HAUNTING details have emerged in the case of a mom who allegedly drugged and planned to burn her daughter before beating her to death when she woke up screaming.
Rebecca Ruud’s trial in the July 2017 disappearance and death of her autistic daughter, Savannah Leckie, began on Monday.
Leckie’s body was found dismembered and burned weeks later – the same day Ruud married her boyfriend, Robert Peat Jr., who has also been charged.
It is believed that Ruud burned the body in an attempt to cover the crime up after she “crushed up pills and put them in a drink – likely KoolAid or something similar,” prosecutor Anthony Brown said at the trial on Monday, citing women who had been incarcerated with Ruud.
Brown said in the opening statements that one of the three women told him that Ruud admitted to crushing up hydrocodone and drugging Leckie, Law & Crime reports.
“The defendant thought Savannah was dead and brought her body to the burn pile to dispose of the evidence,” Brown said.
“She wasn’t dead. She woke up screaming.
“And during this screaming, the defendant hit her with a rake or other type of long-handled implement until she could scream no more.
“All that was left of Savannah was a bag of bones,” Brown said.
Defense lawyer Yvette Renee Duvall disputed Brown’s claims, calling them “fantastical stories” and suggesting Ruud’s fellow inmates may have been making them up.
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“Their stories don’t align with the other witnesses who were actually there,” she said Monday.
“They also don’t align with the evidence.”
Ruud faces a variety of charges in the girl’s death, including first-degree murder, felony murder, child abuse, tampering with evidence, and abandonment of a corpse.
THE DAY OF THE FIRE
On July 18, 2017, there was a fire on Ruud’s farm in Ozark County, Missouri.
Ruud was a volunteer firefighter, according to Brown, but refused to contact the sheriff.
The woman also did not allow firefighters near the trailer on the farm where Leckie was living.
She allegedly claimed that her daughter was naked in the trailer.
Peat’s father, Robert Peat Sr., was also a volunteer firefighter and helped extinguish the flames.
Peat is expected to testify during the trial about the events of that day, according to Law & Crime.
Leckie was reported missing days later on July 20.
Duvall said Monday that the incident was immediately investigated as a death – not as a missing person case.
A BRIEF REUNION
Brown said on Monday that Leckie and Ruud had recently been reunited.
Shortly after Leckie’s birth, Ruud gave the girl to her friends Tamile Leckie-Montague and David Leckie, as she did not think she was fit to care for her daughter.
The girl was raised in Minnesota with the adoptive parents, but the couple separated in 2010.
Leckie began acting out when she became a teenager, Brown said, adding that the girl was on the autism spectrum and had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression.
Duvall said the teen had been hospitalized multiple times for suicidal ideation.
In 2016, when Leckie was 15, it was decided that she’d be brought to Ruud’s farm in Ozark County, Missouri.
The reunion between the mother and daughter lasted less than a year.
THE SECRET RECORDING
In 2017, a recording was made prior to Ruud being charged in Leckie’s death.
Ruud had met with public defenders and then put the recording in a box, which she gave to Peat, who didn’t look inside the box for more than a year.
The recording reportedly contains at least a partial admission from Ruud, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
After listening to the recording, Peat gave the evidence to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2021, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of the sheriff’s office, saying the recording can be used as evidence in the trial.
At the time of the ruling, Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant said: “It is a major piece of evidence and we are very pleased the Supreme Court found that the privilege had been waived, which is what we had felt all along but had to wait a long time before we finally got an answer.”
“No one in the state besides police have listened to it,” he said back in November.
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“None of us listened to it because there was a possibility it may have been considered a confidential attorney-client communication.
“So I don’t know what content of the recording is, but I’m interested in listening to what’s on there and how that might affect how the state is going to present its evidence in this case.”