Architecture and Design

The Winnie Ruth Judd "Murder House" Cheats Death in Central Phoenix

The Winnie Ruth Judd “murder house” is safe.

Locals assumed the notorious house, where Winnie Ruth Judd murdered her two best friends in October of 1931, was about to be demolished after it was recently surrounded by chain link fencing.

Purchased last year by Phoenix attorney Robert Warnicke, the duplex at the corner of Second Street and Catalina Drive is not only out of harm's way, it’s being looked after by someone with an eye toward preserving and restoring the infamous building.

Warnicke doesn’t want to talk to the press about his plans for the building, saying in an e-mail, “I am still in the dazed and confused state of having saved something significant, but having little idea about what it is going to entail.”

The “it” Warnicke is referring to, according to one source, is returning the duplex to its original state. “He wants to preserve it,” says realtor and City of Phoenix Historic Preservation member Sherry Rampy. “And he plans to undo some of the alterations that have been made to the duplex over the years.”

That’s good news for preservationists and Winnie Ruth Judd aficionados, who worried that the duplex—one of very few houses left on the commercially zoned block — was slated for demo.

“I feel like this house is in good hands,” Rampy says. “Warnicke will be a good caretaker of the property.”

The attorney plans to use the building as his law office, Rampy reports. She says Warnicke also has plans to protect the “murder cottage,” as it’s become known. “He’s got someone from the state Historic Preservation office review committee looking into an historic designation application on the building. So, not only is Robert Warnicke preserving the house, he’s actually trying to legally protect it for the future.”?

The duplex has been a residential rental since its construction in the 1920s, and was among many properties owned by O’Malley’s local lumberman Jack Halloran, Judd’s married boyfriend at the time of the murders. Original fixtures survive in both sides of the duplex; among them are the bathtub where Ruth may or may not have vivisected one of her victims before packing her in a shipping trunk; the original oak floors, and the fireplace mantles and light fixtures from the original decor.

The original mailbox was recently torn from the front porch, most likely by a Ruth Judd fan.