Rebecca Ruud

An Ozark County woman charged with murder after the charred remains of her 16-year-old daughter were found in a burn pile on her property has been granted her request for a bench trial rather than a jury trial.

Rebecca Ruud, 41, of Theodosia, is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 27 in Greene County on a change of venue before 31st Judicial Circuit Court Judge Calvin Ray Holden.

She and Robert Peat Jr., 33, of Zanoni, are each charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death, abandonment of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution. Each charge is a felony.

Court records show a pretrial conference is set for Peat on Feb. 7, also in Greene County on a change of venue, but a trial date has not been set.

The two are accused of killing Ruud’s biological daughter, Savannah Leckie, then burning her body to cover up the crime in July 2017 at Ruud’s property about five miles west of Theodosia. The charges originated in Ozark County.

Ruud has been jailed without bail since she and Peat were arrested on Aug. 21, 2017, after bone fragments and teeth were identified as human and likely belonging to a person of Leckie’s size.   

Peat was released on his own recognizance in July 2018, on the condition he live with family members and wear a GPS monitoring device. In May, Peat was allowed to remove the device on the condition he reports twice a week to probationary services, according to court records.

Investigation into the incident began July 20, 2017, after Ruud reported Leckie missing via social media and later contacted law enforcement for help in the search.

On Aug. 4, officers executed a search warrant on Ruud’s property and cadaver dogs trained to detect human remains “alerted” on a burn pile about 1,200 feet from Ruud’s home.

During the search, Peat and Ruud left the property and were married at Summersville, the marriage license filed in Howell County.

The two were later arrested separately after attempting to flee to other states, Ruud apprehended at a Greyhound bus station in Springfield with a ticket to leave the area.   

Leckie, who was autistic, had lived in Minnesota with her adoptive mother Tamile and family until 2016 when she moved in with her biological mother at Longrun near Theodosia. Savannah was 15 at the time.

According to the probable cause statement filed in seeking charges, Savannah was adopted at birth by Tamile Montague (Leckie) and David Leckie. In late 2016, Montague and Ruud agreed that Savannah would live with Ruud on her Longrun property.

Montague and her mother reportedly said that Ruud frequently complained about Savannah’s inability to adapt to farm life.

According to the probable cause statement, in a text message to Montague on June 30, Ruud said it was difficult to get things done because Savannah was treating her badly. She also allegedly said, “It’s to the point that I either need more help to care for her or I can do nothing with her.”

Ruud reportedly told Montague she spent most of her time fixing things Savannah had broken.

Ruud told Montague’s mother that Savannah was costing her so much money she was afraid of losing her farm, according to the report.

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