On October 19, 1931, suspicious luggage had been located in the baggage area of the Golden State Limited passenger train that had just arrived in Los Angeles after departing from Arizona’s Union Station the night before. A putrid stench wafted through the air and fluids had begun to seep onto the floor below. Station officials had flagged the trunks believing that they had been holding illegal contraband, such as a dead deer.
Tracking down the luggage’s owner, Winnie Ruth Judd, the baggage agent demanded that she open the trunk. Judd claimed that she didn’t have the key for either of the trunks and, with that, departed from the station. Judd’s brother, Burton McKinnell, had agreed to pick her up that evening, none the wiser about the strange baggage his sister had left behind.
Judd had already been in hiding when police were able to pick the locks of the trunks revealing the source of the sour stench. Inside of the trunk police found two bodies, one of which had been dismembered. The discovery set off a manhunt for Judd that would spiral into a tabloid frenzy. A week later Judd would willingly surrender herself to police after she was discovered hiding inside of a funeral home.
It was learned that the bodies found in the trunks had belonged to two women. Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson were both considered friends of Judd’s, best friends according to some sources, and her motives behind the killings remain one of Maricopa County’s greatest mysteries to this day.
Winnie Ruth Judd, known as just “Ruth” to her friends, had moved to Phoenix with her husband Dr. William C. Judd in 1930. Judd had been stricken with tuberculosis as a child and by relocating to Phoenix, she believed that the dry desert air would help “dry her out.”
Dr. Judd wasn’t without his own health problems. Being 20 years his wife’s senior, Dr. Judd had served in WWI and had become a morphine addict after sustaining an injury during his time in the trenches. Dr. Judd’s addiction made it difficult for the couple to live in any one place for very long and income was inconsistent due to his innumerable attempts to get clean.
While living in Phoenix, Judd had taken up working as a governess for a wealthy family. It was during this time that Judd had met the acquaintance of John “Happy Jack” Halloran. Dr. Judd had been away at one of his many stays at the sanitarium, and though the couple had kept in constant contact, Judd had confided in Halloran that she had been deeply depressed and lonely. One thing would lead to another and Judd would begin an affair with Halloran who was known around town as a bit of a playboy, in spite of being married himself.
Several months after her affair began with Halloran, she would become a secretary at Grunow Medical Clinic and would become friends with Agnes Anne LeRoi and LeRoi’s roommate Hedvig “Sammy” Samuelson. There is some speculation on the extent of the relationship between LeRoi and Samuelson and there is some evidence to suggest that the women were in a lesbian relationship during a time where same-sex relationships were frowned upon.
Regardless of what the two women’s relationship to one another was, through Judd, they were able to go to a number of parties where they could rub elbows with local politicians and playboy businessmen like Halloran. It is rumored that eventually both LeRoi and Samuelson had also caught the attention of Halloran, driving Judd into a jealous rage.
On the night of the murders, Judd finally confronted LeRoi and Samuelson about their relations with Halloran. During the fight, someone, possibly Samuelson, produced a .25-caliber handgun. Judd wrestled the gun from Samuelson, getting shot in the hand in the process before turning the gun on Samuelson and LeRoi, killing them both instantly.
After the murders, whether it was by herself or with an accomplice, the bodies were loaded into the trunks and Judd boarded the train headed for Los Angeles with her two deceased friends in tow. By the time of Judd’s arrest dime tours were being offered of the little bungalow shared by LeRoi and Samuelson and everyone in Maricopa County wanted to see “The Murder House.”
Winnie Ruth Judd was declared mentally incompetent and sentenced to serve her time at the Arizona State Asylum for the Insane. She made several escapes throughout her time, including a period where she had disappeared, only to be found several years later working as a live-in maid for a family in San Francisco under the name “Marian Lane.” She was finally paroled in 1971 and died in her sleep at a friend’s home in 1998.
To this day there are many who believe that Judd had not acted alone. During her trial, Judd had implicated Halloran as part of the murders, but those claims were later dismissed as “the ravings of an insane person.”