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Trial underway for Ozark County woman charged with murdering her teenage daughter

Springfield (MO) KYTV logo Springfield (MO) KYTV 6/27/2022 Frances Watson
Savannah Leckie © Provided by Springfield (MO) KYTV Savannah Leckie

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A bench trial will begin Monday for an Ozark County woman facing criminal charges in the death of her daughter more than four years ago.

Rebecca Ruud, arrested in July 2017 in the death of her daughter Savannah Leckie, faces several criminal charges. Prosecutors have charged her with first-degree and second-degree murder, abuse or neglect of a child, tampering with physical evidence, and abandonment of a corpse.

Investigators say Leckie disappeared in Ozark County in July 2017. When she was first reported missing, Ruud told everyone she thought her daughter had run away. Volunteers in the Theodosia area spent several days searching for Leckie.

After searching for several weeks, investigators found human remains, consisting of bones and teeth in a burn pile on the property of Ruud.

Investigators used dental records and other evidence to confirm the remains belonged to Leckie.

At birth, Leckie was adopted by a family in Minnesota but maintained frequent contact with her biological mother, Rebecca Ruud.

According to court records, Ruud was told Savannah could not get along with her adoptive mom’s new boyfriend, so she came to live with Ruud in Ozark County.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled against Ruud’s fight to suppress a recording entered as evidence.

Greene County Judge Calvin Holden will hear the case that will take place in Springfield.

You can watch the proceedings unfold via live stream.

9:05 am - State attorneys give opening statements.

State gives background information about Savannah Leckie including that Rebecca Ruud agreed to allow Tamile Leckie-Montague and her then-husband David, to adopt Leckie before she was 2 months old.

And describes that Leckie was having problems after her adopted parents divorced.

She was diagnosed with ADHD and is on the spectrum.

She was sent from Minnesota to Missouri to live with Ruud at the end of 2016.

By the next summer, an argument ensued between the mother and daughter about homework.

That was the last time anyone saw Leckie.

State attorneys refer to a taped conversation between Ruud and a public defender in which she admits to burning Leckie’s body.

The recording was ruled to be admissible by the Missouri State Supreme Court.

9:17 am Defense attorneys for Ruud give their opening statement.

Defense attorneys say Ruud was abused by her mother and that her mother kidnapped Leckie.

She got her back and was adopted by Tamile and David Leckie.

She lived a typical life until they divorced.

The defense says Leckie became depressed and suicidal, and her condition deteriorated.

She went to Missouri to live with Ruud alleging that Leckie-Montague pushed her out of the home.

Ruud was depending on the child support provided by Leckie-Montague to care for the child.

But seldom got paid and didn’t have the means to get her health care.

The defense says there’s no evidence of how the child died or when.

9:25 - Former Ozark Sheriff Darrin Reed takes the stand.

Reed recalls being called about Leckie’s disappearance.

He was in Columbia and immediately left upon being told.

The search started in east Theodosia.

He talks about how a remote 80-acre farm was searched by authorities.

Leckie was not found.

A few days later, on July 27, 2017, authorities returned and found the child’s remains.

She was still not found.

On August 4, 2017, authorities return again to Ruud’s farm with a search warrant, the property was locked up.

Authorities gained entry to the property with more officers and cadaver dogs to search.

Reed talks about the dogs’ reaction to finding possible human remains.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

Copyright 2022 KY3. All rights reserved.

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