The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd
On October 18, 1931, Winnie Ruth Judd, a 26-year old medical secretary, boarded a train from Phoenix to Los Angeles with two large trunks, leaking blood, containing the dead and dismembered bodies of her two closest friends. After abandoning the trunks and being on the lam, Judd finally handed herself in to the police. Thereafter, Judd became Arizona’s longest serving felon, avoiding hanging by 72 hours before her sentence was to be carried out because she was found to be insane. She was institutionalized for the next three decades but made frequent escapes, once for as long as 6 1/2 years. Judd was finally released in 1971 and lived quietly under the assumed name of Marian Lane.
The Trunk Murderess is both a study of the extraordinary life of Judd and a fascinating exploration of the complexities and inadequacies of criminal investigations and legal processes. While Bommersbach vividly recreates Phoenix in 1931, recounting the murder and Judd’s conviction in great detail, she also is a superb investigative journalist who met and became friendly with Lane, ultimately coming to question the evidence. Bommersbach’s case for the redemption of Winnie Ruth Judd makes for a compelling read.