Missouri woman acquitted of murdering her teenage daughter

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri— A judge on Friday acquitted a southwestern Missouri woman of murder and two other felony charges in the death of the autistic teenage daughter she gave up for adoption as a baby.

Greene County Circuit Court Judge Calvin Holden found Rebecca Ruud not guilty of first and second degree murder, tampering with evidence and criminal abuse or neglect of a child, but found her guilty of the remaining count, unlawful abandonment of a corpse. The charges stemmed from the July 2017 death of 16-year-old Savannah Leckie, whose remains were found in a burn pit on Ruud’s remote property near the Arkansas-Missouri border.

Ruud is expected to be sentenced on the final charge on September 15 by Holden, who heard the case instead of a jury in Springfield after a change of venue from Ozark County to the southwest. Ruud could face up to four years in prison.

Prosecutors described Savannah as a victim of severe abuse after she left her adoptive family in Minnesota and moved to Missouri to be with her birth mother. Ruud said the girl disappeared after running away because she blamed herself for starting a fire at the family property.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office declined to comment on the judge’s decision. A public defender representing Ruud did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Ruud lived outside Theodosia, a village of about 250 people located about 72 kilometers east of Branson, a popular vacation destination. According to a probable cause statement filed with the charges against Ruud in 2017, the girl’s adoptive mother asked Ruud to pick her up because Savannah didn’t get along with her adoptive mother’s fiancé.

Authorities said after the girl moved to Missouri, she was home-schooled and had “almost no social contact.”

Ruud reported that Savannah went missing two days after the family’s remote property burned down, authorities said. Multiple searches revealed human teeth, a meat grinder, a knife and 26 bottles of washing powder, which can be used to accelerate the breakdown of body tissue, according to court documents. Human bone fragments were found in a field about 400 yards (365 yards) from Ruud’s home, about two weeks after Savannah’s reported disappearance.

An ex-boyfriend of Ruud’s told investigators he witnessed her disciplining Savannah by forcing the teen to crawl into a pigsty and bathing her in a pond, authorities said. Ruud acknowledged it was true and told investigators that when Savannah cut her arm “in a suicidal gesture” she made the girl rub the wound daily with alcohol and salt as a remedy. punishment.

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