“The idea that a young woman would kill two other women, that she would hack up their bodies, that she would take them as luggage on a train, where they were discovered only because they were leaking blood.” Jana Bommersbach said as she read aloud from her book, about an Arizona murderess.The MCC library staff welcomed Bommersbach on April 8. She read passages from her award-winning book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd,” and held a 30-minute Q&A and book signing with students.
Bommersbach painted a mental picture for attendees.
Expressing a murder of this kind was unheard of in California’s crime history, the year was 1931.
Journalists from all over the country flew to Arizona to cover the story.
“In the midst of probation, during a time when women wore white hats and gloves when leaving their homes, and Phoenix had a population of 48,000, the most sensational murder case the nation had ever seen was taking place.” Bommersbach said.
Winnie Ruth Judd, then 26 – now deceased – was the notorious convicted murder remembered most for mutilating two bodies, wrapping the severed parts in plastic, concealing them in steamer trunks, then boarding a train from Phoenix to Los Angeles while sitting quietly with her unusual luggage.
When Judd was questioned about her trunks, she told officials she did not have the key to unlock them. She then left the train station, without her trunks.
As the day progressed and the trunks began to leak blood, an officer decided to open one of them; it was then that the gruesome discovery of the bodies was made.
Judd was found three days later in Los Angeles and was flown back to Arizona to stand trial.
Seventy-two hours before Judd was sentenced to hang, the court declared her insane and sent her to the Arizona State Mental Hospital.
Judd spent the next 40 years in the state hospital except for the seven times she escaped. She was serving one of the longest sentences in Arizona history.
Judd was paroled in 1972, which was the same year Bommersbach moved to Arizona and first learned of the infamous Trunk Murderess.
Returning to California to live with family, Judd changed her name and lived a quiet life. During those years, Bommersbach would try to arrange several interviews.
In the winter of 1989 Bommersbach would finally have her interview. The journalist and the murderer would sleep under the same roof and discuss details of a killer’s years.
While sitting side-by-side and watching an episode of Wheel of Fortune, the Trunk Murderess said to the journalist, “You know they never could figure out how I escaped from the state hospital all those times.”
Bommersbach agreed and asked Judd how she did it? Her reply: “I had a key to the front door.