Birth Mother Charged In Teen’s Murder, Burning Remains

Victim Grew Up With Adoptive Mother In Minnesota

ST. MICHAEL, Minn. (WCCO) — A horrifying discovery on a Missouri farm is confirmed to be the human remains of a former Minnesota teenager.

The girl’s birth mother was charged on Tuesday for murdering her 16-year-old daughter and burning her remains.

Rebecca “Reba” Ruud, 39, was arrested at a Greyhound bus station in Springfield, Missouri, where investigators believe she was attempting to flee the state.

Ruud is jailed and charged in the July 18 murder of Savannah Leckie, the child she gave up for adoption shortly after the girl’s birth.

savannah leckie Birth Mother Charged In Teen’s Murder, Burning Remains

Savannah Leckie (credit: CBS)

“We was picking up red flags from the very beginning of this investigation,” said Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed.

Leckie was a 2015-2016 student at St. Michael-Albertville High School. She decided to leave her adoptive family and move in with Ruud back in August of 2016.

Ruud was living on 81 acres southeast of Springfield, Missouri in a trailer without electricity. Investigators say she was living “off the grid.”

The mother and daughter recently opened a soap-making business called “Our Hidden Holler Farm,” producing soap they sold in local stores.

But Ruud reported her daughter missing on July 20, and told investigators she believed that Leckie had run away.

It wasn’t long after that when Ruud set up a GoFundMe page, seeking to raise $20,000 to pay for a private attorney.

On Aug. 4, the 81-acre Ozark property was searched for evidence of a crime.

“I executed two search warrants here on the property today, one for burn piles and another for the property itself,” Reed said.

rebecca ruud Birth Mother Charged In Teen’s Murder, Burning Remains

(credit: Ozark County Sheriff’s Office)

That is when dogs alerted law enforcement to the scent of human remains in a burn pile. Investigators soon found human bones and teeth in the burn pit, which sat approximately 400 yards from the house trailer.

They also seized other evidence, including a meat grinder, knife and 26 bottles of lye.

On the very same day that the teen’s remains were found, Ruud and her live-in boyfriend, Robert Peat Jr., were married in a neighboring county.

Shortly after that, they refused to cooperate with investigators. They purchased Greyhound bus tickets on Aug. 21: Ruud destined for Kansas City and Peat to Memphis.

Ruud was taken into custody as she sat in the bus waiting to leave. Robert Peat Jr.’s bus departed before officers arrived.

“We’re going to see that justice is served,” Reed said.

Investigators say Ruud would punish her daughter by forcing her to roll around in a hog pit, and rubbed alcohol and salt in her wounds.

The girl’s adoptive family issued a statement Tuesday, seeking privacy, and added, “We ask that Savannah is remembered as a beacon of light and her light will always shine.”

The county will seek the death penalty in the case.

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