A Queens housewife gets the electric chair

Ruth Snyder was not the first woman to be put to death by New York state. But she’s perhaps the most famous. Tried in 1927 at the Long Island City courthouse for killing her husband, her case was a media sensation—and her execution caught on camera and published in the Daily News.

RuthsnyderelecticchairFor two years, Ruth, a 32-year-old housewife in Queens Village, had been having an affair with a corset salesman named Judd Gray. The two soon began plotting the murder of Ruth’s husband, Albert.

On March 20, 1927, Albert was killed in a staged home-robbery-gone-wrong scenario: he was beaten, smothered with a chloroform-soaked pillow, and stranged with wire. 

Police quickly realized the home-robbery scenario didn’t add up and arrested Ruth and Judd, who confessed. On trial, each blamed the other for the murder. The jury believed them both and handed down two first-degree murder verdicts. 

Ruth and Judd were put to death in Sing Sing on January 12, 1928. Ruth went first. Just as the executioner delivered the fatal volts, a Chicago Tribune reporter snapped a photo of Ruth with a camera surreptitiously attached to his ankle. The shocking image ran in the next day’s Daily News.

About the case itself, it was the basis for the 1935 novel Double Indemnity, later made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.

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2 Responses to “A Queens housewife gets the electric chair”

  1. Hal Says:

    Also inspired by this case was 1933’s “The Picture Snatcher” starring James Cagney. It’s one of my favorite films. Central to the plot is Jimmy sneaking a camera into Sing Sing to snap a picture of a woman being executed.

  2. enav Says:

    Ruth Snyder rests at The Woodlawn Cemetary in the Bronx. NY
    Her headstone reads “May R. died 1-13-1928
    Saw it yesterday on a Halloween tour…creepy.

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