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The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  461 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
If history is right, a 26 year-old beauty named Winnie Ruth Judd murdered her two best girlfriends one hot Phoenix night in 1931. Then she hacked up their bodies, stuffed the pieces into a trunk, and took them by train to Los Angeles as her baggage.
If history is right, she was sentenced to die but "cheated the gallows" by acting insane. She spent nearly 40 years in Arizon
Paperback, 317 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Poisoned Pen Press (first published November 1992)
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Ann Tracy
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ann by: mom
My mom recommended this book, purely from personal interest. She met Winnie Ruth upon her return to Phoenix in the 1990's. My aunt and adopted grandmother worked at the women's prison in Florence. My aunt was the warden there when Judd returned after her long escape. My adopted grandmother was the prison nurse. They had become friends with Winnie Ruth while she was an inmate, and were surprised to receive a phone call from Winnie upon her return to living in Phoenix. She invited them to lunch. M ...more
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In 1931, two traveling trunks were brought from Phoenix to L.A. on a train. By the time they were unloaded in L.A. they were leaking blood. The police opened the trunks and found the bodies of two young women inside, one of them having been cut into pieces. The owner of the trunks, Winnie Ruth Judd, had been aboard the train but vanished when she saw the police present. After a manhunt she was found and taken back to Phoenix to face murder charges. The victims had been her friends and former roo ...more
As a Phoenix area native, I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by the Trunk Murderess, and even spent one Halloween night trying to find the house in downtown Phoenix where the murders took place (I found an empty lot, but it turns out the plots were relisted in the 40s - I drove past the actual house so many times without knowing what I was looking at!). When I read Jana Bommersbach's groundbreaking book in college, I saw Winnie Ruth Judd in a new light: as a victim of a powerful ma ...more
The fuck Arizona? Was there really that much debauchery, sin and illegal activities going on in 1930s Phoenix that one woman had to be the sacrificial lamb to cover all that filth up?

Winnie Ruth Judd became infamous across the country as the Trunk Murderess after authorities found the two trunks she was trying take with her to Los Angeles contained a dead body and a dismembered body. Judd always claimed that she shot her friends Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson in self defense one night after an
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
I grew up in Arizona, yet I never remember hearing about Winnie Ruth Judd. I must have at some point, but I don't remember ever hearing her name or any details of the case. After reading this book, I feel like I've read everything I need to about the case. Jana Bommersbach was thorough and meticulous in her research. She paid great attention to detail including many first-person sources and interviews that have never before been published. Her writing was compelling and very readable. Once I sta ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
An interesting account of how justice was not served back in the 30's. Just to protect a wealthy businessman, the police and courts provided false evidence to blame Judd of a crime she had a hand in but had help in the coverup. It seems back in the day, prosecution was not legally bound to provide their evidence to the defense; it was not instituted until the 60's. Therefore, the defendant's lawyers were walking into the trial blind.
May 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a frustrating case of incompetence! How sad for poor Mrs. Judd to be in the middle of it all. Read it. You wont be sorry. I read this to Tom on our way home from a trip and we were just glued. We only had a few pages left when we got home and I didn't want the trip to end so we could finish it! What a crazy story, what a sad part of Arizona history. I am glad that Arizona picked this as the "One Book Arizona" this year.
Oct 22, 2010 rated it liked it
This is an intriguing story of a woman involved in a murder and cruel disposal of the bodies. I concur with the author that she was not completely responsible for the incident. The writing was hard for me to get through as the author seemed to interject herself too much into the story and the middle section was very repetitive.
Tony Bucci
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
This famous case took place right here in Phoenix, so reading this book (for the second time!) was quite fun. Keeping track of all the different persons involved in the crime and investigations can be overwhelming at times. But being able to see the actual locations mentioned in the book is kind of cool.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not guilty! Fascinating read of early Phoenix and the scandal that rocked this town for many decades. I'm grateful our legal system/police work and discovery have made some progress over the years.
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've always been a sucker for historical true crime, and 1931 is plenty historical enough for me. Even the book is historical: I must have bought this book as a remaindered hardcover twenty years ago and never got around to reading it. I'm glad I finally did. The author, a newspaperwoman in Phoenix, where this story began, was determined to find out the "truth" behind Winnie Ruth Judd and the two bodies she transported from Phoenix to LA and then spent decades in an insane asylum and prison for ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting to see how this crime was viewed over the decades. Would be willing to bet Judds outcome would be different if tried in this millennium.
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How has a true crime junkie living in AZ never read "The Trunk Murderess" until this day? I've been aware of Winnie Ruth Judd for ages, of course. I've also been aware that Jana Bommersbach is our local expert and said to be the best authority in all matters WRJ. I've even been to a bar in downtown Phoenix that features a beautiful, moving, shadow art mobile themed on the Winnie Ruth Judd tragedy and trial. It's a work of art, always fascinates me no matter how many drinks I've had, and now I kn ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Winnie Ruth Judd lived a difficult life, but she persevered day by day with a special kind of grace that must have come from above. The infamous "trunk murderess" was very likely anything but, as Janna Bommersbach presents in The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd.

The story of the Phoenix trunk murders continues to intrigue people as much today as it did in the 1930s. It's the story of a young woman, her two best friends, and a businessman-playboy who sat back and laughed. Winnie Ruth Judd, separ
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The amount of research that went into the book is amazing. Almost as amazing as the story and the cover-up. Actually, the cover-up is not that surprising. The strength of "good ol' boy" connections in any community is powerful, and political influencing is certainly still alive and well in Arizona. A whole cascade of dirty secrets could have been put into motion with a little more digging and integrity on the part of key players.
Winnie Ruth Judd, may or may not have killed her friends, but Bomm
Maryann Watkins
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is an example of extraordinary investigative journalism. In October of 1931 in Phoenix, two young women were killed. One body was stuffed in a steamer trunk; the other body was cut into several pieces and placed in different trunks and bags. Then the "luggage" was put on a train from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Problem: upon arrival, the trunk was leaking blood.

This book looks at the crime that shook Phoenix - and the nation. Winnie Ruth Judd, dubbed the "trunk murderess," was arrested, tr
Pat Murphy
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I gave this 5 stars because the reading was understandable and the story, even though it is non fiction, was very interesting. I usually find nonfiction good anyway. I was able to satisfy my own curiosity about this crime from the book. The chronology went the way I prefer it to. I tend to get lost in stories that jump back and forth in time. The people in the book all seemed to be real. There was no exaggeration or undue vilifying that I could see or feel. This was the famous case of the murder ...more
May 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimen
Best part of this book was the Epilogue: "It seems ironic that a train would play such a crucial role in the Winnie Ruth Judd case, considering how successfully Arizona railroaded her." . . .

My ears also perk right up anytime Melvin Belli is mentioned. In 1988 he was considering a case against me, when I shot right over to his San Francisco office, spilled my "guts" and made him desist. I have a lot of respect for that man, but he wasn't going to get anywhere in my case and I'm glad I was able t
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book — which I looked up after hearing Liberty Hardy talk about it on podcast, “All the Books.” The story leaves us with many more unanswered than answered questions, due to a lot of conflicting evidence and testimony, speculation and confusion. And the whole story is so far in the past now (1931) that it’s unlikely to be conclusively resolved, despite the fact that long-hidden evidence and confessions seem to keep coming to light. The author is sympathetic to Jud ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
With the burden of her drug-addicted older husband, an affair on her conscious seemingly put Winnie over the edge leading to a jealous girl-fight and the mysterious murder of her two best friends. Or did it?? The actions of Arizona back in that time created more holes in her case than Swiss cheese!! This in-depth investigative journal piece examines the conviction and conspiracy surrounding the case of Winnie Ruth Judd, the alleged "Trunk Murderess." I can dig a good murder and have two best fri ...more
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Granted, the subject's proximity to my home (and unexpected involvement of my original home state) made this more interesting to me than the average reader, but fans of true crime should like it also. Well researched and fairly objectively presented. Thoughtful insights as to the probabilities of "political" influence, a concept that likely still holds today, albeit in the manner of race or class differences. Also a well-written, easy-to-follow book. All-in-all, a good education in second-guessi ...more
M Elizabeth
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This book got off to a slow start and I'm not sure I would have kept reading if I hadn't been so interested in finding out more about the historical case that inspired Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbot. Eventually I was caught by the story itself. Jana Bommersbach has done considerable research and interviewed many who directly touched the original case and those who were caught up in it. The fact that Winnie Ruth, herself, spoke with the author but didn't care to discuss much about the case makes "th ...more
May 08, 2010 rated it liked it
As a Phoenix transplant, I had never heard of the story of Winnie Ruth Judd until I found this book here on Goodreads. But now that I've read this book, I seem to feel an attachment to finding out more about Phoenix and Arizona history. While this book had a bit too much research and mish mash evidence from various sources mixed together, making it a hard read at times, I still appreciated all the insight into how politically corrupt Phoenix was in the time period of this book. In fact, it makes ...more
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is the One Book Arizona choice for 2010. It's a non-fiction investigation of the Winne Ruth Judd murder trial and aftermath. Judd was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang for the shooting death of Anne LeRoi in 1931. Her name is still well known in the Phoenix area where mention of her name still brings up images of dismembered bodies in trunks. Surprisingly, LeRoi's body was intact. Judd was not tried, nor was anyone else, for the murder of Sammy Samuelson, whose body was "operat ...more
Dell Taylor
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime, book-club
My rating: 3.5
A very thorough investigation into an old case with surprising results. The cover-ups and inadequacies of this case are simply unbelievable ... how could this have happened? The answer is that "the good ole' boys" network was a powerful force in the Phoenix of the 1930s. That so many, including the judicial system were part of it seems unbelievable. At the end of it all there is still uncertainty -- what really happened? While Bommersbach speculates, no one will ever know for sure.
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
In 1930 a young woman in Phoenix, AZ was convicted of 1st degree murder of two of her best friends. The thing that made this case so renowned was that one of the victims was cut apart in order to fit in a large trunk. Even though this is a true account, I just kept asking myself how the whole experience could have happened...the trial, the incarceration, the travisty of the politics and lawyers at that time is just appalling! After completing the book I still don't know if Winnie Ruth Judd reall ...more
Lena Jo
Oct 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I loved the story! Jana did a great job putting the the story together - a tragedy and a sad state of affairs. I only gave the book three stars because although the story was well researched and thoroughly put together, it wasn't an "Ann Rule" sort of written book. I KNOW!! Poisoned Pen Press published the book and all that great stuff, but I read it like I might be reading a text book - something about the writing:-( Where I work, we have a staff recommendation area for books and I will be addi ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a One Book Arizona book and while I know the legend of the story, I'd never read about it. I thought it was time. I had recently started working at Library and Archives when the author was doing research there. It was an interesting time.

It was interesting to read about Phoenix in the 1930s and think about the places where events occurred. The book was definitely a page turner and the author did a good job piecing information, but there are still questions, even after all of these years.
May 12, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting bit of Arizona history! We have recently moved to the Phoenix area and I had heard snippets of this story so was intrigued by it. The author did a decent job of recording what information she had at hand and probably had more access to Winnie Ruth Judd than any other author.

The book got a bit repetitious in parts but still held my interest. I was appalled by the way the original investigation and trial were conducted but have to consider the culture of the early 30s as far as wome
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm glad I didn't have to be on the jury for this because I'm still not convinced she did it... or didn't do it. The history behind this was absolutely fascinating, however you could tell there was author bias. I would have liked to have found out a bit more about the other "players". I think having that information would've given an insight into motive and opportunity...who did it? Judd's life was so tragic.
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One of the Grand Canyon State’s most acclaimed journalists and authors, Jana Bommersbach has been a fixture in Arizona media since the early 1970s, making an indelible mark in both broadcast and print journalism. Raised in a large extended family in North Dakota, she attended graduate school at the University of Michigan before moving to the Southwest in 1972. Named Arizona’s "Journalist of the Ye ...more
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“The farm labor movement saw him as a racist. He seemed to delight in the most outrageous snubs. Farm labor organizer Cesar Chavez was in the governor’s outer office, waiting to plead against a bill outlawing unions on Arizona farms, as Governor Williams was inside his office signing the bill. That action launched a recall effort against Williams in the mid-seventies—a drive that apparently collected the required signatures but was subverted when the Republican attorney general found a nitpicking technicality that disqualified most of the petitions. This was the man who held the fate of Winnie Ruth Judd in his hands.” 0 likes
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