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1930s & Earlier / 1927 Snyder-Judd Murder Case
It is barely known today, but in 1927 the public was fascinated with the Snyder-Judd murder case. It was unsurpassed in media coverage until the 1936 trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindbergh baby's kidnapping and murder. In 1925, Ruth Snyder, an unhappy housewife from Queens Village in New York City, began an affair with Henry Judd Gray, a married corset salesman. Stuck in a loveless marriage, Snyder began to plan the murder of her husband, Albert, enlisting the help of her new lover, though he appeared to be very reluctant. (Ruth's distaste for her husband apparently began two days after their marriage when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home. He also named his boat after her!) Ruth Snyder persuaded her husband to purchase an insurance policy that paid double indemnity if an unexpected act of violence killed him. According to Judd Gray, Ruth had earlier made at least seven attempts to kill her husband, all of which he survived. The culprits were not exactly criminal masterminds. On March 20, 1927, the couple garrotted Albert Snyder in his bed and stuffed his nose full of chloroform-soaked rags, then clumsily staged his death as part of a burglary. Detectives at the scene noted that the burglar left little evidence of breaking into the house. The behavior of Mrs. Snyder was wholly inconsistent with her story of a terrorized wife witnessing her husband being killed. Police quickly found the property Ruth claimed had been stolen hidden under the mattress of her own bed. A breakthrough came when a detective found a paper with the letters "J.G." on it. (It was a memento Albert Snyder had kept from former love Jessie Guishard.) They asked Ruth about it. Flustered, Ruth's mind immediately turned to her own lover, whose initials were also "J.G.," and asked the detective what "Judd Gray had to do with this." It was the first time Gray had been mentioned, and the police were instantly suspicious. Gray was located in Syracuse, NY. He claimed he had been there all night, but eventually it turned out a friend of his had created an alibi, setting up Gray's room at a hotel. Gray proved far more forthcoming than Ruth about his actions. He was arrested because his railroad ticket stub was found in his hotel wastebasket! Furthermore, Gray had escaped the murder scene by taking a taxi from Manhattan to Long Island. The cabbie easily remembered Gray because he had only tipped the driver a nickel on a $3.50 fare. He was charged with first-degree murder along with Ruth Snyder. Snyder and Gray blamed each other for plotting the murder. Both were convicted and died in Sing Sing prison's electric chair on January 12, 1928. Snyder was the first woman executed in New York state since 1899. This photo, illegally snapped by a New York Daily News photographer with a hidden camera, was taken at the moment when Snyder was jolted by the electric charge. The Snyder-Judd murder case inspired at least one play and two Hollywood movies: The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.