence, but then again we have to remember the crime scene was tainted. Several years later when Winnie's story was either told again or elaborated on she stated that she had visited Anne and Sammy and had decided to spend the night. She said that while they were in their bed clothes and talking the subject of Halloran came up and she and Anne began to argue.  All three women knew him.  He was apparently known as a cad.  It is unclear what relationship there was between Halloran and either Anne or Sammy. As the argument continued Winnie proclaimed that Sammy came to Anne's defense verbally. At this time Anne and Sammy supposedly threatened to "out" Winnie publicly for her affair with Halloran and Winnie threatened to confirm rumors that Anne and Sammy were homosexual.  Whether any of this is true is anyone's guess.  The only thing that seems to be confirmed is that both Winnie and Halloran were both married and at some point had had an affair.  However, with the time period that could have been damaging to both of their reputations.  Whether Anne and Sammy were homosexual is unconfirmed too, but the fact they lived together and again accounting for the time period whether they were or not may not have mattered.  It is likely that there were rumors that they were, especially since they had been friends in another state and moved to Arizona together. True or not, a rumor of homosexuality in the 1930's would have also ruined any reputation and likely the ability to maintain any financial status at all.  So if these threats were hurled on either side, they both could have been severely damaging if they were followed through on.

Many also claim there was a rush to judgment.  I am not completely sure that I can go with that theory.  I mean, she was found to be in possession of the bodies of the women.  Even if we believe that she murdered them in self defense, there is still the issue of not only dismemberment but also with her traveling with the bodies.  I have wondered if she had been allowed to take the trunks from the train what she expected to do with them.  Through research I have not found an answer to that.  I do however believe that someone, whether it be Jack Halloran or the elusive Dr. Brown, would have had to have helped her, first with the dismemberment and later with the movement of the trunks.  It was reported somewhere that while one trunk weighed around 50 lbs, which is a significant amount, the other weighed over 200 lbs. 

This is a case that has gone down in history as being one of the most bizarre and famous cases.  It will also go down in history as being a mystery, that while in a legal manner is solved, has many questions that will never fully be answered.


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