Janice’s Review Blog

Book delves into trunk murderess case

Posted on: May 23, 2009

"The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd"

"The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd"

Jana Bommersbach arrived in Phoenix in 1972 from North Dakota to work for the Arizona Republic.  She purchased a book on Winnie Ruth Judd and found a lot of unanswered questions about the so-called “Trunk Murderess.”

When Bommersbach became an investigative reporter and editor for the New Times, she decided in 1987 to dig around and find out more about Winnie Ruth Judd. 

Bommersbach writes, “In May 1990, I wrote a two-part series on my investigation for New Times.  The series unleashed a flood of new information.”

In Bommersbach’s book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd,” she describes the environment in Phoenix during the 1930s.  At that time, everyone knew everyone else in Phoenix unlike today.  This case also brought to light a Phoenix tradition of “summer bachelors” where prominent business men sent their wives and children by train to the cooler communities up north and brought in their “summer wives” to take care of their needs during the work week.  Winnie Ruth Judd and the two murdered women, Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson, filled those roles.

Bommersbach dug through archives and files located at the State Archives Office, the Maricopa County Court Records Office and the Pinal County Historical Society.  She worked with experts to get their takes on the information she uncovered.  She arranged interviews with witnesses and others who remember the details leading up to the murders on Friday, Oct. 16, 1931 and the trial that followed.  And finally in 1990, Bommersbach arranged an interview with Winnie Ruth Judd, who was then known as Marian Lane.

The book presents an unknown history of Phoenix at that time and shows what lengths powerful people used to cover up their dirty secrets.

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