Trial set to begin for Ozark County mom accused of killing 16-year-old autistic daughter




  • In US
  • 2022-06-26 11:00:30Z
  • By Springfield News-Leader

A bench trial is set to begin Monday in the 2017 death of Savannah Leckie for which her mother, Rebecca Ruud and stepfather Robert Peat Jr. are charged with murdering her and burning her body.

Ruud's trial is set to begin on Monday and run through Wednesday. It is being held in Greene County and is being presided over by Greene County Judge Calvin Holden, who is set to begin retirement on July 31.

Court proceedings in Leckie's death have moved slowly through the court system and even included an argument before the Missouri Supreme Court about the privilege of a recording where Ruud allegedly admitted to some of the crimes.

Before the attorneys make their opening statements, here's look back on what happened so far in the case.

In July of 2017, Leckie was reported missing from her mother's farm in Ozark County. Ruud, who was Leckie's biological mother, initially told investigators that Leckie must have run away after there was a fire on Ruud's property two days earlier for which Leckie blamed herself.

However, weeks later in early August, while investigators were scouring the property, court documents say they discovered burned bone fragments that later were confirmed to have belonged to Leckie. Leckie had only been living with Ruud for about a year after being raised by her adopted family in Minnesota.

Ruud and Peat got married the day the bones were discovered. They were indicted by a grand jury in September of 2017.

More: Husband, wife indicted in death of Ozark County teenager

They were both charged with first-degree murder for Leckie's death, as well as child abuse and felony murder. For the prosecution to prove felony murder, they merely have to prove that an underling felony took place and someone died as result. In this case, the felony is child abuse where the child died as a result of the abuse.

Throughout the investigation of this case, officials say they uncovered evidence that Rudd had severely abused Leckie; including incidents where Rudd rubbed salt and alcohol in Leckie's wounds, made her roll around in a pigpen and bathe in a muddy pond.

Ruud and Peat are also charged with abandoning a corpse and tampering with physical evidence.

Court proceedings have dragged on since 2017 in part due to a dispute over a piece of evidence that made its way up to the Missouri Supreme and was finally settled last year.

More: Missouri Supreme Court says recording with attorney can be used against Ozark County murder suspect Rebecca Ruud

The evidence in question was a recording made by Ruud in 2017 when she was at the public defender's office before she was even indicted or charged with a crime. In the recording, she allegedly admitted to a number of the crimes for which she was accused.

Normally such a recording would fall under attorney-client privilege, but after making the recording Ruud put it in a box and gave it to her husband, Peat, who didn't listen to it for over a year. However, once he did listen to it, Peat turned it over to the police.

Ruud and her attorneys argued that the recording could not be used as evidence by the prosecution because it was privileged, a claim that Judge Holden agreed with when he ruled on the issue.

However, prosecutors claimed Ruud forfeited privilege when she gave the recording to Peat. They appealed the issue to the Missouri Supreme Court, which unanimously sided with prosecutors in a decision from last November.

The recording will presumably be a major part of the evidence presented at the trial, though at the time of the Missouri Supreme Court's ruling in November, Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant said he still did not know exactly what was on the recording.

The trial is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Greene County courthouse.

Jordan Meier covers public safety for the Springfield News-Leader. Contact her at jmeier@news-leader.com, or on Twitter @Jordan_Meier644.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Trial set to begin for Ozark County mom charged with killing daughter

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