A new trial date has been set for a woman accused of killing her daughter and then trying to destroy the evidence by placing the body in a burn pile.
Rebecca Ruud, 40, is charged with five felonies in the death of Savannah Leckie in Ozark County. A jury trial was originally scheduled for August, but after a court hearing last week, two new dates have been scheduled. Online records show that Judge Calvin Holden has set aside Nov. 26 for a bench trial, but also Jan. 28, 2019 for a jury trial. If there is a bench trial, the case would be heard in Greene County. If it’s a jury trial, the location has not yet been determined.
The case began in Ozark County, but was moved to Taney County. However, Holden, a Greene County judge, was assigned to the case a change-of-judge motion, and he has been holding hearings in that county – although online court records still consider it a Taney County case. She is charged with first-degree murder, abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death, second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and abandonment of a corpse.
A co-defendant, Robert Peat Jr., is also facing the same five felony charges. His case has remained in Ozark County, but it is also being handed by Judge Holden. He is scheduled for a July 30 jury trial in Greene County with a jury to be selected from Cole County, according to online court records.
According to court documents, Ruud initially reported a brush fire on her Theodosia property July 18, 2017. She was treated for a minor injury. Ruud reportedly told firefighters her daughter also was hurt, but that she was OK and that Ruud would not allow anyone to see her daughter.
Two days later, Ruud reported Savannah had run away, blaming herself for starting the fire that injured Ruud. Ruud and Robert Peat Jr., her boyfriend who had recently begun living at Ruud’s home, said they last saw Savannah July 19, a day after the fire, but a day before she was reported missing. During a search for Savannah, an officer noticed from a helicopter that there was a fire on the Ruud property in the same area of the July 18 fire.
Officers searched Ruud’s property with dogs on July 25, but because of temperatures near 100 degrees, the search could not be completed.
On Aug. 1, Ruud told police during an interview that she had smashed Savannah’s phone as a form of control and punishment. She also said she had Savannah roll around in a hog pen and wade into a muddy pond and dunk under as a form of punishment. Ruud also said she used a water hose on Savannah. She said Savannah deliberately cut her own arm, so to punish her, Ruud rubbed alcohol and salt into the cut twice a day and rubbed it until the scabs came off. She also made Savannah pull down her pants so Ruud could spank her bare bottom.
On Aug. 4, authorities, using dogs trained to detect human remains, found bits of human bones and teeth in the large burn pile where the fire had been reported on July 18. More bone fragments were found during a search six days later. The bones were later determined to likely belong to Savannah. The body reportedly had been burned several times.
In the meantime, Ruud and Peat had gotten married. Police discovered they had purchased bus tickets. Ruud was picked up by police in Springfield Aug. 21, 2017, attempting to board a Greyhound bus.
Court documents show that Ruud is Savannah’s biological mother; however, Savannah was adopted at birth by a couple in Minnesota. In 2016, by mutual agreement, Savannah was sent to live with Ruud. Court records show that Ruud complained to Savannah’s adoptive parents that Ruud was having a difficult time dealing with Savannah, who was clinically diagnosed with a form of autism, ADHD and depression. In a text, Ruud complained that Savannah was costing her so much money that she was afraid of losing her farm.
Ruud remains in the custody of Taney County Jail where she is being held without bond. Peat is being held at the Ozark County Jail.