In the summer of 2011, I was watching an episode of Investigation Discovery’s show Deadly Women (Season 3, Episode 6: “Hearts of Darkness”) on the television. I was surprised (and I admit a little excited) to discover that a horrible and macabre incident had occurred practically under my nose. Shortly after watching this episode, I started to poke around gathering information– it was a task all too easy for a murder over 80 years old. After years of getting side-tracked, I’m finally putting this story to paper for The Witching Hour’s 2013 “Murderous May”.
Be forewarned, this story is of a gruesome nature and contains one photograph which may be disturbing to some readers.
DISCOVERY AT THE TRAIN DEPOT
Two heavy black and silver trunks lay in baggage claim at Los Angeles Union Station. The first trunk, a large packer trunk (40″x24″x38″), and its contents had weighed an exceptional 235 pounds. The second trunk, a steam trunk (15″x18″x36″) weighed under 200 pounds. The unusual heaviness of the trunks was what first aroused suspicions of baggage agent George Brooker as he checked baggage from the Golden State Limited from Phoenix, Arizona. It was October 19, 1931 and, at the height of prohibition, the railroads had been instructed to keep an eye out for contraband such as Thompson submachine guns and bootleg liquor. But baggage agent Brooker knew something was different about these particular suitcases because they had the nauseating smell of putrefaction and were leaking a dark liquid that a baggage handler in Phoenix had mistaken as medicine.
Brooker told his boss, baggage agent Jim Anderson, about the suspicious baggage. When the owner of the luggage arrived just before noon that day and made latent claim to the seeping trunks, the claim agents refused to release the trunks unless the owner opened them. When Winnie Ruth Judd declined to open the suitcases and quickly left the scene and her baggage behind, Anderson rang up the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Lieutenant Frank Ryan responded to the call and, upon arrival, he picked the lock on the larger of the two trunks.
The smell of rot washed over Ryan as he opened the lid of the trunk. Probing deeper, lifting a layer of rags and clothing, he was soon staring into the vacant eyes of a dead woman.