OZARK COUNTY, Mo. (KMSP) - The biological mother of missing Minnesota girl Savannah Leckie has been charged with murder after the 16-year-old's burned bones were found on a property in rural Longrun, Missouri, the Ozark County Sheriff confirmed to Fox 9.
Sheriff Darrin Reed said Monday that dental records helped confirm the recovered remains belong to Savannah Leckie.
"From information I received today from forensic specialists, and evidence that was obtained, the remains that were recovered are those of 16-year-old Savannah Leckie of Longrun,” Sheriff Reed said in a statement.
Tuesday, criminal charges were filed against her biological mother. Savannah Leckie was raised in Minnesota after being put up for adoption as a baby but stayed in touch with her biological mother in Missouri. Leckie ultimately moved in with her after a recent dispute with her adoptive mother's new boyfriend.
Leckie had been officially missing for three weeks following a report from her biological mother, identified in documents as Rebecca Ruud, who said she was last seen July 19. Leckie was described as having "high-functioning" autism and several medical conditions, according to family statements from the time of her disappearance.
An Aug. 3 search of the Ruud property in Theodosia, Missouri recovered hair, bone and teeth fragments from a "burn pile" that, upon further inspection from an anthropologist, were determined to be human. Experts also observed "advanced deterioration" attributed to some sort of chemical, with officers noting that lye soap was being made on the property in several large drums seen by police during the execution of their warrant.
Other items seized included a meat grinder, three knives and 26 bottles of lye.
A subsequent investigation by the Ozark County, Mo. Sheriff's office revealed Savannah was allegedly subjected to repeated abuse from her biological mother, with Ruud's ex-boyfriend telling police she had forced Savannah to crawl through a hog pen and bathe in a pond, as well as rubbing a self-inflicted cut on Savannah's arm with alcohol and salt as a form of discipline.
After the search warrants were released, nonprofit Missing Children of Minnesota announced it was removing Savannah from its posters.
The family released the following statement on Tuesday:
“Our family is in deep grief and is mourning Savannah as her remains were identified yesterday. This is not the outcome that we were hoping and praying for.
Thank you to everyone for your on-going support. We ask for privacy as we begin to process this enormous loss.
We are grateful for the countless hours that the Ozark County Sheriff’s office has dedicated in searching for Savannah. We know that their work continues as they investigate her death.
We ask that Savannah is remembered for a beacon of light and her light will always shine.”