Three Ozark County murder cases move slowly through court system
The Missouri Supreme Court’s recent suspension of most in-person court proceedings had an impact on most cases filed in Ozark County, causing many trials and hearings to be rescheduled, including hearings involving open cases in three Ozark County murders that have occurred here since 2017. Details of those cases are shared here.
2017: Savannah Leckie murder case
Theodosia resident Rebecca Ruud, 42, and 34-year-old Zanoni resident Robert Peat Jr. were scheduled to appear for separate pre-trial conference hearings at the Greene County Courthouse Tuesday before Circuit Judge Calvin Holden.
The couple is charged with murdering Ruud’s 16-year-old biological daughter Savannah Leckie, who had autism, and burning her body at Ruud’s off-the-grid farm near Theodosia during the summer of 2017.
Ruud’s case was transferred to Taney County in October 2017, and Peat’s case was transferred to Greene County in June 2018 on change-of-venue motions that were filed due to the extensive media coverage surrounding the cases. Judge Holden was assigned to both cases, and the pre-trial hearings for both defendants are being held in Holden’s home court in Greene County.
Ozark County Prosecuting Attorney John Garrabrant traveled to Springfield Tuesday to represent the state at the hearing. Garrabrant is being assisted by Assistant Missouri Attorney General Anthony Michael Brown, who entered the case on Jan. 31 as a substitution of counsel for former Assistant Attorney General Steven Kretzer, who was initially assigned the case.
Ruud is represented by Lauren Kate Welborn, and Peat is represented by James Robert Hayes, both working on behalf of the Missouri Public Defender’s office.
The Tuesday hearing was held to reschedule trials in both cases and for Holden to rule on two motions: one to exclude witness testimony and another to suppress statements made in the course of the investigation.
Officers were first alerted to Savannah’s disappearance on July 20, 2017, when Ruud called the sheriff’s office to report her daughter missing.
An intensive search was conducted over several days. On Aug. 4, 2017, Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed and Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Curtis Dobbs discovered bone fragments on the Ruud property after executing a search warrant there. Forensic testing indicated the fragments were Savannah’s remains.
On the same day the officers found the remains, Ruud and Peat left the farm and were quickly married. Some residents worried that the nuptials would give the couple spousal privilege, a legal term meaning spouses cannot be forced to testify against one another in a criminal case; however, in Missouri, spousal privilege laws do not apply to defendants who are charged with a crime against a child of either spouse. Because the murder case involves Ruud’s 16-year-old daughter, Ruud and Peat are not covered under spousal privilege and can be forced to testify against one another in the cases.
An Ozark County grand jury indicted the couple on charges of first-degree murder, abuse of a child resulting in death, second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution and abandonment of a corpse on Sept. 20, 2017.
The cases have gone through a rollercoaster of rescheduling throughout the nearly three years they have been in the court system. The rescheduling has been for a variety of circumstances, some of them unavoidable, including the disappearance - and later, the discovery of the body - of Judge Holden’s son in California, which caused Ruud’s most recent Feb. 7, 2020, bench trial to be canceled.
This week’s trial setting is the sixth time Ruud’s trial has been rescheduled. She has been held in custody since her arrest Aug. 22, 2017.
Peat, initially held in custody, was released on his own recognizance with GPS monitoring and supervision by Court Probationary Services on July 5, 2018. The GPS condition was removed by agreement of both parties on May 24, 2019, and he was reportedly living with relatives in Zanoni.
2018: Lawrence C. Brostedt murder case
Tylor Rynard, 34, of Squires, was scheduled to have a July 6-8 jury trial in Phelps County in connection with the murder of 73-year-old Lawrence C. Brostedt; however, the trial has now been rescheduled to Oct. 7-9. A pre-trial conference will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 7.
The trial was moved to Phelps County on a change-of-venue motion in November 2018.
Rynard, who is represented by St. Louis attorneys Charles David Hoskins and Kevin Blain Gau, is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery. Garrabrant is prosecuting the case.
Rynard was arrested May 1, 2018, in Florida by the U.S. Marshal’s office after fleeing the local area after the murder.
He has been convicted of at least seven other felony charges in Missouri, including burglary, tampering with a motor vehicle, forgery, resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance, and he is being charged as a persistent offender. If convicted of the charges related to Brostedt’s murder, Rynard could face up to three life sentences.
The case came to light in April 2018 when the Mountain Grove Police Department arrested a man on an unrelated incident and found the suspect in possession of two of Brostedt’s bank checks. The MGPD attempted to reach Brostedt, unsuccessfully, and called the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department to ask if a deputy could go out to Brostedt’s home to make contact with the man to inform him that the checks had been found with the suspect in Mountain Grove.
Ozark County deputies went to the Brostedt home, but there was no answer at the door. Officers reportedly saw furniture turned over and cabinets open from the window and entered the home, fearing someone was in distress. They found Brostedt’s body, with one gunshot wound to the head, wrapped in a tarp in the garage.
While processing the scene, officers determined that a white Ford F-150 a Kubota UTV, a TV and several of Brostedt’s firearms were missing from the residence.
Rynard’s co-defendant in the case, Mansfield resident Holly Lucas, 36, reportedly provided written statements when she was arrested, stating that she was present April 21, 2017, when Rynard shot and killed Brostedt. The statements reportedly also say that Lucas admitted Rynard used her pistol to shoot the man and that she cleaned up the murder scene with buckets of water and ammonia while Rynard wrapped Brostedt’s body in the tarps.
Lucas pleaded guilty to an amended charge of first-degree robbery and second-degree murder before 30th Circuit Judge Michael O. Hendrickson during a plea hearing Oct. 31, 2019. She was sentenced to 10 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Because the charges are considered violent felonies, Lucas is required to serve at least 85 percent, or 8 1/2 years, before she is eligible for parole. Lucas’s guilty plea was made as part of a plea agreement with the state in which Lucas agreed to give her truthful testimony against her co-defendant in the case.
Michael Smith, another co-defendant in the case, is currently charged with conspiring to rob Brostedt. Smith reportedly had originally gone to the Brostedt property with Rynard the day before Brostedt was killed with plans to rob the man, for whom both Ryanrd and Smith had worked in the past. Smith told officers he “lost his nerve” and told Rynard he couldn’t go through with it. Rynard reportedly dropped Smith off at a gas station in Mansfield that night and returned with Lucas to murder Brostedt the following night.
Smith was captured on security cameras with Rynard at Great Southern Bank in Brostedt’s stolen truck when Rynard was reportedly cashing Brostedt’s stolen checks after the murder, court documents say.
Smith is scheduled to appear in Ozark County court on Aug. 5 for a trial setting. He is currently being held in federal custody in an unrelated case in which he is charged with sexual exploitation of children. Smith’s federal case is set for Sept. 14.
2020: Devon ‘Porkey’ Massey murder case
Allen Shafer, 32, is now scheduled to appear before Associate Judge Raymond Gross at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 21, for a bond-reduction hearing. Shafer has been held in the Ozark County Jail without bond since his arrest May 10.
He was arraigned May 12 before Gross. An initial bond reduction hearing was scheduled Monday, but that hearing was rescheduled last week after Yvette Renee DuVall entered her appearance as Shafer’s defense attorney. Public defender Lauren Kate Welborn was originally listed as Shafer’s lawyer.
Shafer is charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with a motor vehicle in connection with the May 9 shooting death of Devon “Porkey” Massey, a 22-year-old Dora resident.
According to the probable cause statement in the case, the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department received a call at 9:12 p.m. Saturday, May 9, reporting that a person had been shot near County Roads 192 and 195 near Dora. Deputies and medical personnel were dispatched to the area but found neither the gunshot victim nor the shooter. While officers were on scene, Shafer called the sheriff’s department and told a dispatcher that he had been involved in an altercation and had shot a man. Shafer reportedly said he’d left the scene in a vehicle, abandoned it, was walking on county roads and was lost. He told the dispatcher he was unfamiliar with the area and wasn’t sure where he was.
The sheriff’s office tried to conduct an emergency ping on the man’s phone to determine his location, but they were unable to locate him.
At 3 a.m., Massey’s body was found by his family members just off the roadway on County Road 195 near Dora. Shafer was arrested the next morning in West Plains driving a 1995 gold Ford Explorer that he’d reportedly stolen from one of Massey’s relatives.
Shafer’s address is listed as Chipley, Florida, on court documents in this case, but according to the West Plains Daily Quill, Shafer’s address has previously been listed as West Plains in prior cases.