Murder charges were filed against the mother of a teenage girl with autism after forensic testing performed on burned remains found at her home, on an isolated farm in Missouri, belong to 16-year-old Savannah Leckie, who was reported missing in late July.
On August 4, Leckie’s burned remains were found in a field about 400 yards from the home where the girl lived for the prior 11 months with Rebecca Ruud, the mother who had given up her daughter for adoption at birth.
That same day the remains were found, Ruud married Robert Peat Jr., a Caney Mountain Volunteer firefighter who is also considered a suspect in the murder.
Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed said the girl was reported missing in July by Ruud, who also made some suspicious calls to the local fire department and behaved irregularly during the investigation into the teenager’s whereabouts.
Savannah had been raised by a husband and wife in Minnesota but after her adoptive parents divorced, the teen had gone to live with her biological mother in late 2016.
In July, the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public’s help in locating Savannah, believing she may have sought to return to her adoptive parents in Minnesota.
After a obtaining a search warrant for Ruud’s property, deputies discovered enough bone fragments to fill 20 boxes, a meat grinder and 26 bottles of lye, which can be used to accelerate the breakdown of bodily tissue.
Items listed as evidence taken from the home and near where the remains were found also included a knife, hair, girl’s clothing, fibrous materials, soil samples, and several cigarette butts.
“We’re dealing with someone who’s tried to dispose of evidence,” Reed said. “We’re not getting any cooperation from the people that live here.”
Ruud has admitted to punishing her daughter by forcing her to crawl through an open hog pen, bathe in a pond on the property. She also admitted to rubbing salt and alcohol into a “suicidal” cut on Leckie’s arm.
Ozark County Prosecutor John Garrabrant says Ruud was charged Tuesday, Aug 22, 2017, with first-degree and second-degree murder, felony abuse resulting in death, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a corpse.
Ruud married her boyfriend the same day her daughter’s remains were found at the bottom of an ash pile.
Reed said Ruud was arrested by deputies at a Greyhound bus station in Springfield, where she had reportedly bought a ticket to leave the area headed to the Kansas City. Deputies had been watching the bus station along with the help of local police and took her into custody.
A search warrant application says Savannah’s living quarters consisted of a camper trailer with electricity supplied from a generator.
Ruud and her boyfriend, Peat , lived in a separate 1,850-square-foot metal building. The property is 81 acres, partially wooded and partly open fields.
If the wedding was intended to shield them from being held to account for the crime, Ruud and Peat miscalculated because under Missouri law, no spousal privilege exists in any criminal prosecution involving an alleged victim under the age of eighteen.
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