Ruth Snyder/Judd Gray Murderers

Ruth Snyder/Judd Gray Murderers

NYT Archives – Newspaper Cameramen Wait Outside Of The Queens County Courthouse Where Ruth Snyder’s and Henry Judd Gray’s Murder Trial Is In Progress, NYC, 1927.

Ruth Snyder/Judd Gray Murder

1927 – 1928

For months before her execution in 1928, the Daily News and other New York tabloids told lurid stories of how Ruth Snyder, a New York housewife, and her lover, corset salesman Judd Gray, beat Snyder’s husband and strangled him with a picture-frame wire. The driving force behind this coverage was a New York tabloid press war between the Daily Graphic, the Daily News and William Randolph Hearst’s Daily Mirror.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The New York Daily News is known for its cover issue showing the execution of murderer Ruth Snyder. The well-known image is often described as being one of the most famous tabloid photos to have ever been published. 

 

NEW YORK TIMES

1927

March 21, 1927
GIRL FINDS MOTHER BOUND

March 21, 1927
LETTERS TO GRAY FOUND

March 23, 1927
SLAYERS OF SNYDER FACE SPEEDY TRIAL – RECANT CONFESSION

March 22, 1927
WIFE BETRAYS PARAMOUR AS MURDERER OF SNYDER, AND HE THEN CONFESSES.

March 22, 1927
GRAY’S FIRST STORY WAS A FULL DENIAL

March 22, 1927
MRS. GRAY CLINGS TO FAITH IN HUSBAND

March 22, 1927
GRAY UNDER GUARD ON TRAIN

March 23, 1927
WIFE VISITS GRAY IN QUEENS

March 23, 1927
SERVICES FOR SNYDER HELD

March 24, 1927
SLAYERS INDICTED

March 25, 1927
POISONED WHISKY IN SNYDER HOME BARES EARLY PLOT

March 26, 1927
SAYS GRAY WAS HYPNOTIZED

March 27, 1927
GRAY NOT CHURCH TEACHER

March 27, 1927
FOILED GRAY SUICIDE BY POISON ON TRAIN

March 28, 1927
POISON A MYSTERY IN SNYDER CASE

March 29, 1927
SNYDER STRUGGLED TO ESCAPE SLAYERS

March 30, 1927
DEFENSE DIVIDED ON SNYDER MURDER 

March 30, 1927
M’LAUGHLIN RAISED POLICE EFFICIENCY

March 31, 1927
TRACE PAPER FOUND NEAR SNYDER’S BODY

April 1, 1927
GRAY MURDER CLUES BURNED IN SYRACUSE

April 2, 1927
THREAT OF SUICIDE BY SNYDER TOLD

April 2, 1927
SYRACUSE STATE CONCLUDED

April 3, 1927
STATE BUILDS CASE ON SNYDER MURDER

April 4, 1927
TO DECIDE ON GRAY’S PLEA 

April 5, 1927
CLEARS GRAY’S FRIENDS OF MURDER ALIBI PLOT

April 6, 1927
COURT SETS APRIL 18 FOR SNYDER TRIAL

APRIL 7, 1927
GRAY READY FOR TRIAL FOR SNYDER’S MURDER

April 8, 1927
NOT A CRUEL KILLER, GRAY WRITES IN CELL

April 9, 1927
MRS. SNYDER TO ASK FOR SEPARATE TRIAL

April 10, 1927
SNYDER’S BEDROOM IS SEALED BY POLICE

April 12, 1927
GRAY WARNED, SPIRITUALIST SAYS

April 12, 1927
ORDERS MRS. SNYDER TO TRIAL WITH GRAY DESPITE HER PLEA

April 13, 1927
WHY GRAY KILLED, PUZZLE TO MOTHER

April 12, 1927
GRAY WARNED, SPIRITUALIST SAYS

April 12, 1927
ORDERS MRS. SNYDER TO TRIAL WITH GRAY DESPITE HER PLEA

April 13, 1927
WHY GRAY KILLED, PUZZLE TO MOTHER

April 14, 1927
GRAY ACTS TO RAISE CASH FOR HIS TRIAL

April 15, 1927
GRAY IS EXAMINED BY FOUR ALIENISTS

April 16, 1927
MRS. SNYDER ASKS WOMENS’ SYMPATHY

April 17, 1927
MRS. SNYDER BREAKS AS TRIAL DAY NEARS

April 17, 1927
EVIDENCE SOUGHT UPSTATE

April 18, 1927
GRAY IS FOUND SANE BY HIS OWN ALIENISTS

April 19, 1927
TESTIMONY OF ALIENISTS

April 19, 1927
SNYDER TRIAL HEADLINES

 

April 19, 1927
NOT A JUROR PICKED FOR SNYDER TRIAL OUT OF 50 EXAMINED

April 20, 1927
ONE JUROR CHOSEN FOR SNYDER TRIAL

April 21, 1927
FOUR ARE QUALIFIED AS SNYDER JURORS

April 21, 1927
WILL ROGERS ON THE SNYDER CASE

April 21, 1927
HEAVY-FOOTED JUSTICE

April 21, 1927
DR. STRATON MAY QUIT AS SNYDER “REPORTER”

April 22, 1927
7 ON SNYDER JURY

April 23, 1927
FULL SNYDER JURY PICKED ON 5TH DAY

April 24, 1927
SNYDER JURORS GUARDED IN HOMES

April 24, 1927
BY PRODUCTS

April 25, 1927
PASTOR DISCUSSES SNYDER MURDER

April 25, 1927
STATE OPENS TODAY IN SNYDER TRIAL

April 25, 1927
TAKES DR. STRATON TO TASK

April 26, 1927
SNYDER WAS TRICKED INTO BIG INSURANCE, STATE WITNESS SAYS

April 27, 1927
TEXT OF CONFESSION MRS SNYDER MADE 

April 27, 1927
SNYDER JURY HEARS WIDOW’S CONFESSION TO SLAYING HUSBAND

April 28, 1927
FULL TEXT OF H.J. GRAY’S CONFESSION

April 29, 1927
MRS. SNYDER GOES ON STAND TODAY TO DENY GRAY STORY

April 30, 1927
WIDOW ON STAND SWEARS GRAY ALONE KILLED SNYDER AS SHE TRIED TO SAVE HIM

April 30, 1927
LAY LACK OF POLICE TO SNYDER TRIAL

May 1, 1927
TRAFFIC FORCE NOT CUT

May 1, 1927
CHILD TO TESTIFY AFTER MRS. SNYDER FACES STATE’S FIRE

May 2, 1927
MRS. SNYDER FACES LONG ORDEAL TODAY

May 2, 1927
REJECTS PLEA OF WALLACE

May 2, 1927
DR REISNER DRAWS SNYDER CASE MORAL

May 3, 1927
JUDGE ADEL VISITS SNYDER TRIAL

May 3, 1927

MRS. SNYDER FIGHTS BACK AS THE STATE ASSAILS HER, ESPECIALLY ON INSURANCE

May 4, 1927
GRAY SWEARS MRS. SNYDER BROACHED MURDER PLOT

May 4, 1927
CROSS EXAMINATION OF MRS. RUTH SNYDER ON HER LAST DAY ON THE STAND

May 5, 1927
GRAY DESCRIBES MURDER; SPARES NO DETAIL OF CRIME; INSISTS WOMAN LED HIM

May 6, 1927
GRAY DENIES WISH TO KILL; INSISTS WOMAN DOMINATED

May 9, 1927
GRAY AND WOMAN TO MAKE LAST APPEALS TO JURY TODAY

May 7, 1927
SNYDER CASE TO GO TO JURY ON MONDAY; ALL TESTIMONY IN

May 7, 1927
ROGER’S FIRST, LAST AND ONLY OPINION ON THE SNYDER CASE

May 7, 1927
“NOTHING TO GAIN FROM THE CRIME” SAYS GRAY IN LAST DAY ON STAND.

May 8, 1927
MRS. SNYDER HOPES, GRAY IS RESIGNED, AWAITING LAST PLEA

May 9, 1927
GRAY AND WOMAN MAKE LAST APPEALS TO JURY TODAY

May 10, 1927
JUDGE WARNED JURY TO AVOID SYMPATHY

May 10, 1927
MRS. SNYDER AND GRAY FOUND GUILTY IN THE FIRST DEGREE IN SWIFT VERDICT

May 11, 1927
GUARD MRS. SNYDER, VICTIM OF HYSTERIA

May 11, 1927
A MODEL MURDER TRIAL

May 12, 1927
SENTENCE SPEEDED FOR SNYDER SLAYERS

May 13, 1927
SLAYERS OF SNYDER HEAR DOOM TODAY

May 14, 1927
SLAYERS OF SNYDER HEAR DOOM UNMOVED

 

May 16, 1927
SNYDER SLAYERS GO TO SING SING TODAY

May 16, 1927
SHOOTS HUSBAND OVER SNYDER CASE

May 16, 1927
SNYDER CASE SAD, SAYS DARROW

May 16, 1927
LAW STUDENT ARRESTED AS HE ACCOSTS SMITH IN HOTEL AND TRIES TO TALK OF SNYDER CASE

May 18, 1927
PRISONERS GIVE UP NAMES

May 19, 1927
GRAND JURY REFUSES TO INDICT HADDON GRAY; FINDS NO PERJURY IN EFFORTS TO AID SLAYER

May 21,1927
MOTHER VISITS MRS. SNYDER

May 25, 1927
APPEAL FOR GRAY JUNE 13

June 3, 1927
GRAY’S WIFE VISITS HIM FOR TIME

June 3, 1927
MRS. SNYDER TO FIGHT VOIDING OF INSURANCE

June 8, 1927
COURT FIGHT OPENS FOR SNYDER CHILD

June 18, 1927
SNYDER INSURANCE REFUND IS REJECTED

June 22, 1927
EXAMINE MRS. SNYDER, GRAY

June 26, 1927
MRS. SNYDER SEES COUNCIL

July 3, 1927
JURY WILL RESUME INQUIRY ON MRS. SNYDER

July 3, 1927
GRAY PLAYS CARDS IN CELL

July 10, 1927
COMPANY SERVES ORDER ON MRS. SNYDER

July 21, 1927
MRS. SNYDER WANTS GRAY TO TAKE BLAME

July 21, 1927
DENIES MESSAGE TO GRAY

July 26, 1927
WITHHOLDS VERDICT ON SNYDER INSURANCE

July 27, 1927
SNYDER ESTATE CASE OFF

July 28, 1927
GRAY WON’T TESTIFY AGAINST MRS. SNYDER

July 29, 1927
MRS. SNYDER LOSES INSURANCE PLEA

August 11, 1927
JOINT SNYDER TRIAL REGARDED AS LEGAL

August 15, 1927
SLAYERS OF SNYDER WON’T DIE THIS YEAR

August 29, 1927
MRS. SNYDER’S APPEAL TO CALL TRIAL UNFAIR

September 14, 1927
SNYDER CASE REPORT READY

September 22, 1927
TO USE TRIAL IN 1682 IN SNYDER APPEAL 

October 5, 1927
TO FIX SNYDER HEARING

October 18, 1927
SNYDER INSURANCE SUIT IN COURT

October 25, 1927
NEW SNYDER TRIALS ASKED OF HIGH COURT

October 26, 1927
WOULD NAME SNYDER CHILD

November 24, 1927
STILL HOPE TO SAVE SLAYERS OF SNYDER

November 25, 1927
MRS. SNYDER PLEADS TO CONTINUE FIGHT

November 26, 1927
MRS. SNYDER PINS HOPE ON GOVERNOR

November 29, 1927
LEOPOLD ALIENIST TO AID MRS. SNYDER

December 1, 1927
KIEB DEFENDS BAR ON SNYDER ALIENIST

December 2, 1927
SMITH SETS DECEMBER 29 FOR MRS. SNYDER’S PLEA

December 3, 1927
NO DATE FOR SNYDER PLEA

December 9, 1927
SMITH SEES MOTHER OF RUTH SNYDER

December 12, 1927
NEW ‘MAN’ IN SNYDER CASE

December 15, 1927
ASKS NEW SNYDER INQUIRY

December 17, 1927
GRAY SCOFFS AT “NEW EVIDENCE”

December 19, 1927
LAWYER ASSAILS JUDD GRAY

December 20, 1927
GRAY DELAYS PLEA FOR LIFE

December December 28, 1927
ABANDONS SNYDER APPEAL

December 29, 1927
GOV SMITH TO HEAR MRS. SNYDER’S PLEA JAN. 5

The Dumbbell Murder

The Dumbbell Murder

FAMOUS CRIMES

The Dumbbell Murder
Media CoverageCaptain's Blog

Crime Scene

In 1927, Ruth Snyder plotted with her lover, Judd Gray, to murder her husband for his insurance policy. This crime of passion and greed became a tabloid sensation that led to the first photo of an electrocution. 

This simple story ignited passions at a time when everyone was thirsty for something. With a taste for flesh, blood and eyeballs, the tabloids ate it up. Damon Runyan had a field day with the murder and trial, and the NY Daily News swiped right into the annals of journalism with a shot that shocked the nation.

ALBERT SNYDER

Magazine Editor

RUTH SNYDER

Housewife and Mother

HENRY “JUDD” GRAY

Corset Salesman

Something Under the Bed is Jewelry

After several sloppy attempts which included poisoning and strangulation, Ruth Snyder and her lover Judd Gray killed Albert Snyder. The inept adulterers used a 4-pound window sash weight and a picture frame wire to bludgeon him to death. They had hoped to cash in on Albert’s life insurance policy.  When Sgt. Flattery arrived at the scene, it didn’t take long for the lovers to give each other up.

The Snyders met when Albert was an art editor and Ruth a secretary at Hearst-owned Motorboat magazine. When they married, Ruth left her position to become a full-time housewife and mother. After years of feeling bored and ignored, Ruth entered into an extramarital affair with Judd Gray, a corset salesman.

The morning after the murder, Ruth Snyder told police that “two giant Italian men” had broken into her Queens, New York home and knocked her out. They then proceeded to tie her up in the hallway, steal her jewelry and kill her husband. The couple’s daughter, eight year old Lorraine, found her parents the next morning. Her father was brutally bludgeoned and garroted. Her mother was hogtied, but not tongue tied.

Leafing through Ruth’s checkbook, the detective asked the woman a simple question: “What about Judd Gray?”

Snyder gasped, “Why? Has he confessed?”

He hadn’t. But Ruth might as well have. Her description of the attack and the cheap jewelry found under the mattress confirmed that her story was a little over the top. Further questioning led to quick confessions from both suspects – each blaming the other for the crime.

This real-life “Dumbbell Murder” is indemnified in Hollywood history.  With a steamy plot of sex, money, greed and stupidity, it was the story of the century for reporters like Damon Runyon, James M. Cain and the dame who was Rudy Valentino’s widow. It was also the big case that led to a successful career for Detective Henry Flattery.

Cameramen line up outside the Queens County Courthouse in Long Island City where the murder trial for Ruth Snyder and Henry Judd Gray was held.

The Trial

The subsequent trial, in which the conspirators turned on each other, brought with it a media frenzy. Both Ruth and Judd were found guilty and faced the electric chair on January 12, 1928.

Officials at Sing Sing made it clear that no photographers were to be present at the execution. But the public wanted to see, and the Daily News obliged.

The Daily News hired Tom Howard for the task. Tom wouldn’t be recognized; he was from the Chicago Tribune. He was able to get past the guards and into the execution chamber with a camera strapped to his leg.

Ruth Snyder’s execution made history by being “the first known image of a execution at Sing Sing and the first photograph of an electrocution;” the NY Daily News dubbed the now-iconic, secretly-obtained photo “the most famous sneak shot photo in tabloid history.” 

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Photos

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Kodak Exposures

Minutes Deliberated

Volts Used

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