THE TRUNK MURDERESS: WINNIE RUTH JUDD by Jana Bommersbach

THE TRUNK MURDERESS: WINNIE RUTH JUDD

The Truth About an American Crime Legend Revealed at Last

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A less-than-compelling reinvestigation of a 1932 Arizona crime in which two bodies were dismembered, stuffed into luggage, and taken by rail out of state. Arizona journalist Bommersbach's ten-year investigation has not revealed definitively the perpetrator, motive, or dismemberer in the crime. Winnie Ruth Judd, the author tells us, was married to a physician 25 years her senior. She was sojourning in Phoenix with two young, pretty roommates while her husband--unemployable because of his drug addiction--searched for work in L.A. Phoenix in the 30's was strait-laced, but, even so, there was a subculture of ``cops, attorneys, playboys, and party girls.'' Enter J.J. ``Happy Jack'' Halloran, a successful Phoenix businessman who loved to take a couple of bottles and friends over to the ``girls'' and party. Unfortunately, this is all Bommersbach tells of Halloran, a central character. The other principals are paper-thin as well, except for Judd, who's depicted as so saintly that she seems subject to ascension at any moment. One night, Judd took two heavy trunks on the train to L.A., where she was asked to open them. Inside were one roommate and pieces of another. Judd was returned to Phoenix, where she told of being attacked by her roommates and of fighting for her life. At Judd's trial for murder, Bommersbach explains, the police concealed that fact that Happy Jack was with Judd that night; that she had a gunshot wound in her left hand and 147 bruises on her body (indicating self-defense); and that, in the coroner's opinion, only a surgeon (perhaps hired by Happy Jack?) could have cut up the bodies so precisely. Found guilty, Judd was sent to a state hospital, where she spent 38 years; she is now free. Fine if inconclusive research, but more properly melodrama than true crime. An NBC miniseries based on the book will air in November. (Photos--eight pp. b&w--not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-74007-5
Page count: 284pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1992