SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Rebecca Ruud, who stood trial in the death of her teenage daughter in Ozark County, was sentenced Thursday on charges of abandoning a corpse. Also in court Thursday, we received an update on the case against Ruud’s husband, who was also charged in the teen’s death.
In July, Greene County Judge Calvin Holden found Ruud guilty of abandonment of a corpse, in the death of Savannah Leckie, her 16-year-old daughter. Ruud was found not guilty of murder in Leckie’s death after a bench trial this past summer. Leckie’s remains were found on a burn pile on Ruud’s property in 2017.
After the ruling, Ozarks First reporters traveled to Theodosia, where the family lived, and the people our reporter spoke with said they did not agree with the judge’s ruling.
Ruud was sentenced to four years, with no probation. She will be released after getting credit for 1,790 days served in jail while awaiting trial. Ruud will be taken to jail and transferred to the Department of Corrections in Fulton. Her time served will be calculated there. Ruud served five years in jail waiting for her trial, so she will be released.
Ruud was also given a $5,000 fine.
“I normally don’t…I can’t even remember the last time I imposed a fine,” Judge Holden said Thursday. “There were people that were out there on your farm, day in and day out, trying to find somebody. They volunteered…you let them proceed.”
“Whenever she is released, I have no doubt that she will find work, become productive, and will pay off that debt,” said Ruud’s attorney.
What happened during Ruud’s July trial
During Ruud’s trial, prosecutors tried to make the case that Ruud drugged Leckie before burning her body, and brought several inmates to the stand as witnesses who said Ruud told them she drugged her daughter by crushing up pills and putting them in Kool-Aid.
Ruud’s defense attorneys said those witnesses weren’t credible, and while they acknowledged that Ruud burned Leckie’s body, they said there was no credible evidence submitted that proved Ruud killed Leckie.
Judge Holden said he agreed. “I didn’t find that she didn’t do it,” Holden said Thursday. “I’m just saying it was not a verdict of innocence. It was a verdict of not enough evidence to find her guilty.”
Reaction to Ruud’s sentence
Inside a Greene County courtroom Thursday, emotions ran high as prosecutors read impact statements about Savannah Leckie.
“It’s an impossible mission to accomplish in words what losing her has done to everyone who loved her,” said Gregory Goodwin with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. “Everyone she has touched with her larger-than-life personality, her sparkle, her smile, she was loved by so many,” Goodwin shared as he read a letter from Leckie’s adoptive mother who testified during Ruud’s trial.
“I understand and sympathize with their feelings that justice wasn’t served,” said Yvette DuVall and Kate Wellborn who defended Ruud in court. “As a defense attorney, I would say the system did what it was supposed to do and actually did work.”
Update in the case against Ruud’s husband, Robert Peat, Jr.
Also in court Thursday, the state dismissed the case against Robert Peat, Junior. Peat testified during Ruud’s trial and said Ruud never told him that she burned Savannah’s body. Peat was also facing charges in Savannah Leckie’s death.