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Sunday, May 16, 2010

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

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.

Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson

The house where Anne and Sammy lived

The beds

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.

Winnie Ruth Judd

The trunks and baggage

Winnie Ruth Judd upon recapture after one of her escapes from the assylum.

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?

This book was not very well written but the story was interesting. I have found a more recent book that has been written. The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd by Jana Bommersbach.

For Ruth's own notes on the story check out this link:

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