Ruth Snyder and Henry Judd Gray

Crimes and trials usually become sensational and nationally known due to things such as the people involved or the details of the crime are especially heinous.  That was not the case with the Ruth Snyder/Henry "Judd" Gray case. This case became famously known and talked about because the criminals were so inept people were mystified as to their stupidity.  In modern times they likely would have appeared on America's Dumbest Criminals.

Ruth Brown and Albert Snyder were married in 1915.  In 1925 Ruth met Judd Gray and began an affair.  Reports differ on if this was her first affair or the last of many.  Ruth claimed that from the time of their marriage that Albert had been at the very least emotionally abusive.  Albert had been involved with another woman.  It was unclear as to if his affair with the other woman continued through the beginning of their marriage or if the woman had already passed away, to which she evidently eventually did. According to Ruth, Albert had insisted on hanging a picture of the woman in their first home and later named a boat after her.  She stated that when they would argue about things he would tell her that the other woman was "the finest woman I ever met."  She also later claimed that he was inattentive to their young daughter, Lorraine, who had been born around 1916.  Keep in mind that these claims were made at a time in which Albert was no longer able to defend himself.

According to Judd soon after the affair started Ruth began telling him that they needed to get rid of Albert.  He claims that Ruth made several attempts on her own to kill Albert using poisons and other means and each failed. He stated that he was resistant in helping Ruth get rid of Albert but that she would often use tactics such as use sex against him or demean him to get him to do things for her.  He continue to later state that the pressure she had put on him had induced him into becoming an alcoholic but that in the end he had relented.  

At some point apparently Ruth had convinced Albert to obtain some life insurance.  Then later she worked with an insurance agent (whether Judd was involved with also is up for debate) who was later convicted of forgery in signing more policies with a double indemnity clause, meaning it would pay out double if Albert's death was caused by an "unexpected act of violence." This particular act was the basis for the book "Double Indemnity" by James Cain as well as the 1944 movie starring Barbara Stanwyck. 

On March 20, 1927 Ruth and Judd carried out their plan. Now, presumably you would think that when someone plans a murder, especially one that they intend to gain money from, they would plan it to where they would get away with it to enjoy the "fruits of their labor."  Surely Ruth and Judd intended to enjoy those fruits longer than they did since their freedom lasted about two hours, and that is being generous.  

The plan started with Ruth leaving a door unlocked for Judd to enter in the evening while she, Albert and Lorraine were out.  He was to hide in the spare bedroom.  Once they were home and Albert was asleep Ruth proceeded to sneak into the other room where she and Judd had sex.  When they were done they went back to the bedroom together where they used chloroform rags on Albert, but apparently not enough.  Then surprisingly Judd hit his target as he was attempting to bash Albert in the head to crack his skull, but not hard enough and all it did was wake Albert.  In the midst of this Judd began hollering for Ruth to help him, and help him she did by casting the fatal blow to Albert's head. They then took wire and wrapped it around his neck.  They went into another room and threw things around to make it look like a burglary and also took items and hid them. Judd lightly gagged and tied Ruth up and he left the area.

As soon as Judd left Ruth managed to wake up their daughter, who amazingly did not wake up through a burglary but did as her gagged and restrained mother got her attention.  She sent the child to a neighbor's house who in turn got in touch with the police.  It did not take the police long to realize something was amiss.  First to grab their attention was the fact that Ruth did not seem to be as upset as she should have been considering her story was that she was next to her husband as these strangers had come in and murdered him right next to her.  Secondly, they notice that while the rooms were shambles there was no forced entry.  Upon looking a little further they began finding not just the items that Ruth had claimed to them were stolen, hidden in areas such as under the mattress but also bloody items.  The kicker was when they found something (accounts vary as to what the item was) that had the monogram of J.G. Not only were these the initials of Judd Gray but they were also the initials of the woman that Albert was involved with so different areas of research indicate it could have come from either one.  At any rate, whether it was from the woman or Judd it did not matter, in her mind Ruth immediately thought of Judd and brought up his name.  Almost instantly she crumbles, except according to her she was not involved, nor knew anything other than Judd had done this.  

Soon after the police track Judd down in another town and confront him.  He claimed to not be in the area or be involved. He stuck with that story for about five seconds when the police pointed out the bus ticket found in the trash can in the hotel room they found him at.  He had also talked to a police officer at the station who had remembered him and took a cab from the station to the hotel, leaving the cabbie such a measly tip he was hard to forget.  He too, just like Ruth, began almost immediately talking. And again, like Ruth, blamed it all on her, pointing out that she had dealt the fatal blow.

So within just a few short hours of committing this crime both Ruth and Judd were arrested and carried off to jail. Their trial lasted ten days in May of 1927.  Their trial was held together with both Ruth and Judd having their own defense team.  They each took the stand and continued to blame each other, just as they had on the day of their arrests.  The trial lasted ten days.  It took the jury less than two hours to find them both guilty to which they were both sentenced to death.  They were both executed on January 12, 1928 at Sing Sing prison.  Ruth's execution was second but took on more publicity for the obvious reason that she was a woman(the first executed there since 1899)but also because a journalist had been able to sneak a camera in attached to his ankle. His picture, taken just as the electricity had begun to flow, was on the front page the following day.

During their imprisonment and lasting after members from both Ruth's and Albert's family petitioned for custody of Lorraine as well as were fighting over the ill gotten insurance money.  In the end there were three policies.  One company paid out (reportedly $30,000)without question.  The other two were fought and in the end were ruled invalid.  Ruth's mother obtained custody of Lorraine and presumably received those monies for her care.

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