Seven out-of-state subpoenas issued in Leckie murder case, now 2-plus years after her death
It’s been over two years since Ozark County Sheriff’s deputies found the burned remains of 16-year-old autistic teen Savannah Leckie in a burn pile on her biological mother’s Theodosia-area property, and many residents wonder when justice will be served for the individual or individuals responsible for her death. That answer may become clearer as Ozark County Prosecutor John Garrabrant and Missouri Assistant Attorney General Steven Kretzer continue piecing together the case against her mother, Rebecca Ruud, and Ruud’s husband, Robert Peat Jr.
Out-of-state subpoenas issued in Ruud case
Circuit Judge Calvin Ray Holden in Springfield has issued subpoenas for seven out-of-state witnesses to be deposed in the case against Ruud in which she is charged with first-degree murder, abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death, second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a corpse. The subpoenas, requested by Ruud’s defense attorney, Lauren Kate Welborn, were granted by Holden on Sept. 19, according to online court records. A member of the Taney County Circuit Clerk’s office told the Times last week that the identity of those issued subpoenas is not public record; therefore it is unclear who will be legally required to be interviewed in the case. The case was moved to Taney County on a change-of-venue motion in October 2017. Holden was assigned to the case by the Missouri State Supreme Court in response to a change-of-judge motion.
Savannah was born to Rebecca Rudd and Donald Pluff Jr. in 2001, but she was adopted as an infant by Tamile Leckie-Montague and her then-husband, David Leckie. The Leckies were Ruud's neighbors.
The Leckies raised Savannah in her early years in Park Rapids, Minnesota. They divorced on Jan. 27, 2011, according to Minnesota online court records, and Tamile retained custody of Savannah and her siblings. In 2016, when Tamile and her children were living in Minnesota with another man, Carey Steeves, Tamile sent Savannah to live with Ruud, Savannah’s biological mother, in Ruud’s off-the-grid farm near Theodosia.
On July 20, 2017, Ruud contacted the Ozark County Sheriff’s Depart-ment to report Savannah was missing. After an intensive search throughout the area, Sheriff Darrin Reed and a deputy, Cpl. Curt Dobbs, discovered bone fragments in a burn pile on Ruud’s property. Forensic testing indicated the fragments were Savannah’s remains. A grand jury indicted Ruud and Peat in
It’s assumed, but cannot be confirmed, that at least some of the subpoenas were issued for persons living in Minnesota.
A few weeks ago, Welborn issued a second amended notice to take depositions in the case, an action that was filed in Taney County court Sept. 18. A deposition is out-of court testimony, made under oath, before a trial begins. Depositions are often used to gather information from potential witnesses during the discovery process of the case.
Ruud is scheduled to have a pre-trial conference at the Greene County Courthouse before Judge Holden at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Pre-trial motions are scheduled to be taken up at that time.
Court actions are being held in Greene County for the convenience of Holden, who presides in the 31st Judicial Circuit.
Ruud’s jury trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 27-28, 2020, in Greene County. The trial is open to the public.
Peat no longer required
to be monitored by GPS
The next court appearance for Ruud’s husband and co-defendant in the case, Robert Peat Jr., will occur after Ruud’s trial. Peat, who is also charged with first-degree murder, abuse or neglect of a child, second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution and abandonment of a corpse, is scheduled to return to court for a pre-trial conference at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7. The jury for Peat’s case will be chosen from Greene County.
The court removed the stipulation that Peat be monitored by GPS during a May 24 court hearing. According to online records, Peat was ordered to report twice weekly to a probation officer with Court Probationary Services. Peat was arrested on Sept. 21, 2017. He was released on his own recognizance on July 5, 2018.
Judge under scrutiny
Holden himself has been the center of several regional news headlines recently, defending himself against accusations from both the Greene County Prosecutor and a Springfield-area sexual abuse awareness group.
According to a Sept. 4 Facebook post from the organization Me Too Springfield, the group began collecting signatures online at the 2019 Me Too Springfield Rally on Sept. 14, calling for Holden’s removal from the bench.
The organization’s Facebook post says, “The decision was made in response to Holden’s well-known reputation for giving lenient sentences to those convicted of sexual crimes….Me Too Springfield collected information from 15 of Holden’s sexual violence cases in the last 5 years, finding that over half of the rulings of such cases involved no prison time. This is beyond unacceptable. Sexual assault, especially against a child, is not something to take lightly. When judges allow these people to remain on the street, they are putting other potential victims at risk, and do not deter others from committing such crimes.”
The Facebook post includes a link outlining the 15 cases it references.
Holden’s recent cases listed on the Me Too website include that of Joseph Meili, who was found guilty of child molestation and was given a suspended imposition of sentence and 5 years’ probation during a sentencing hearing June 14. According to a June 18, 2019, Springfield News-Leader story, Meili admitted to having sex with an 11-year-old girl but told the court he thought she was 18.
Another case was that of Beau Gormley, who was found guilty by court trial of rape and was given a suspended execution of sentence and 5 years probation. At the time, Gormley was on probation for a statutory rape conviction in Christian County.
To read the 13 others, visit Me Too Springfield’s Facebook page, scroll to the Sept. 4 post about Holden and click the link in the post.
According to the information on the website, nine of the 15 cases resulted in no prison time while five cases resulted in probation only. In two of the 15 cases, the defendants were found not guilty by Holden in a court trial.
According to the Springfield News-Leader, Holden said he considers several factors before handing down a sentence in a sex-crime case, including the age of the victim, the age of the defendant and the extent or frequency of the crime.
“There’s just a variance in the crimes,” Holden told the News-Leader. “We have to take all of that into consideration.”
In a totally unrelated matter, Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson asked the Missouri Court of Appeals to stop Holden from running a domestic abuse court, which Holden started last year.
According to the News-Leader, the Domestic Abuse Court was established with the goal of diverting domestic abusers from prison and guiding them toward rehabilitation.
But Patterson claims Holden did not follow the necessary procedure to establish a treatment court under Missouri law, and, Patterson said, the judge has acted “in excess of his jurisdiction and authority” by sentencing defendants to the court program, holding meetings about the offenders with his Domestic Abuse Court Team and making decisions about criminal defendants outside of the presence of their attorneys.
Holden, meanwhile, said he was simply trying to find a solution to the county’s rampant domestic violence issues.
“We know it works,” Holden told the News-Leader recently, adding that he has seen numerous men mature, thanks to the supervision provided by Domestic Abuse Court.