Investigators provide details of how missing Ozark County teen’s body was found in a burn pile

Rebecca Ruud is accused of killing her 16-year-old daughter Savannah Leckie
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 10:44 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2022 at 8:04 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Testimony heard Tuesday revealed new information about the day investigators found the body of a missing Ozark County teen.

The first-degree murder case against Rebecca Ruud continued in Greene County. She’s charged with killing her 16-year-old daughter Savannah Leckie.

“I try and keep things simple,” said Joseph Marsillo.

He assisted Ozark County investigators in their search for Leckie.

Ruud told authorities Leckie ran away from their home in Theodosia in July 2017.

A few weeks later, his cadaver dogs helped find the child’s remains in a burn pile on the Ruud’s property.

“Doesn’t matter to me. If it’s human decomposition and my dog alerts on it, that’s what matters,” explained Marsillo.

Ruud claims Leckie was a troubled teen and says she killed herself in the trailer where she was sleeping. It’s the basis of her defense.

But according to Marsillo, his cadaver dogs didn’t detect any signs of human decomposition inside that trailer.

Judge Calvin Holden asked, “If it was in the camper, in the pick-up, or the burn pile, would it alert in all three places?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Marsillo. “When I went into that camper, I wasn’t expecting to find a body in there because obviously there wouldn’t be a search. I was expecting to find some kind of residual odor.”

He explained that a human body emits a distinct scent within 30 minutes of dying.

Leckie’s adopted mother, Tamille Montag, says she was a typical teen.

Ruud’s public defender Lauren Welborn asked, “Did Savannah ever make an attempt at suicide?”

“No,” she said. “Much of the way she was acting, I chalked up to identity issues just a general girl trying to, having some, trying to figure herself out.”

Ruud’s estranged husband, Robert Peat Jr, says Leckie seemed healthy and happy the last time he saw her alive.

“The 3 of you were up there for a while,” said Holden.

“Yes,” replied Peat Jr.

Holden asked, “Did you observe Savannah do anything strange while she was up around the bonfire?”

“No. I didn’t notice anything,” said Peat Jr.

Holden asked, “She never tried to run into the fire?”

“No,” replied Peat Jr.

This is a different story than what Ruud said to an attorney during a recorded conversation played in court on Monday.

Marsillo says the only place Leckie’s body was detected was in the burn pile.

“Whether somebody was shot, stabbed, strangled, cut in pieces, the scent is the scent. As much as I work with them, they still amaze me,” he said.

The trial is expected to wrap up Wednesday.

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