With all the difficult cases they run up against, you sometimes think that law enforcement officials can emotionally distance themselves from those situations.
But in Ozark County, authorities admit that the Savannah Leckie murder case has definitely taken its toll on them.
The 16 year-old’s burned remains were found on her mother’s farm last summer after a lengthy search by law enforcement.
The FBI, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and anthropologists have all been involved in the heavily-forensic case whose investigation is still ongoing even as the two suspects in the case await separate trials in either Greene or Taney county later this summer.
“Any time you deal with a death of a child, it always bothers you,” explained Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed. “You know, cops are human beings too,”
That’s why Sheriff Reed and his officers took it personally when Savannah was reported missing on July 19 of last year by her mother, Rebecca Ruud, who would eventually be charged with her murder, along with Ruud’s new husband at the time, Robert Peat Jr.
For two weeks, dozens of law enforcement officers searched for Savannah on Ruud’s 81-acre farm and couldn’t find her, causing the sheriff to have sleepless nights.
“It started out nightmares,” Reed admits. “Savannah would come to me in my dreams, a picture of her. I knew she was hurt. And that really bothered me.”
Reed says his faith carried him through the search.
“I said it a hundred times,” he said. “This was a God-led case. And I know that’s hard for a lot of people to understand but the night before we found her I was on my knees on my living room floor praying like I’d never prayed before. And after that prayer was over with I knew that we were going to find her that next day.”
And they did.
On August 4th, Savannah’s remains were found in a burn pile on the farm.
“Sheriff Reed and I both teared up,” recalls Cpl. Curtis Dobbs. “Because we knew what we had to do next and that case became more personal at that point.”
The staff continues to work on the case every day, estimating they’re only half-way through a troubling investigation that they say has changed them forever.
“This case will be with me until the day that I die,” Reed said.
By Joe Hickman | KY3