Born in Manhattan, New York, on the 27th of March in 1895, Ruth was raised by Scandinavian immigrants. Though her family struggled to make ends meet from time to time, they tried their best to assure that she had the best possible life within their circumstances. Uninterested in her education, Ruth quickly realized she sought a carefree life while fulfilling the traditional American wife lifestyle. It wasn’t long until Ruth realized that Albert was able to provide her with just that.1

After accidentally calling his office trying to contact a manufacturing company, Ruth was first introduced to Albert with nothing less than anger. Upset that she had disrupted his busy day, Albert quickly realized that he had presented himself the wrong way. After agreeing to meet in person to apologize, Albert quickly fell in love with the blonde-haired blue-eyed girl before him. It wasn’t long after that that Albert quickly began showering Ruth with the life she had always sought, including a job as a reader and copyist at the Motor Boating company Albert worked at. From fancy dinners to being showered with luxurious gifts, both quickly fell for one another…or so they thought.2

Ruth Brown Snyder Mugshot, Sing Sing 1927 | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

What Ruth did not see was the broken side of Albert prior to their marriage. Prepared to marry another, a woman named Jessie Guischard, he certainly wasn’t expecting her sudden death. Heartbroken, Albert was left with nothing more than photographs and memories of Jessie. Daily he wore a pin on him that had her initials—“JG.” Ruth was understanding of Albert’s grief, and was even unbothered by Jessie’s photographs that Albert still displayed around his house. However, after some time, Ruth began taking them down, which only caused heated arguments.3

Apart from Ruth’s jealousy of Albert’s lost love, the age gap between the two increased their tension as well. Ruth was in her twenties, and she wanted to go out on the town and live the life of a young woman. Albert was in his mid-thirties, ready to settle down, which was something that brought discomfort to Ruth, yet also some excitement. In 1917, Ruth became pregnant, bringing her nothing but joy. Expecting the same reaction from Albert, Ruth was quickly surprised with the complete opposite, as Albert was not looking forward to being woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby, nor was he thrilled with the idea of changing diapers. Soon after Lorraine’s birth, Ruth got the opportunity to live the life that she felt she had been deprived of, as her mother moved into the Snyder household.4

The appearance of Judd Gray was everything Ruth sought for in her marriage, but wasn’t getting. After birthing their daughter, Albert would deteriorate Ruth’s mental health by making persistent comments about her post pregnancy body. With a low self esteem and the aid of her mother, Ruth began living the night life she was deprived of by Albert. Nights of drinking and talking with Gray oddly enough brought up the plot of murdering Albert. Though both blame each other for the idea of the murder, the fact that they each came from unhappy marriages bonded them more than they had anticipated. Ruth’s marriage was so broken that she had previously attempted murdering Albert a number of times before. The three life insurance policies Ruth sustained over Albert was more than enough of a reason to continue with her failed attempts. The $45,000 insurance policies were under a double indemnity clause, meaning it would double if Albert’s death was categorized as an accident.5 One of these “accidents” occurred one day when Albert was working on his car in the garage. Seeing a perfect scenario, Ruth attempted to rig the lift of the car, just as her husband was under it. However, Albert rolled out just in time to avoid being crushed by inches. Frustrated, Ruth tried once more to end Albert’s life. As usual, one afternoon Albert found himself in the garage working on his car. As any wife would, she brought him a drink; however, hers had a little twist. Shortly after drinking the roofied drink, Albert quickly fell asleep in the car as the engine was running. With the garage closed, Albert eventually woke up inhaling gas fumes.

March 19, 1927 was just another ordinary day for both Albert and Lorraine. The Snyder family went over to their neighbors’ house to enjoy some time together, when Ruth again roofied one of Albert’s drinks, with the expected results of his senses being dulled. Distracted, at around midnight, Gray snuck into the house through a door that Ruth had left open. At around 2 in the morning, the family returned and proceeded with their usual night time routine. Intoxicated, Albert quickly went to bed unaware that that would be his last night alive. Within minutes, Ruth quickly snuck downstairs where her lover was waiting. After a quick passionate affair, both held hands as they proceeded upstairs. When they entered the master bedroom, they stood by the bed as they watched Albert sleep.6

Within seconds, Gray grabbed the weight that they had purchased, and hit Albert on the head. Expecting it to be a one-hit job, they both frantically panicked once they were faced with the surprise of Albert fighting back. Panicked, Gray quickly turned to Ruth saying “Momsie, Momsie, for God’s sake, help!” referring to Ruth. Though intoxicated, Gray had almost no chance fighting against Albert, which was when Ruth decided it was time for her to take over. Ruth quickly proceeded by placing on Albert a cloth soaked in chloroform, which eventually resulted in Albert losing consciousness.7 After having more control of the situation, they proceeded with strangling Albert with picture wire, and angrily Ruth grabbed the weight and crashed it down onto Albert’s head, resulting in killing him.

Ruth Snyder on the witness stand | Courtesy of NY Daily News Archive

As a result of not premeditating the murder to the full extent, the murderous lovers were left with no alibi nor “backstory” as to what happened. After looking at an Italian newspaper, they decided to say that two immigrants came into the home, took jewelry and ultimately murdered Albert. As daylight rose, Gray found himself tying Ruth’s hands and feet to a chair while placing a cloth in her mouth to gag her. However, where they both failed was in how loosely Gray had tied Ruth up, which made police question the legitimacy of their story.8

After tying Ruth up, Gray left and then thought up an alibi, claiming that he had been out of the state. Meanwhile, Ruth waited for her nine year old daughter to wake up and find her mother tied up.9 Inpatient, Ruth somehow made her way to Lorraine’s door and started banging on it with her tied up foot, eventually waking Lorraine. Immediately, Lorraine removed the gag from her mother’s mouth and ran over to the neighbors, who ended up calling the police.

After the police arrived, they eventually suspected the overall scene. The officers quickly asked why the burglars would steal jewelry, kill Albert, but leave both Ruth and Lorraine alive. Following their investigation, the officers found the “stolen” jewelry, which had been hidden under the bed. In addition, they found the stick pin that Albert wore, which coincidentally contained the initials ‘JG,’ which too corresponded to the initials of Judd Gray. The police officers concluded that it could have belonged to the killer. Furthermore, officer Arthur Kurth found himself going through a checkbook where he found a $200 check to Gray, thus overall strengthening their belief that their prime suspect was Gray.10 Once called in for questioning, surprisingly Ruth confessed. But she blamed the plot completely on Gray. With that, officers quickly went in search for Gray. He insisted on his innocence. Trying to use his alibi to his full advantage, he insisted that he was not even in New York at time of the murder. However, it wasn’t long until Gray found himself breaking down and confessing to the murder as well. Unsurprisingly, Gray blamed Ruth.

Execution of Ruth Snyder in the electric chair | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Tension rose between both Gray and Snyder as the trial approached. Attention from the media attracted celebrities such as Mary Roberts Reinhart, Will Durant, D.W. Griffith and Billy Sunday to name a few. Each lawyer blamed the client of the other lawyer by using their client’s innocence and reputation as their main evidence. Ruth’s lawyer argued that Albert “drove love out from the house” by still being in love with his first true love despite her passing. To match the argument being made, Ruth wore a plain black dress as she expressed her distress over her husband’s tragic and traumatic passing. With this, Ruth tried to assure the jury that she resembled a loving housewife. Ruth’s lawyer was sure to highlight the fact that Ruth stressed the importance of religion to her child Lorraine, as she both read the Bible and took her to Sunday School. In regards to the affair, Ruth claimed that her broken marriage and Gray’s unhappy life at home led to infidelity from both. In addition, Ruth went against Gray and her night outs drinking, by arguing that her drinking and smoking wasn’t a habit. Lastly, Ruth claimed that it was Gray who insisted she take out the insurance policies that were under Albert’s name as “he… sent me poison and told me to give it to my husband.”11

With these claims made against Gray, Gray’s lawyer used everything that was said about him and turn it the other way by using his clean record as his main argument. Gray’s lawyer described his situation as “the most tragic story that has ever gripped the human heart,” while arguing that Gray was a law-abiding citizen who was manipulated and taken advantage of by a “designing, deadly conscienceless, abnormal woman, a human serpent, a human fiend in the disguise of a woman.”12

When it was Gray’s turn to speak, he shared stories about the inhumane acts Ruth had previously attempted on Albert, by once placing knockout drops in his drink, and when failed, tried to gas him. Gray finished his testimony by highlighting the additional two times Ruth attempted to end Albert’s life with sleeping powders. After describing the night of the incident in further detail, Ruth began sobbing so loudly that even the judge glanced at her.13

With the media constantly on them, Gray took advantage of just that. Gray spoke to the tabloids on a frequent basis with the claims that he was nothing less than an innocent man. Gray took it to the next extreme and went as far as describing Snyder’s manipulation by saying “She would place her face an inch from mine and look deeply into my eyes until I was hers completely. While she hypnotized my mind with her eyes she would gain control over my body by slapping my cheeks with the palms of her hand.”14

Grave marker of Ruth Brown Snyder | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The fate of both was determined within 98 minutes. Being found guilty was no beat to the heart to both, but rather the fact that they were sentenced the death penalty. Surprisingly, Gray was at peace when taken to the execution chair. On January 12, 1928, Judd Gray was executed at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility.15

Within minutes, Ruth Snyder followed Gray’s fate. Both of their deaths were so media caught that a reporter from the New York Daily News smuggled a camera on his ankle into the death chamber, capturing the second a current entered Ruth’s body, accidentally killing her with her final words revolving around the belief that God had forgiven her and hoped for the forgiveness by the rest of society. Regardless of whoever plotted the murder of Albert, it is without doubt that both Gray and Ruth sustained manipulation from one another to the point that it drove both to murder. The Granite Woman & The Putty Man remains one of the most famous murder trials in American history. 16

  1. Landis MacKellar, The “Double Indemnity” Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, & New York’s Crime of the Century ( Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006), 69.
  2. “The Case Of The Granite Woman And The Putty Man,” Video file, 13:52-23:07, YouTube, Posted by Stephanie Harlowe, January 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAizazVd9o.
  3. “The Case Of The Granite Woman And The Putty Man,” Video file, 13:52-23:07, YouTube, Posted by Stephanie Harlowe, January 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAizazVd9o.
  4. Landis MacKellar, The “Double Indemnity” Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, & New York’s Crime of the Century ( Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006), 42.
  5. The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Capital Punishment, 2006, s.v. “Snyder, Ruth (1894-1928),” by Bruce E.R. Thompson.
  6. Jean Marie Lutes, “Tears on Trial in the 1920s: Female Emotion and Style in ‘Chicago’ and ‘Mechanical,’” Women In Anglo-America Periodicals, (Fall 2011): 343-369, https://www.jstor.org/stable/23349339 .
  7. “The Case Of The Granite Woman And The Putty Man,” Video file, 13:52-23:07, YouTube, Posted by Stephanie Harlowe, January 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAizazVd9o.
  8. Landis MacKellar, The “Double Indemnity” Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, & New York’s Crime of the Century ( Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006), 47.
  9. “The Case Of The Granite Woman And The Putty Man,” Video file, 13:52-23:07, YouTube, Posted by Stephanie Harlowe, January 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAizazVd9o.
  10. “The Case Of The Granite Woman And The Putty Man,” Video file, 13:52-23:07, YouTube, Posted by Stephanie Harlowe, January 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAizazVd9o.
  11. John Kobler, “The Trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1931-1951) no.4 (1938): 612-615, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1137160 .
  12. Landis MacKellar, The “Double Indemnity” Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, & New York’s Crime of the Century ( Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006), 70.
  13. “The Case Of The Granite Woman And The Putty Man,” Video file, 13:52-23:07, YouTube, Posted by Stephanie Harlowe, January 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNAizazVd9o.
  14. John Kobler, “The Trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1931-1951) no.4 (1938): 612-615, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1137160 .
  15. John Kobler, “The Trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1931-1951) no.4 (1938): 612-615, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1137160 .
  16. Landis MacKellar, The “Double Indemnity” Murder: Ruth Snyder, Judd Gray, & New York’s Crime of the Century ( Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2006), 83.

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49 Responses

  1. This article described a case that I had never heard of before. While some may see Ruth’s life as difficult, I cannot see how it was so difficult that it lead to her murdering her husband. Additionally, the author described the interrogation and trial as short-lived with both murderers turning on each other rather quickly. At the end, I was interested to see how Lorraine’s life must have developed because of the choices of her mother.

  2. I have never heard of this murder story whatsoever and well, it was very interesting. I mainly felt terrible for the daughter, Lorraine, because having to experience the sight of your dead father and tied up mother would be ultimately traumatizing. Along with that, she has to grow up with the thought of her mother killing her father and then her mother put on the death penalty. This was a very interesting article, but I just felt terrible for the daughter.

  3. I was never familiar with this story before, but this was so well put together. I could never imagine walking in and processing what is lying in front of my eyes as a 9 year old, I feel so sad for her. I truly do not understand how murder even crossed Ruth’s mind as an option instead of figuring out another way, and the fact that she tried multiple times! I do feel sorry of her past and the way she was treated but there could have been other ways to get out of her situation.

  4. I had never heard of this crime before this article, not only was the article very informative of what happened it was very interesting and very descriptive. I can see why this is one of the most famous murder trials, it sounds like it’s straight out of a movie, it’s so weird to me how their first option was murder instead of just simply divorcing Albert and marrying Gray.

  5. Such an interesting and great article! It is so crazy how these things in life really do happen even though they sound like they are straight out of a movie! To be fair they did have a terrible backup story, and the fact that they had an affair while she thought her husband was dying just upstairs is so scary.

  6. Before reading this article I’d never heard of this story or Ruth. This was a very captivating and tragic story for just about everyone involved. What is most horrific is that Ruth’s young 9-year-old daughter had to walk in and lay witness to the state of her tied up mother and deceased father. I do believe that Ruth had it rough, but it was still no call for murdering her husband and leaving her daughter to become an orphan.

  7. This article was a real rollercoaster. I’ve never heard this story before but it’s definitely one I’ll remember. The fact that Ruth tried to kill her husband several times before succeeding is so sad. The worst part of the entire article is how their 9 year old daughter had to walk into the room and untie her mother and most likely would have seen her murdered father at the same time. Very interesting article and very captivating.

  8. I had heard this story before but this time around, it sounded even more horrific. Of course, one feels sorry for Ruth who wanted a simple, domestic life, but had to deal with a husband who was in love with a previous fiancé who had died, who didn’t want their child, and who criticized the way she looked. However, to hear the accounts of the numerous times she tried to kill him is something else. The real victim of the story is their daughter, who was left an orphan with this tragic, awful story.

  9. This was my first time hearing about this story but I found it interesting yet sad. Ruth had it tough in my opinion with all the circumstances in her life when she was younger, her marriage, etc. she was living a very sad life. The outcome of the story is very tragic with the husband being murdered, Ruth and Gray both being sentenced to death, but I can only imagine how hard this must’ve been for Lorraine.

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