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Murder & Mayhem - The Strange Saga of Winnie Ruth Judd
The Saga of Winnie Ruth Judd
Winnie Ruth McKinnell was born 1905 in Darlington, Indiana, the daughter of a Methodist minister. At the age of 19, she married Dr. William C. Judd - a man 22 years her senior. The couple moved frequently looking for work. Their travels took them all over the United States and Mexico before settling in Los Angeles, California.
Her husband had become a drug addict and Winnie Ruth was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In 1930, she left Los Angeles and her husband for the dry air of Phoenix.
She found a job as a secretary at the local Grunow Clinic and befriended x-ray technician Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson. The girls became roommates and spent many nights playing cards and entertaining local business men.
Winnie Ruth became involved with local lumber giant "Happy" Jack Halloran. Both were still married. She moved out of the girls' apartment and into her own a few blocks away. However, the ladies' late night gatherings continued.
On Friday night of October 16, 1931 Winnie Ruth went to her friends' apartment for dinner and drinks. What happened next became an enduring and sensationalized part of history.
An argument between the friends broke out. Over what is still unclear. Jack Halloran? Money? Other Women? A gun was pulled and all three women were shot - Winnie Ruth in her left hand, Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson both fatally.
The body of Agnes Anne LeRoi was jammed into a large trunk. Hedvig Samuelson's body was too heavy and would not fit. Her body was then dissected, placed into multiple suitcases and covered by articles of clothing.
Judd, with the body-filled trunks, boarded a train headed for Los Angeles. Enroute the trunks began to leak and emit a horrible smell. Police greeted Judd at the Los Angeles station and asked her to open the trunks. Claiming that her husband had the keys, she fled the scene. The trunks were forced open and the women's dismembered bodies were found.
The murder trial of Winnie Ruth Judd began on January 19, 1932, at the Maricopa County Courthouse in downtown Phoenix. The media called her "the trunk murderess" and "tiger woman." Judd claimed self-defense.
She was pronounced guilty, sentenced to death by hanging, and placed on death row at the Arizona State Prison in Florence. Days before her execution Winnie Ruth was called back to the courtroom for an insanity hearing.
In 1933, she was found to be insane and moved from prison to the Arizona State Mental Hospital. During her 38-year stay she managed to escape from the hospital seven times - the last for over six years. She fled to northern California, assumed the name Marian Lane and worked as a nanny for a wealthy family.
A police investigation finally led to Judd's discovery. She was extradited back to the Phoenix asylum in 1969. Judd demanded a sanity hearing and that her case be reviewed by the state parole board.
Her case was re-opened in October of 1969. Parole was denied. A second parole hearing was called. In December of 1971, Governor Jack Williams signed the pardon. Upon her release, Winnie Ruth returned to northern California as Marian Lane. She was instructed never to tell her story or talk about any part of it ever again.
Winnie Ruth Judd died in her sleep on October 23, 1998 at the age of 93.LanguageEnglishPermissions and ReuseFrom the collection of the History and Archives Division, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. Copyright and/or publication rights for all photographs in this collection are retained by this institution.Browse TopicCriminal JusticeWomen