October 16, 1931
Two women are killed, allegedly by a jealous woman, before being stuffed in luggage to be transported to Los Angeles
The victims were Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson, friends of Winnie Ruth Judd. The three apparently all had eyes for businessman Jack Halloran who was a known philanderer.
On the night of October 16, police alleged an argument broke out between the three women, with Judd shooting both LeRoi and Samuelson. However, Judd wrote in a confession she intentionally shot LeRoi as she slept, then accidentally shot Samuelson during a struggle for the gun. Judd shoved LeRoi’s body in a trunk and left Samuelson’s in the bathroom while she went to work and returned home to dismember Samuelson’s body, putting her severed arms and lower legs into two pieces of luggage while the remainder was stuffed into a second trunk.
Several days after the murders, on October 19, Judd’s luggage was investigated upon arriving in Los Angeles due to a foul odor emanating and liquids seeping from the trunks. (It was originally suspected the luggage contained bootleg alcohol, illegal during the Prohibition Era.) Judd was asked to open them but claimed she didn’t have a key to do so, then left her luggage behind when her brother picked her up from the station. Police were contacted, the locks were picked, and the remains discovered. Knowing she would soon be arrested, Judd went into hiding for a few days until she eventually surrendered on October 23.
The luggage used to transport the remains of Samuelson and LeRoi
Inconsistencies between the confession of events and evidence left leave some debate, even today, as to who actually performed the murders and/or dismemberment. Judd claimed she used kitchen knives to carve Samuelson’s body, but medical examinations on the cuts showed they were done with “surgical precision,” not the work done by crude kitchen utensils and a person unskilled with anatomy. Additionally, the weight of the victims would have likely been too much for Judd to move by herself, meaning she either had an accomplice or, as some theories speculate, Halloran had killed the women and convinced Judd to take the fall in his place. Halloran and other prominent, married men who were suspected to be involved in the case were never questioned nor asked to testify, and Halloran caused Judd to burst into tears by staring at her while she testified. Finally, the crime scene was heavily contaminated by people who lined up to pay to see the home where the sensational double murders took place.
A detective looks through a mass of bloodied cloth and human remains
Despite these issues with the case, Judd was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death in February of 1933, though the sentence was later commuted to incarceration in the Arizona State Asylum for the Insane (now Arizona State Hospital) after she was found to be mentally incompetent. Judd escaped the hospital six times during her imprisonment, with her final escape, on October 8, 1963, resulting in her absence for six years until she was identified and returned to the prison in 1969. Judd was paroled in 1971, moved to California, and died on October 23, 1998 at the age of 93.
The case was referred to as the “Trunk Murders” by the newspapers, and Judd was dubbed “The Trunk Murderess” and “Tiger Woman.”