Mom charged with murder of autistic teen daughter

A Missouri mother who had given her daughter up for adoption as a baby has been charged in the girl's murder after human remains were found on her property.

Rebecca Ruud, 39, was arrested Saturday trying to board a Greyhound bus to Kansas City, police said.

She was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and other counts related to the case.

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According to a probable cause statement obtained by the Daily News, on July 18 Ruud reported that there had been a fire at her Theodosia home. When officials arrived, Ruud said she and her 16-year-old daughter, Savannah Leckie, had been injured and showed authorities to a fire on a hilltop near her property.

Ruud showed authorities a burn on her arm, but would not let them see Savannah or go near her home.

At one point, Ruud allegedly told officers that the teen "was fine" and taking a shower. She later said Savannah was naked and lying down to cool off.

According to the document, authorities never saw Savannah on the day the fire was reported.

Two days later, Ruud called police again.  This time telling them Savannah had run away.

"I had a fire two days ago, Savannah is blaming herself for the fire," the mom told police. "I got burnt. I think that's why she ran way."

During several searches of Ruud's property, investigators found burned human remains in a pit. Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed said a forensic analysis identified the remains as Savannah's.

The searches also turned up bone fragments, intact human finger bones, several teeth and a large bone that appeared to be a vertebra.

A criminal complaint obtained by the Daily News stated that investigators also seized a meat grinder, a knife and 26 bottles of lye, a chemical that could break down bodily tissue.

During an Aug. 4 search of Ruud's property, authorities said Ruud and her boyfriend, Robert Peat Jr., left to get married.

According to police, Savannah was adopted as a baby by Tamile Leckie-Montague and lived most of her life in Minnesota. The teen was described as having high-functioning autism.

Last November, Leckie-Montague and Ruud agreed that Savannah would live with Ruud because Savannah couldn't get along with her adoptive mother's fiancé, Cary Steeves.

Steeves told KSTP-TV that Leckie-Montague last spoke to Savannah on June 3, the teen's birthday, and didn't notice any "red flags."

Leckie-Montague, however, told investigators that Ruud often complained about Savannah and how much time and money it took to care for the teen.

Investigators were also told by Ruud's ex-boyfriend that Ruud would punish Savannah by making her crawl through hog pens. Ruud told police that was true, adding that her daughter would cut herself and as punishment she would pour alcohol and salt in the wounds twice a day.

Ruud is currently being held at the Ozark County Jail without bond. Reed said that charges would be filed against "any individual that was involved in aiding or tampering" with the investigation.

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