The thrill-hungry populace of the Roaring 20s got a whopping plateful of it with every sordid detail that was covered by the newspapers about the discontented housewife turned murderer Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray.
Ruth Snyder was a 32-year-old,tall blonde with a forceful personality. It was 1925, the Roaring 20s were in full swing and this discontented, Long Island housewife felt herself left behind.
Perhaps it was this desire to break up the monotony that propelled her into an affair with Henry Judd Gray, 34, a married, corset salesman she had met when having lunch in New York City. It wasn't for his looks. He was short and wore thick glasses, but the pull of these opposites could not be denied.
Ruth's husband Albert was the art editor of the magazine Motor Boating, and put in long hours at work, leaving the couple plenty of time and opportunity to meet and consummate their torrid affair. They would meet at the Snyder's house with only Ruth's 9-year-old daughter Lorraine as witness, and at other times they would leave the girl waiting in the lobby of a hotel while they went off to a room for a couple of hours.
At what point Ruth started to make plans beyond her next meeting with her lover is unknown. Imitating art before it was life she turned into the mysterious siren of future film noir films, by pleading mistreatment at the hands of her husband, then subtle hints that only his murder and not divorce was the way to remedy the situation.
But indeed it seems that Ruth had been planning this long before she met Gray, and was waiting to come across a patsy to put her scheme into action. Her distaste for her husband flowered into full bloom when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiance, Jessie Guishard who had died right before their wedding after a 10-year engagement in their first home. He then named his boat after her.
She had persuaded her husband to purchase a $48,000 life insurance policy that paid extra (double indemnity) if he died due to an act of violence. Later during the trial when her lover had turned on her, Gray alleged that Ruth had made at least 7 attempts to kill her husband, which he survived and left him none the wiser to what she was trying to do.
Initially Gray told her she was crazy, but she continued to pester him, ending with outright demands for his help which culminated in torrid love-making. while calling him by his pet name of "Bud" or "Lover Boy". Unable to commit murder or deny his lover, he started to drink heavily, and her persistence was rewarded when on March 19, 1927 he gave in.
They laid out a plan in which he would travel by train to New York from Syracuse and then by bus to Long Island. Bolstering his courage throughout the day with liquor he went to the Snyder home in Queens Village where he would slip in through a back door left open by Ruth. She was away with her husband at a party and returned at 2 AM.
Albert Snyder fell into a deep sleep, and Ruth wearing only a slip met her lover in a spare bedroom where she had left gloves, a window sash weight and chloroform. They had sex while Albert slept. When they finished she led Gray back to the bedroom where her husband slept with the covers over his head. He then brought the weight down on Snyder's head, but all it did was enrage the sleeping man as it glanced off his skull, and he let out a yell and tried to grab his attacker.
In true psychopathic fashion, Ruth grabbed the weight from him and finished the job by smashing her husband's skull in. Afterwards he was garrotted with fine picture wire, and it was not known if he was dead when it was twisted tightly behind his neck. He hands were bound with the same wire behind his back, his feet with a necktie and a gag was fastened in his mouth.
The lovers went downstairs, had a drink and chatted about executing the next part of their plan, which was to stage the crime like a botched robbery. Gray tied Ruth's hands loosely behind her and once he had left she went to her daughter's bedroom and banged against it. She sent the little girl next door for help and the police immediately responded.
The first thing the police noticed was that the burglar had left little evidence, and the detectives looked at each other knowingly when they realized that she showed little emotion for a woman who had been terrorized and whose husband had just been murdered
Then they found the property which Ruth claimed had been stolen hidden in the house. When the police found a paper with the initials "J.G." which in reality referred to Jessie Guischard, a detail which was overlooked by a flustered Ruth who thought of her lover's initials which were the same. She stupidly asked what Gray had to do with the matter and the police instantly became more suspicious.
With a name it was not difficult to find Gray. They caught up to him in Syracuse. A friend had manufactured an alibi for him by renting a room at a hotel under his name, which quickly came apart when the police found his discarded train ticket in the trash. He was returned to Jamaica, Queens.
The trial was held at the Long Island City Courthouse. It was covered by crime reporters, authors and Hollywood stars. In the end, even though each blamed the other for the planning and execution of Albert Snyder's murder, they were convicted and sentenced to death.
On January 12, 1928, Ruth became the first woman to be executed in Sing Sing since 1899. She walked to her death minutes before her lover
During Ruth's incarceration, custody of her daughter Lorraine played out between both sides of the family. Only one of the three life insurances for Albert Snyder were paid off by the companies. On September 7, 1927, her maternal grandmother Josephine Brown was awarded guardianship of the girl. Ruth refused to have her daughter visit her in prison, and she wrote a sealed letter to be given to Lorraine when she was old enough to understand.
Marlene at Miami Ghost Chronicles is a freelance writer and paranormal researcher.
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