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Wild Tales

Trunk Murderess
Summary of "The Trunk Murderess, By Jana Bommersbach":

Winnie Ruth Judd, Anne LeRoi and Hedvig “Sammy” Samuelsen were in the middle of it all.They were all friends and even lived together sometimes. Judd and LeRoi worked at the hospital and brought home doctors and businessmen to entertain. Samuelsen was very sick with tuberculosis most of the time and couldn’t work.  She is described as tall, beautiful and lounged around in silk pajamas most of the time. The 3 women often entertained men and in return they received money, food and small gifts. Judd was married to a doctor 40 years older than her but he was rarely in town, leaving her to fend for herself.  He was addicted to narcotics and could not hold a job for very long. He lived in Mexico and California mostly looking for  work. Winnie had suffered from tuberculosis but was well enough to work. TB patients moving to Phoenix was common because the weather usually  improved their health.

Winnie was having an affair with one of the businessmen in town that partied with the 3 girls. His name was Jack Halloran. Newspapers claimed that Judd killed her 2 friends because she was jealous of his attention toward them. But according to Judd’s own confession she killed them in self- defense. She has always denied cutting them up and putting them into the steamer trunks. Her confession states that the women fought over the fact that Judd recently introduced a new girl into their group. This girl was known to have syphilis and Anne and Sammy were angry. Winnie also threatened to report Anne for tampering with the x-ray machine at work. She states that Sammy starting shooting at her with a gun which Winnie fired into Sammy while rolling around on the kitchen floor. During the fight on the floor Anne was hitting Winnie with an ironing board. When Sammy was dead, Winnie turned the gun on Anne.  Winnie was shot in her left hand. The bullet was eventually removed over a week later when she was captured in Los Angeles. She called Jack after the incident to come over and help. She states that they cleaned up blood and moved one girl to the bedroom. Jack attempted to make several phone calls to a doctor but never got through. He then took Ruth home and told her he would  take care of everything.  
Winnie never saw the bodies after that. She did not cut them up or put them into the trunk. The newspapers stated that both bodies were chopped into little pieces. Only Sammy’s body was dismembered and it was done in a precise, medical manner. The body was cut so cleanly that the coroner was able to stitch her back together perfectly. Winnie does finally admit to having to “re-pack” the body parts into several travelling cases because it was too heavy to send as baggage on the train but insists that she did not perform the “operation”. The story of her trip to Los Angeles with the trunks, her hiding from the police for days when the leaking trunks were discovered and her reasons for even leaving Phoenix with the trunks is very confusing. The newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst paid for her defense lawyers. She did not testify at her trial and a lot of the witnesses and police called to the stand did not tell the truth about the evidence. There was even evidence found of jury tampering and yet she was still sentenced to hang for first degree murder. The author even discovered that 2 different caliber guns were used to kill the girls. Sammy was killed with the same caliber gun that Winnie owned and was packed in the trunk with the body. Newspapers at the time originally reported that 2 different caliber shell casings were found at the scene but it was never brought up at trial by any police officers or the coroner. All of the newspapers quickly claimed that they made a mistake.

They did have another trial to decide that she was insane and therefore was sentenced to an insane asylum. Winnie actually had a lot of freedom at the hospital. She opened a beauty parlor with donations from the community and did hair for the patients. She took care of the children and babies who were sent there with their mothers. She even visited the stores in the area to buy little things for the hospital and was allowed to go to staff members’ homes. The staff didn’t think she was insane or guilty of murder but the influential men in the community needed to make sure that she was kept locked up and declared crazy so that no one would believe her stories about Jack and the lifestyle of the wealthy men in town. Any reference made about Jack Halloran in any court documents was blacked out. When newspapers or radio announcers talked about the case they called him Mr. X. The people running the town were so influential that some witnesses who supported Winnie were run out of town. This injustice went on for thirty-two years.  


 Winnie did manage to escape the asylum seven times during her stay. A staff member had given her a key to the front door. Sometimes she even came back on her own because she believed that Jack would soon be telling the truth and she would be set free. The last time she escaped though her nephew picked her up in a car and helped her get to Oakland, CA. She found a job working as a lady’s maid and companion to a very wealthy lady in Piedmont.  She changed her name to Marian Lane and started a new life. The entire family loved her. The entire community loved her and she fit in well with all the other maids to rich families in the neighborhood. She went to the grocery store in a chauffeured car. She was given $10,000 and a cottage on their property to live in after the older lady died. Winnie was found by the police when a car registered in her name was found in an alley near a murdered  woman.  Winnie had bought the car for her nephew because he was blackmailing her over the years and threatening to turn her in. She had been free and living with this family for now six years.   Winnie was brought back to Phoenix and spent the next 2 years in prison while the courts tried to decide what to do with her. Even after all these years, the influential men in town still had a lot of pull and the governor himself was afraid to commute her sentence. The newspapers reported that a lot of common people were not convinced she needed to be locked up anymore. At one time Eleanor Roosevelt herself had written letters on Winnie’s behalf asking for compassion. She was finally released and the wealthy family from Piedmont welcomed her back with open arms. Winnie Ruth Judd died on October 23, 1998 in Stockton, CA surrounded by a community that adored her. She is buried in an undisclosed location under the name Marian Lane.


The San Francisco Examiner

- Sun - Jun. 29, 1969

The Trunk Murderess .jpg

The Trunk Murderess,

by Jana Bommersbach page 255


Oakland Tribune - Sat - Jun. 28, 1969

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Simba the Lion
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Suffolk News-Herald, Volume 44, Number 94, April 20, 1966:
Pete Clay & Art Quaife with lion "Simba"

Council Outlaws ‘Friendly’Lion PIEDMONT, Calif. <AP) - Simba, Piedmont’s friendly neighborhood lira, has been outlawed by the City Council. But not without a roar from his owners. “He has never done any harm to anyone or any damage in the neighborhood,” says Art Quaife, who shares a three-bedroom house with the big cat’s co-own-er, Pete Clay—and the lion. Quaife and Clay, young graduate students in mathematics at the nearby University of California Berkeley campus • describe the lion with such adjectives as “lovable,” “cool” and “lion-hearted.”

The Piedmont City Council describes Simba as a potential danger. They passed an ordinance Monday night banning lions throughout Piedmont, a San Francisco East Bay area residential community of 11,000. Simba is the only lion in town.


Simba’s owners said the beast is just a babe in the woods—not a ferocious king of the jungie. “The lion has visited the park, but on a leash and we let no on touch it,” Quaife says. “It only runs loose in our house.”


The students are retaining a lawyer to fight the ordinance.


Quaife says that Simba, at 8 months, “is too young for a fullthroated roar, although he tries.” He was bom in the Seattle zoo.


Although Simba is frisky and likes to chew up sofas and chair legs, he has nothing else more savage on his mind than gulping down 2 pounds of meat every day, his owners assert.


Oakland Tribune - Wed - Apr. 20, 1966


Oakland Tribune - Mon - Jun. 20, 1966

The MUMMY of Piedmont

No charges for woman who kept mummified body of her mother propped in a chair

East Bay Times, May 8, 2009

PIEDMONT — Prosecutors have decided not to file charges against a woman who police say kept the mummified body of her elderly mother inside their family home for at least two years.

Patrol officers discovered the body of 86-year-old Patricia Bostrom on Feb. 24 when they visited the residence in the 200 block of Highland Avenue for a welfare check.

The body was propped on a chair in the hallway, police said.

Despite her death, Bostrom was continuing to receive $1,262 each month from Social Security and someone was making withdrawals from her bank account at Wells Fargo, Piedmont police Capt. John Hunt said.

Bostrom’s adult daughter was her caregiver and regularly visited the property, according to police and neighbors.

On Tuesday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office decided not to file fraud or other charges against Bostrom’s daughter, saying not enough evidence exists to prove she had made the withdrawals.

The woman was also facing a possible misdemeanor charge of interfering with human remains.

Prosecutors noted that Bostrom’s daughter was taken into custody following the grisly discovery for a psychiatric evaluation after investigators searched her Alameda residence and found it was allegedly unfit for habitation because it was packed with clutter.

According to the Alameda County coroner, Patricia Bostrom was dead for at least two years when police found her remains. She is believed to have died from natural causes.

The elderly widow was last seen alive about four years ago, neighbors said.

“It’s just a very sad case,” Hunt said. “It seems her daughter could not let her go.”

Neighbors told police that when they would question Bostrom’s daughter about her mother’s whereabouts, she provided varying accounts, including that she was on vacation and that she had moved.

Bostrom’s body was found after family friends went to the Piedmont police station Feb. 24 to report that they had not seen her for some time and were concerned about her welfare.

An officer went to the Mediterranean home at Highland and Blair avenues and knocked on the door, but it was unlocked and swung open, police said. Bostrom’s body was near the door.

The police investigation showed that property taxes had not been paid on the house since December 2003. Hunt said the taxes have since been paid. He also said Bostrom’s daughter now owns the property as a result of a family will.

Mummy of Piedmont
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