Ruud’s trial expected to be rescheduled
The scheduled Jan. 27 murder trial for Theodosia-area resident Rebecca Ruud will likely be rescheduled, due to an unexpected complication – the disappearance of the son of Circuit Judge Calvin Holden, who is assigned to the case.
The expected cancellation and resetting of Ruud’s trial will be the fifth time it has been rescheduled since it was filed in Taney County Court on a change of venue motion in October 2017.
Alex Holden, Judge Holden’s son, reportedly went missing from his Sacramento, California, home on New Year’s Eve.
Holden and wife, Margaret Palmietto, also a Missouri judge, traveled to California early this month and have been actively searching there for their son. The couple has issued a $10,000 cash reward for information that leads to Alex’s return. Alex Holden is described as 6-feet 1-inch tall with brown hair and brown eyes. He was reportedly last seen wearing a tan pullover sweater at his apartment near the intersection of 23 and I Streets in central Sacramento.
Holden told the Springfield News-Leader that he and his wife had been diligently searching for clues relating to Alex’s disappearance, but the pair have hit a wall and are unsure what else to do in California. Holden told the News-Leader Thursday that he planned to return to Missouri over the weekend and would likely resume his duties as judge Tuesday. He said Palmietto may also return sometime this week.
“At some point, we have to say we’ll go back,” Holden told the News-Leader. “And if a good tip comes up or something, it won’t take long to get on a plane and come back [to Sacramento].”
Ruud was scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference before Holden on Jan. 13, but the hearing was continued due to the judge’s absence.
Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant told the Times he expects the pre-trial conference and Ruud’s Jan. 27 trial to be rescheduled to a later date.
“But it’s all speculative right now,” Garrabrant said.
Ruud and husband Robert Peat Jr. are both charged with murder in connection with the murder of Ruud’s 16-year-old biological daughter Savannah Leckie, whom Ruud gave up for adoption at the child’s birth. Savannah spent her childhood with her adoptive mother in Minnesota but was sent to live with Ruud at her off-the-grid farm in Ozark County in 2016. Ruud reported Savannah as missing on July 20, 2017. Charges were filed after charred human remains were found in a burn pile on Ruud’s Theodosia-area farm a few weeks later on Aug. 4, 2017. Lab results linked the remains to Savannah.
Peat is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on Feb. 7 in Greene County. A trial date has not yet been set in his case. Holden is also assigned to Peat’s case.
Ruud’s case has a lengthy court-proceeding history, including three judges and a change of venue.
On Sept. 20, 2017, then-local Associate Judge Cynthia MacPherson was the first judge assigned the case when it was newly filed in Ozark County Court. A change-of-judge motion was filed and sustained five days later, and 37th Circuit Judge David P. Evans was assigned. A second change-of -judge motion was filed November 2017, and Holden was assigned. The case has remained under Holden’s docket ever since.
It was transferred from Ozark County to Taney County on a change-of-venue motion in October 2017. However, most of Ruud’s court proceedings have been held at the Greene County Courthouse in Springfield for the convenience of Holden, who has a full case load in Greene County.
Ruud’s first jury trial was scheduled for Aug. 27, 2018. It was continued to Jan. 28, 2019, then continued to Sept. 9, 2019, then continued to its current date of Jan. 27, 2020. At a Nov. 27, 2019, pre-trial conference Ruud waived her right to a jury trial and instead opted for a bench trial before Judge Holden.