The Real Murder That Inspired Double Indemnity

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In 1925, the queens, housewife Ruth Snyder began an affair with married corset salesman Henry Judd Gray. Their adultery turned deadly two years later when they killed Snyder’s husband, Albert. On the night of March 20, 1927, the lovers knocked Snyder unconscious, stuffed a chloroform-smeared sock up his nose, and then strangled him to death with a window wire; they staged the murder as a burglary. To make matters even juicier, Snyder forged her husband’s signature for a $100,000 double indemnity insurance policy. It only took a few hours for the plan to fall through.

The police were immediately suspicious of Ruth Snyder’s breaking and entering allegations, and when they discovered the jewelry allegedly stolen by the intruders hidden under her bed, Snyder relented and fingered Gray. Gray confessed but attempted to shift blame, claiming that Snyder manipulated him into killing her husband. This blame game came to naught, and the two were tried and then executed in 1928.

A media frenzy swarmed in the run-up to that dreadful conclusion, despite its players’ previous anonymity. It was the days of William Randolph Hearst’s yellow journalism, after all. Newspapers lured readers with exaggerated detail, recounting events with the sinister glamor of a Hollywood movie. It should come as no surprise, then, that the murder made it to Hollywood.

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