From Model to Murderer

More stories from Autumn Young

Graduation 2016
May 15, 2015

Audrey Munson

Audrey Munson is not a well-known like the woman featured in Mona Lisa. Munson was born June 8, 1891,  in Rochester, New York. Her parents divorced at a young age. She then moved with her mother to New York City. At age 15, she was walking down the street when she was spotted by a photographer named Ralph Draper. Enthralled by her beauty, he introduced her to a friend of his, sculptor Isidore Konti. He too was fascinated by her looks and persuaded her to take up modelling under him.

Munson soon was modelling for painters and sculptors in New York City. Soon her face was being depicted onto canvases and tapestries. She even started modelling for stone creations. She was featured in several statues all over New York City.

Because she was so beautiful, Audrey Munson even became an actress in California. She was seen in silent films. Her first film, “Inspiration”, was the first non-pornographic nude motion picture.

Eventually, Munson moved back home to New York City and was once again caught up in the modelling agency. She moved with her mother into a boarding house, owned by affluent Walter Wilkins. Wilkins was another victim who fell to her beauty. When Mrs. Wilkins suspected his infatuation, she kicked Munson and her mother out. Soon, Mrs. Wilkins was found murdered. Audrey and her mother had found elsewhere to live, and rumors were flying that Wilkins had murdered his wife because she had gotten rid of Audrey Munson. Audrey and her mother were missing and called into question. They were found in Toronto but were found innocent. He had become the suspect of the investigation. Wilkins then goes missing and is found in Manhattan after turning himself in.


Tried and found guilty, Walter Wilkins was sentenced to death in the electric chair. He hung himself in a prison bathroom the night before his execution.


Audrey Munson’s reputation was ruined after the allegations of the murder trial. She could no longer find acting jobs or modelling positions. She was forced to find work selling kitchen utensils door-to-door. She attempted suicide by taking mercury bichloride capsules, but this attempt was unsuccessful as she was rushed to a hospital where her life was saved. She was mentally unstable and eventually placed in Saint Lawrence Psychiatric Center, a mental institution in 1931. She stayed her for the next 65 years until her death. She died at age 105 in this institution. Munson is seen in the USS Maine Monument, the Spirit of Commerce on the Manhattan Bridge, and other sculptures around New York City.