Transcript: 178. The Trunk Murderess, Winnie Ruth Judd | USA

You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.


Thank you for choosing our podcast. Our sponsors make it possible for us to keep bringing you new episodes – please support them as they have some great deals, just for you, our listeners. If you prefer to listen to ad-free content, simply find us on Patreon, where plans start from as little as $2 a month. 25% of these proceeds are donated to The Doe Network – working to bring closure to international cold cases. For more information, follow the link in the show notes.

Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones. 


Phoenix Union Station was busy with passengers from all walks of life on Monday the 18th of October 1931. Porters scurried along, making sure baggage gets loaded into wagons, family and friends said their halloes and goodbyes. People dressed smartly for travelling; women wore tailored dresses and coats, and men looked dashing in their pin-striped suits and hats.


The Golden State Limited was a grand locomotive that ran across the country from Chicago to Los Angeles. Baggage handler HJ Mapes stepped onto the train at El Paso, taking over from the Chicago crew. When they arrived in Phoenix, he checked and secured the baggage of the overnight passengers heading to Los Angeles. As soon as everything had been loaded and the train pulled out of the station, he noticed a bad smell protruding from two black trunks. One was a large 40 by 24-inch steamer trunk, and the other slightly smaller. Mapes had a closer look and discovered dark fluid seeping out from the bottom of both trunks. The baggage handler knew it was blood but assumed that someone was transporting deer meat interstate. 


As soon as they arrived in Los Angeles, Mapes notified the district baggage agent, Arthur Anderson. Inspectors like Anderson knew how important it was to monitor all bags, valises and trunks, as bootleggers and gangsters often used the rail to smuggle goods interstate. Hunters occasionally tried to sneak venison across state lines, posing tremendous health risks. Anderson agreed that the foul-smelling trunks probably contained the carcass of a deer, but he was mistaken… The contents of the black travel trunks were something far more sinister. And the elegant female passenger in the brown dress suit who had brought the baggage onto the train, had a lot to answer for…


>>Intro Music

Winnie Ruth McKinnell was born on the 29th of January 1905 in Oxford Indiana. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother devoted her time to their parish and her two children: Ruth and Burton. 


Ruth married at the young age of 17, which was not uncommon at the time. Her husband, Dr William Judd, was twenty years older than her. William had fought in the Great War, and his injuries caused him constant pain, which eventually led to morphine addiction. William was a medical doctor and knew how to hide his addiction from most people. Ruth worked as a secretary at her husband’s practice, and they made a good team. However, the staleness of everyday routine was not for William – he wanted to make a difference in the world. 


The couple decided to relocate to Mexico, where William provided medical aid to people in small rural villages. Because of William’s addiction, he struggled to keep down a job, and the couple moved around a lot. This lifestyle was not for Ruth, who appreciated the finer things in life. During their time in Mexico se contracted tuberculosis and William sent her to a facility in Los Angeles to recuperate. 


When Ruth returned, it was clear that their marriage was on the rocks. Adding to the stress of William’s unemployment and chronic pain, Ruth continued to struggle with her health and learnt that she would not be able to have children. Although they remained married, they decided not to live together. Phoenix, Arizona with its hot desert climate attracted many people who had suffered from TB. In 1930 Ruth, ready for a fresh start, moved to the city that was known as ‘The Valley of the Sun’.


Phoenix’s population had doubled in the 1920’s, and by 1930 the once sleepy desert town, was home to 48,000 people. It still had the flavour of the Wild West, but the outlaws had swapped their chaps and Stetsons for tailored suits and saddle shoes. Despite being plunged into economic turmoil of the Great Depression, Phoenix was a growing metropolis, 


She found a job, working as a governess for a wealthy family, the Leigh Fords. It was a great fit, as Ruth was a gentle, church-going woman, who could converse with anyone from children to the Fords’ high-profile friends. 


Embracing her newfound independence, Ruth became interested in a neighbour of her employers, 44-year-old businessman, John J ‘Happy Jack’ Halloran. He was a married man with a roving eye and reputed to be a womaniser. Happy Jack socialised in Phoenix’s high society and was well-connected with other businessmen and politicians. He had a large personality and his charming smile and charismatic charm made him one of the most popular men in Phoenix. Ruth and Jack were friends for a while, but eventually their relationship grew into a romantic affair.


All the while, Ruth maintained contact with her husband – they wrote and called as often as they could and were still very fond of each other. William had decided to return to America and checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic in Los Angeles, to combat his morphine addiction. Although Ruth was sleeping with Jack Halloran, she remained close to William in other ways, supporting him emotionally, and leaning on him to support her if she needed him. Ruth had two separate lives: the caring wife who valued her husband’s well-being; and the single, independent woman who loved the attention from debonair men in Phoenix. 


Dr William Judd came to stay with his wife in Phoenix after his release from rehab, but he soon fell into his old habits. Unable to keep a job, he unsuccessfully tried to set up a practice in Mexico before moving back to Los Angeles. Ruth decided to stay put in Phoenix, creating her own stability. She confided in her brother that she would join William if he managed to get himself settled. In the meanwhile, she was happy to remain right where she was. 


As time went on, Ruth became more confident. She was ready to try something new and found a secretarial job at Grunow Medical Clinic. The job suited the outgoing 26-year-old Ruth well and she soon made good friends. 32-year-old Agnes ‘Ann’ LeRoi worked as an X-ray technician, and she introduced Ruth to her housemate, Hedvig ‘Sammy’ Samuelson who was 24. They had met Alaska moved to Phoenix after Sammy was diagnosed with TB. The three women got along handsomely and soon became firm friends. As luck would have it, Ann and Sammy also knew Ruth’s lover, the man of the town, ‘Happy Jack’ Halloran.


Ann and Sammy shared a bungalow and often hosted parties. Jack and his friends were always on the guest list and enjoyed philandering with the young and attractive single women. Most were married men with families, and what happened at Ann and Sammy’s stayed at Ann and Sammy’s. The rambunctious gatherings were rather lucrative, as it was later revealed the wealthy guests often left wads of cash for their hosts. The implication was strong that the men paid for sex, but this could never be confirmed. 


Ruth was also at these parties, always on Jack’s side. And because she spent so much time there, her two friends from Alaska invited her to move in with them. This didn’t quite work out as they had many petty confrontations about housekeeping. After a couple of months, Ruth moved back into her own apartment – just down the road. They were still friends it was just clear that they should not be roommates. Also, Ann and Sammy were very close, in fact Ann’s co-workers all assumed that they were lovers. Regardless of the nature of their relationship, it was evident that no one could come between them. Ruth was very much a fifth wheel, and speculation went that this contributed to her decision to move out.


In the fall of 1931 Ruth’s life was all about working hard, playing hard, then retreating to her own place where she often spent time with Jack Halloran. However, without much notice, on Sunday, October 18, 1931, Ruth stepped onto an overnight train, the Golden State Limited and headed for Los Angeles. It looked like she was leaving Phoenix for good, because she had a couple of large trunks and a lot of luggage with her. Her left hand was injured and bandaged, and onlookers assumed she was leaving a bad domestic situation behind her. Ruth told her co-workers that she had to go to Los Angeles to see her husband and her brother, who was a junior at the University of California at the time.


When she arrived in Los Angeles, she was waiting for someone who was supposed to give her a lift. However, the person never showed up. Ruth left her baggage unclaimed, took a trolley to her brother’s dormitory and asked her to go back to the train station to collect her bags. Burton McKinnell drove his Ford to baggage claims, where Arthur Anderson was waiting for Ruth. 


Anderson politely explained that due to the foul odour coming from Ruth’s trunks. Ruth claimed she couldn’t smell anything bad, at which point her brother laughed, puzzled. How could she not smell the stench? It was overpowering. Ruth was clearly nervous and insisted that the travel trunks only contained personal belongings. Anderson insisted she opened it for inspection, and after fumbling through her purse, Ruth said she did not have the keys. According to Ruth her husband had the keys and she would have to go fetch him, as she did not know his phone number off by heart. Ruth grabbed a hold of Burton’s arm and ushered him to his car. Burton, although confused, complied and they left.


Ruth left with her brother, Burton McKinnell. He recalled that he jokingly asked her whether she was hiding a man or a woman’s body. Ruth did not laugh and bleakly said that it was justified and she did not have a choice. She asked him for some money and got out of the car when he stopped for passing traffic. He saw her disappear into the crowd, and knew she was in trouble. 


At 4:30pm, agent Anderson realised the blonde lady with the coiffed hair was not coming back. He called the Los Angeles Police Department to report the suspected contraband. Police officers arrived within the hour and were taken aback by the strong smell. They were familiar with the odour and picked the locks with trepidation. 


When officers opened Ruth Judd’s travel trunks, they found stained clothing covering the cause of the smell: it was the body of a young woman. They inspected the rest of the luggage and discovered the head, torso, and lower legs of a second woman in a black shipping trunk. 


A cleaning lady reported that a woman named Mrs Judd had left some items behind the door in the women’s washroom, but never returned for it. Investigators opened the baggage and found the missing body parts: the second deceased woman’s upper legs had been chopped up and divided and packed into a valise and hatbox. They also found a surgeon’s instrument bag, a .25 Colt automatic pistol and a box of Winchester cartridges. 


An autopsy showed that the dismembered body had suffered four gunshots: one in the shoulder, one to the left breast, a third through the left temple and a partial wound to the middle finger on her left hand. The other body had only one wound: to the head. The medical examiner concluded that the women had been killed two days before.


By Monday night, the first media reports about the horrific discovery were broadcast over national news stations. 


However, four days later, on Friday 23 October, she police found the tired, hungry and desperate Ruth, hiding inside a funeral home. No one was prepared to hear the spine-chilling story that was about to come out… Ruth confessed to police that she had killed her best friends, Ann and Sammy in Phoenix, and had placed their remains in her baggage, hoping to dispose of it. 


She explained that tensions between the friends have been growing for some time, and that things came to a head in the second week of October. The friends had hosted three parties that week, and Jack Halloran mentioned that he was planning a hunting trip to North Arizona. Ruth took note, and introduced him to a new, attractive co-worker who came from the White Mountains, thinking she could provide Halloran with some tips about the area.


On Thursday night, 15 October, Ruth, Jack and Ruth’s co-worker Lucille Moore were going to have dinner at Ruth’s place to discuss the hunting trip. Jack picked the ladies up after work and said he wanted to stop by Ann and Sammy’s house on the way, seeing as they were having a get-together and he said he’d drop by. Ruth didn’t want to go, it was a bit awkward because Ann had invited her that night, but she had said no, on account of the planned dinner with Jack and Lucille. 


Either way, Jack popped in for a while, while Ruth and Lucille waited in the car. Ann and Sammy came outside to say hi to Ruth and were friendly and smiling as always. But Ruth had the feeling that they did not like the fact that she had introduced Jack Halloran to the good-looking young Lucille. Nothing was said, but her hunch was right on the money – as would later be revealed. Ruth, Jack, Lucille and a couple of Jack’s friends left the party and continued their night of socialising at Ruth’s place. 


According to Ruth, she had plans to go out to dinner with Jack Halloran on Friday night the 16th of October, but by 9pm, she realised that she had been stood up. Annoyed after waiting in vain, she decided to go over to Ann and Sammy’s, knowing they were playing bridge with a mutual friend. However, by the time Ruth arrived, the friend had already left. Ann invited her to stay the night. They both worked at the clinic on Saturdays, so they could leave together in the morning. 


In Ruth’s version of events, an argument between her, Ann and Sammy became heated when they expressed their anger at her for introducing Halloran to the other woman. Ann had seen her take medication at work and concluded that she had syphilis. She was furious that Ruth would bring someone else into the fold that posed a danger to all of them. Remember, based on friends’ statements, the likelihood was strong that Jack Halloran also had a sexual relationship with Ann, and perhaps even Sammy too. Ann said Jack would be furious if he knew Ruth had introduced him to a girl with syphilis and felt he had the right to know. Ruth was offended at Ann’s assumption that Jack would sleep with Lucille and also that Ann used confidential information from the clinic against a colleague.


Ruth claimed that the argument between her and Ann escalated to the point that Ann threatened to inform Ruth’s husband and reverend father about her decadent lifestyle. Ruth hit back, threatening to expose Ann at work for breaking a piece of x-Ray equipment in a fit of anger one day. 


At that point Sammy walked into the room with a handgun, pointed at Ruth. She said that she leaped toward Sammy, in an attempt to take the gun off her. A struggle ensued and a shot went off, hitting Ruth’s left hand. Ruth grabbed a bread knife and cut Sammy’s shoulder in self-defence. Sammy, still holding the gun, attacked Ruth again and soon both women were on the floor, wrestling. Another shot was fired, which went into Sammy’s other shoulder. At this point Ann came over with an ironing board, hitting Ruth over the head and yelling for Sammy to shoot her. With Sammy’s finger still on the trigger, a shot went into Sammy’s chest. Ruth claimed only after this shot, did Sammy let go of the gun. Ann was still coming at her with the ironing board and Ruth fired the gun in her direction. She could not remember how many times she pulled the trigger, but she had a faint memory of Ann collapsing before she herself passed out. When Ruth woke up, both Ann and Sammy’s motionless bodies were lying next to her on the kitchen floor. 


Ruth was in shock and decided to go back home. She took the trolley part of the way, but had to walk the last few blocks home, seeing as it was the last trip for the night. When she arrived home, a drunken Jack Halloran was waiting for her in his car, parked outside. She told him what had happened and was about to call her husband in Los Angeles for advice, but Jack convinced her not to call William and said he would help her. 


They returned to Ann and Sammy’s house where Halloran kicked into action. He picked up Sammy’s lifeless body and carried her to Ann’s bedroom, where he laid her down on the bed. She was covered in blood and as he dropped her onto the mattress, some of her blood went onto the wall. Ruth attempted to clean up the scene but was too emotional. She wanted to go to the police, but Jack talked her out of it. He called one of his cronies, Dr Brown to come and take care of her injured hand. Jack also said that Dr Brown would help them. Ruth was cautious NOT to involve more people, but Jack pacified her, and said he had a lot of dirt on Brown, and he would be a willing accomplice. However, they could not get a hold of the doctor and Ruth performed first aid on her own hand.


Halloran went into the garage to fetch a trunk and told Ruth she could go home and that he would deal with the situation. He made her promise ‘not to tell anyone’. She left him and spent a sleepless night alone, worried about the fall-out. She tried calling in sick the next morning, but her boss wouldn’t have it. 


Ruth spent an agonising day at work, not sure what she was going to do. Jack Halloran called her at midday and told her to meet him at Ann and Sammy’s bungalow that night. When Ruth arrived, the house was clean and there were two black shipping trunks ready and waiting. The previous night Jack and mentioned that he would take the bodies into the desert, but he had changed his mind. He felt it was too risky, as highway patrol officers kept an eagle eye on the roads surrounding Phoenix. 


The amended plan was for Ruth to take the trunks to Los Angeles, where one of his associates would meet her at L.A.’s Central train station and take care of it. He instructed her to call a delivery company to transport the trunks to the station in Phoenix. Jack offered to buy her a ticket and assured her it would be waiting when she arrived the next day. Frazzled but determined, Ruth did as she was told. Jack left and she called the delivery service. However, when they arrived, they said the trunks were too heavy and suggested she repacked them. Ruth explained that they contained her husband’s medical books and persuaded the men to help her move the trunks to her apartment, which they did.


Later that night, she opened up the trunks and, retching as she saw her friends’ remains, unpacked the trunks. Ann’s body was in one piece and Sammy’s had been cut up into smaller pieces. Ruth claimed that she packed Sammy’s dismembered body parts into various pieces of luggage, but insisted she was not the one who had dismembered her.


The next day she tried to contact Jack to ask for his help with the trunks, but he was nowhere to be found. Running out of time, and desperate to get away, she asked her landlord for a lift to the station. He obliged and roped his son in to help carry the heavy load. Again she told them the trunks contained her husband’s medical journals. When she arrived at the station, the trunks were found to be 175 pounds overweight. Ruth had to pay $4.48 extra, which was most of her money, but she knew she had no other choice.


Fortunately for her, Jack came through on his promise to buy her a ticket, but that was the last favour he ever did for her. From that moment forward, it was like he had never met her before. And as for the ‘contact’ he had arranged for her in Los Angeles… He never showed. Well, he probably didn’t exist. Jack Halloran wanted his mistress and the mess she had created out of Phoenix, and out of his life – she was on her own. 


Investigators were stunned to hear Ruth’s story. By the time they caught up with her, the entire country already knew about the grim discovery. Journalists lapped up the sensational story, and headlines about the Tiger Woman, or the Blonde Butcher spread across front pages of newspapers in every state. They would eventually settle on the more descriptive ‘The Trunk Murderess’, as they learnt more about the case. 


Back in Phoenix, police were contacted about the missing Mrs Rudd soon after they discovered Ann and Sammy’s bodies. On Monday October 19th, Phoenix police entered the bungalow of horrors, at 2929 N. 2nd Street. Bizarrely they allowed neighbours and journalists into the house at the same time. Needless to say, the crime scene was compromised and vital evidence was destroyed. 


To make things even worse, the landlord seized the opportunity and placed an advertisement in a local newspaper, inviting the people of Phoenix on tours of the murder scene. For an entrance fee of ten cents, visitors could see the grisly site up close. People came in droves, hundreds of them and Ruth Judd’s defence lawyer later stated that…


“…the entire population of Maricopa County visited that place.”


Despite the crime-scene blunder, Phoenix police set out to investigate Ruth Judd and the events leading up to the murders. A secretary who worked at Grunow Medical Clinic on the morning after the murders, recalled Ruth Judd trying to call in sick. Moments after the call ended, another woman called, pretending to be Ann Leroi, to inform her boss that she was in Tucson and would not be coming into work. The secretary was listening in on the call and told the doctor that the called was definitely not Ann LeRoi. Her best guess was that it was Ruth Judd. 


The driver for the Lightning Delivery Company confirmed that a woman fitting Ruth Judd’s description had wanted them to take two heavy trunks to the station, but when three of them were unable to lift it, they suggested she re-distributed the weight. She did not want them to see what was inside and persuaded them to take it to her apartment.


Ruth Judd’s trial commenced on January 19, 1932, at the Maricopa County Courthouse. She was only charged with the murder of Ann LeRoi, whose body was still intact when discovered inside the trunk. She was not charged with the murder of Sammy Samuelson, nor was she charged with the dismemberment.


The police maintained that Ruth Judd's victims were shot while asleep in their beds. When she heard about this, she was confused, and reiterated her statement, that the altercation took place in the kitchen. The first officers to have entered the bungalow claimed that both mattresses from were missing when they first entered. One of the mattresses was later found in vacant lot, some distance away from the crime scene. It had no blood on it. The other mattress was never recovered. 


The prosecution stated that the motive for the murders was jealousy. According to police, Ruth shot her friends, after the three women had an argument, competing for Jack Halloran’s affections. The prosecution also alleged that it was not the first argument of its kind and that jealousy of Halloran had reached fever pitch. They also touched on the fact that Ruth Judd felt jealous of the relationship between Ann and Sammy. 


The Trunk Murderess was a calculating, cold-blooded killer, who then shot her own hand before leaving for Los Angeles, so she could later claim she had acted in self-defence. This theory was non-sensical, as many witnesses saw her bandaged hand while she was working the morning following the murders. 


Ruth Judd’s defence had a tough job. She had confessed to the murders and was caught red-handed, transporting the two bodies. They claimed the gunshot wound to her hand was not self-inflicted, and that she did not want to claim self-defence. However, the only possible explanation for her actions was that she insane. On the advice of her attorney, a fragile-looking Ruth did not take the stand.  


With guidance from the presiding judge, the jury found Ruth Judd guilty of the first-degree murder of Ann LeRoi and she was sentenced to death by hanging. Later members of the jury disclosed that all of them recommended life imprisonment, but that it was the judge who insisted on the death penalty. 


It was a media frenzy, and many outlets questioned why Ruth Judd was the only one charged with the murders, when it was clear she did not act alone. During the trial, Jack Halloran’s involvement came out and it could not be ignored. He was indicted later that same year and charged as an accomplice in January 1933. Ruth Judd testified for the prosecution at Jack Halloran’s trial. She was very emotional and said:


“I am going to be hanged for something Jack Halloran is responsible for… I was convicted of murder, but I shot in self-defence. 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.”


Halloran’s lawyer did not call him to the stand and made it clear to the court that he did not believe Ruth. He said her version of events was nothing more than, QUOTE “the story of an insane person” UNQUOTE.


Halloran was found not guilty and released immediately. The once-was ‘Happy Jack’ Halloran became increasingly unpopular in Phoenix, and eventually moved to Tucson, where he passed away in 1939 – eight years after the murders.


In April 1933, after a 10-day hearing, Ruth Judd was found to be mentally incompetent. Her death sentence was commuted to life in captivity, and she was moved from Arizona State Prison to the Arizona State Asylum for the Insane. 


Over a period of thirty years, Ruth managed to escape from the asylum no less than six times. During one attempt she walked more than 170 miles along the Southern Pacific Railway track and ended up in Yuma. After her final escape in 1963, she remained at large for more than six years. During this time, she worked as a maid under the assumed name of Marian Lane, for a wealthy family in the San Francisco Bay Area. 


Police tracked her down by tracing records of the state licensing department. She was arrested and taken back to the asylum in Arizona in August 1969. She managed to hire powerful Californian attorneys, who called for her immediate release. With some legal hustling, she was granted parole in 1971 and eventually received her absolute discharge in 1983. 


On her release she returned to her job in San Francisco, where she continued to work for several years. After a stint in Stockton, she went back to Phoenix where she settled in for the last chapter of her life. In a strange twist of fate, Winnie Ruth Judd died on October 23rd 1998, sixty-seven years to the day from her surrender to police in Los Angeles. 


Investigative journalist, Jana Bommersbach, studied Ruth Judd’s case and formed a close friendship with her over the years. Bommersbach felt that Ruth was a victim of police bias, and that hers was a case of trial by media. Before she was arrested, she had already been dubbed a killer, and that is how the narrative stayed. Bommersbach concluded that she did not receive a fair trial, and that the judge’s influence on the jury was unconstitutional. 


The fact that Halloran’s car, a grey Packard, was seen parked outside Ann and Sammy’s bungalow on the night of the murders, as well as the next day, strongly implies that he was more involved than he claimed to have been. 


Bommersbach had autopsy photos re-examined and proved that the dismemberment of Sammy’s body was done with precision, likely by a surgeon or a butcher. Exploring this theory, Bommersbach interviewed a nurse named Ann Miller. Ann had met Ruth Judd in Arizona State Asylum where Ruth told her a certain Dr Brown had visited her in prison and promised her, he would confess to everything. A Phoenix attorney claimed that Dr Brown had made an appointment with him to tell him what he knew about the murders but died before they could meet. Records show that a local doctor by the name of Brown died of a heart attack, fitting the timeline of Ann Miller’s account, in June 1932. 


According to Bommersbach, there were rumours about the doctor contemplating suicide before he died. She uncovered an article published in the New York Mirror, reporting about Halloran’s indictment. This quote from Bommersbach’s book, The Trunk Murderess:


“A second man would probably have been indicted, according to widespread rumour, 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.'"


Jana Bommersbach also questions if Ruth would have been physically strong enough to lift Ann’s body into the trunk all by herself. Also, the bullet was still lodged in her hand, and she could not use it at all. She also pointed out a discrepancy in early reports about the calibre of bullets, stating that Ann was shot with a larger calibre bullet. Does that mean there was a second gunman? Or was it a misprint? Either way, this fact was abandoned somewhere along the way. 


In 2014, a confession written in April 1933 in Ruth Judd’s handwriting surfaced, having been donated to the Arizona State Archives in 2002 by an unnamed person. It had been in the possession of her lawyer and contradicted her earlier account. Her lawyer supressed the letter, because it would have caused problems in an appeal he had filed before receiving the letter. After his death, Ruth pleaded with his widow to return the letter to her, but she refused. In the letter, she claims that she planned and executed the murder of Ann Le Roi, because of jealousy regarding Halloran. She never wanted to kill Sammy Samuelson, but she walked in after hearing the gunshot, and Ruth had no ither choice than to shoot her too. In the letter Ruth claims that she acted alone in the disposal of the bodies. 


This letter was problematic because it was a mere echo of the prosecution’s case. The question is: Why would she confess to shooting Ann, and struggling with Sammy, accidentally shooting her, but lie about the location of the scuffle? Some theorised that this was an attempt to protect Halloran, either by her own choice, or because she was threatened to do so. 


Ruth Judd’s is an interesting case of lust, jealousy, and 1930s debauchery. We will probably never know exactly what happened fateful night in the bungalow on N 2nd Street in Phoenix. What is interesting to note, is the fact that Ruth did not seem to be the jealous type. She freely introduced Jack Halloran to other women and even mentioned to Lucille Moore that she would never be serious about Jack, because they were both married. She was eager to know what Lucille thought of him and encouraged her to befriend him. Of course, a woman’s heart could be filled with secrets, however, this did not seem to be the case with Ruth. She wrote openly to her brother and her husband and maintained that she had no choice that night. In a letter to William, she rambles about the incident – even comparing it to a battle between Germany and the US during the Great War - and begs for her husband’s forgiveness. This is an exert from the letter:


“Doctor, dear, I am so sorry Sammy shot me; whether it was the pain or what, I got the gun and killed her. It was horrible to pack the things as I did. I kept saying: I’ve got, I’ve got to, or I’ll be hung. I’ve got to, or I’ll be hung.”


Journalist Jana Bommersbach’s investigation uncovered evidence that alluded Ruth Judd’s innocence. Because Phoenix was only a small city at the time of the murders, police knew all the role-players in this case, long before the murders were committed. Some officers believed that Ruth never killed anyone, and that she only transported the bodies, in the hope of strengthening her relationship with Halloran. Even if that meant helping him to conceal a crime. 


Ann’s diary, found in the bungalow allegedly named many of her nocturnal visitors. Most of the men were elite members of Phoenix’s society. If their indiscretions were publicised, it could have caused a major scandal. It is not exactly clear what happened to the diary, or exactly what was written inside. It was certainly not used as evidence at either Ruth or Jack’s trials. Although police admitted to the existence of the diary, they never disclosed what it had revealed. 


In watching an interview with Ruth after her capture in 1968, one can perhaps understand a bit more about the attitude of the investigators and the media. Her interviewer keeps calling her ‘Ruthie’, and repeats certain aspects of the crime, as per the prosecution’s case. At Ruth’s first trial, the prosecution had a theory, and they built the case to fit their story. And if Ruth refuted their story, everyone, including her own defence said she was insane. It is true that Ruth perhaps came across as a fragile person, who talked quickly and nervously. Could it be that someone like the smooth and confident Halloran saw an opportunity to use her as a scapegoat? Could he perhaps have asked Ruth to take the fall for something he had done, with the promise of using his connections to get her out of trouble? But as soon as she was caught, he sat back and enjoyed the show. His car was seen parked outside Ann and Sammy’s house that Friday night – earlier on. He did NOT only arrive after midnight to help Ruth. For argument’s sake, if he walked in on a grisly crime scene, why didn’t he walk away right there and then – why did he become so entrenched in the case? Was it perhaps Ruth that helped him? And could it be, that perhaps, she was in way over her head, trying to help a man she knew she could never have?


If you'd like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes. 


Also visit us on social media to see more about today's case – we’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also check out our channel on YouTube.

If you like what we do here at Evidence Locker, subscribe in Apple Podcast or wherever you are listening right now – and kindly leave a 5-star review.


This was The Evidence Locker. Thank you for listening!


©2022 Evidence Locker Podcast

All rights reserved. This podcast or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a podcast review.



As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.