Columbia Heights girl found dead on Missouri farm

By Sam Lenhart and Aaron Brom
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[email protected]

A woman was charged Aug. 22 with the murder of her biological daughter after her remains were discovered on a remote farm in Ozark County, Missouri.

Rebecca Ruud (Photo provided by the ozark county sheriffs office)

Just days after authorities were called to her farm for a fire, Rebecca Ruud, 39, reported her 16-year-old daughter Savannah Leckie missing. According to a probable cause statement, responders asked to see Leckie after extinguishing the fire but were denied by Ruud. Two days later, Ruud reported her daughter missing, saying she believed her daughter ran away because she was blaming herself for the fire, which had injured Ruud.

Leckie, who was reported to have Asperger’s syndrome, attention-deficit disorder and depression, was raised by her adoptive parents Tamile Montague and David Leckie in Columbia Heights until last year.

Ruud indicated to investigators that Montague asked Ruud and her now-husband to take Leckie because she could not get along with Montague’s boyfriend. Ruud agreed and was given power of attorney. After the girl moved to Missouri, she was home schooled and virtually isolated.

After several unsuccessful searches and inconsistent testimony from Ruud, a search warrant was executed.

According to court documents, authorities sifted through a pile of ashes and discovered bone fragments consistent with human ribs, vertebrae, fingers, toes and teeth. The search also revealed a meat grinder, knife and chemicals, which can be used to accelerate the breakdown of organic tissue. Dental records from Minnesota confirmed that the teeth and bones found on Ruud’s farm belong to Leckie.

County prosecutor John Garrabrant charged Ruud with first- and second-degree murder, abuse of a child resulting in death, tampering with physical evidence, and abandonment of a corpse, in the slaying of Leckie.

Prior to the girl’s death, court documents reveal Ruud’s suspected brutal treatment of Leckie.

According to an affidavit, Ruud admitted to disciplining Leckie by smashing her phone and limiting her contact through Facebook, forcing her to roll around a pig pen and dunked her head in a muddy pond. Ruud also admitted to investigators that as punishment for when Leckie cut her arm, she poured alcohol and salt on the wound twice a day and rubbed it in until the scab came off.

Ruud also claims that she was constantly fixing things that Leckie broke and that the girl was costing her money.

On the same day Leckie’s remains were found in early August, Ruud had married her boyfriend Robert Peat Jr. According to court documents, both Ruud and Peat were attempting to board buses in Missouri on Monday, the day of Ruud’s arrest.

Although the prosecuting attorney would not comment on whether Peat Jr. would be charged, the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department indicated that more charges are expected.

Montague released a statement through the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center saying, “Our family is in deep grief and is mourning Savannah. This is not the outcome that we were hoping and praying for.”

According to reports, the family indicated that Montague last heard from her daughter June 3, on Leckie’s 16th birthday.

St. Michael-Albertville High School also released a statement mourning the death of Leckie, who attended the school as a freshman two years ago.

“Our St. Michael-Albertville High School staff, students and communities are deeply saddened by the news that former STMA student, Savannah Leckie, has passed away,” the school said. “Our thoughts are with her family and loved ones as they go through this difficult time.”

Ruud is presently being held without bail in the Ozark County Jail.

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