Missouri Supreme Court to decide motion in Ozark County murder case

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — This week the Missouri Supreme Court will be deciding how an Ozark County murder trial can move forward.

It involves the State’s case against Rebecca Ruud, who is one of two people accused of abusing and killing her 16-year-old daughter Savannah Leckie in Theodosia in 2017.

Ruud’s husband, Robert Peat Jr., has also been charged for his alleged role in the murder.

At issue is whether an audio recording Ruud allegedly secretly taped during a conversation with her public defender can be used as evidence in her trial.

Court documents say before Ruud was charged or arrested, she went to speak with staff at the public defender’s office.

Ruud’s counsel claims Ruud recorded the conversation without her public defender knowing.

Court filings say in the recording, Ruud allegedly admits to some of the crimes she is accused of.

Ruud later told her public defender she put had put the recording in a box, gave the box to Peat, but did not tell him what was inside.

Peat told authorities he discovered the recording more than a year later. After listening to it, Peat notified the prosecutor and voluntarily surrendered the recording to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office.

When the State sought a ruling as to whether prosecutors could use the recording as evidence in Ruud’s trial, Circuit Judge Calvin Holden ruled the recording could not be used, citing attorney-client privilege.

After several motions and appeals following the ruling, the issue has made its way to the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.

Court documents filed in advance of the hearing show the State plans to argue the recording should be allowed as evidence, claiming Ruud voluntarily waived her right to attorney-client privilege by recording the conversation, as well as by giving it to Peat Jr.

On the other side, Ruud’s public defender argues Ruud never voluntarily broke her attorney-client privilege because neither she nor Peat had been charged or arrested at the time of the recording.

Ruud’s public defender says she told Ruud on the day of the recording their conversation would remain confidential, despite not knowing the discussion had been recorded.

Court documents from Ruud’s attorney also claim Peat didn’t know the recording existed until he went through the box more than a year later.

If you’d like to read more on the State’s arguments before Wednesday, click here.

Ruud’s bench trial was originally set to begin in May 2021 but has been postponed until the Missouri Supreme Court makes its decision.

The Missouri Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the motion on Wednesday, September 29th at 9:30 a.m.

A summary of the case and more information on Wednesday’s hearing can be found here.

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