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"Not So Much a Whodunit But a Who-Is-It"
June 24, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

"Meanwhile, the Ruffs are wondering, too. They want to solve the mystery. At the very least, they want to be able to tell Blake and Lori’s daughter who her mother was. Yet they worry they’ll find out something terrible, something they wish they had never known." An East Texas woman commits suicide. Her distraught former husband opens the strongbox she'd forbidden him from accessing. The contents, however, continue to baffle investigators (and the public) - who are now requesting help with identifying the woman formerly known as "Lori Ruff".
posted by julthumbscrew (23 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amelia Earhart?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2013


Identical twin brother? Paging David Lynch! David Lynch to the white courtesy phone!
posted by yoink at 10:38 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


All we really know about her is that she was raised in a whore house in Rural Pennsylvania and she really loves candy. But perhaps I've said too much.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Aw, man, even her obituary is sad and creepy in light of this story. She's a total cypher...
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her husband didn't open it. His brother drove out to the dead woman's house and broke it open with a screwdriver.

The family sounds as weird as they try to make the deceased woman sound.
posted by winna at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm sad she doesn't seem to have lived a hugely happy life, and suffered from a mental illness of some sort, at least in her final days.

In all the "rambling" screeds she wrote in a non-very-healthy state of mind, a single clue wasn't dropped?
posted by maxwelton at 11:01 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmmmm, fascinating. It definitely sounds like she had a breakdown after he left her, and the committing suicide in his parents' driveway is utterly sad. Glad she didn't kill the baby (Dear Zachary, anyone??)

Anyway I'd love to see reddit get ahold of this story. Except that there's a very young child involved and she *will* eventually be able to search the internets about her mother. :(
posted by polly_dactyl at 11:12 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


tangentially related: The Social Security Administration Has a 99.6 Percent Accuracy Rate for Paying Benefits to the Right People
posted by theora55 at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"He went like that," Spade said, "like a fist when you open your hand."
posted by chavenet at 12:34 PM on June 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Man, this reads almost exactly like a Thomas Perry novel, right down to the obscure government functionary doggedly pursuing the missing person's trail.
posted by Naberius at 12:45 PM on June 24, 2013


I'm amazed by the fact that people are coming forth with suggestions in the article's comments. This is gripping.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 12:45 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Given that the Idaho ID has a photo of her as an adult when she began her identity change, then dissemination of that photo in the media in the Northwest where she probably lived might result in someone identifying her. The investigator resorted to the media because it looks like he's exhausted all possible documentation trails leading backwards. If she was careful to not allow any connections between her real identity and the Becky Sue identity — such as sharing an address or anything that would be recorded — and because she is not in any fingerprint databases, then the documentary trail could just end at tbe beginning of the Becky Sue identity. That just leaves someone recognizing her to find another point-of-entry into the puzzle.

Or flushing out more people who knew her in Dallas to whom she might have revealed something.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:38 PM on June 24, 2013


I feel faintly uncomfortable about the idea of finding out who she was. Whom does it hurt if no one knows who she was, any more than if she were adopted and they knew her adoptive family? Or if her family was known to be Bob and Sue Smith, both only children and now deceased with no document trail?

The woman went to an enormous amount of trouble to obscure her past, and in the light of that effort, I'm not clear what benefit the ex-husband's family hopes to gain out of finding her identity. She was the person she was, and now she is gone. It seems that her ex-husband's family feel like she owes them something, even after death.

The issues here seem a lot closer to those surrounding a closed adoption rather than an assumed identity case. And since the only person concerned (with the exception of the child) is deceased, it seems that they should respect the dead woman's obvious wishes to remain anonymous.
posted by winna at 3:01 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why does SSA care? She spent her entire adult life working and paying taxes using her fake identity. She wasn't trying to steal retirement benefits from anyone else -- if anything, she probably overpaid into Social Security.
posted by miyabo at 3:16 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The issues here seem a lot closer to those surrounding a closed adoption rather than an assumed identity case. And since the only person concerned (with the exception of the child) is deceased, it seems that they should respect the dead woman's obvious wishes to remain anonymous."

I'm sympathetic to this argument, but I think that it's badly damaged by the fact that she changed her identity and obscured her past illegally. It could be that she was motivated by horrific abuse and/or fear to make such an extreme break and so the issues you raise are even more applicable. But it's also possible that she was herself a criminal (though not arrested).

So, I really disagree with you that this is closer to closed adoption — that would be someone changing their identity in legitimate ways and making it known to family that this is what they'd done and they wanted no connection to that past.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:31 PM on June 24, 2013


Some of the measures she took are classic spy trade-craft. Back in the day, American Communists who went under-ground took these exact, same steps. In short, she did an excellent job of going to ground.
That said, truly hiding does not banish either what you are hiding from, or your own inner daemons and ghosts.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:53 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does SSA care?

She may have living relatives who are owed an explanation -- or even a death benefit.
posted by dhartung at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


B.T.W. this case was in the papers where I live. There is an identity change, followed by a legal name change, done in a totally different part of the country.
I will be following this story.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:07 PM on June 24, 2013


I'm sympathetic to this argument, but I think that it's badly damaged by the fact that she changed her identity and obscured her past illegally. It could be that she was motivated by horrific abuse and/or fear to make such an extreme break and so the issues you raise are even more applicable. But it's also possible that she was herself a criminal (though not arrested).

But she's dead. No reparation for her 'crime' is possible - she no longer exists. How would it help the ex-husband's family or her child know (if) she was some kind of criminal? So there's either a) she was a criminal, and if so the family then is burdened by the fact they allowed their relative to marry a crook or b) she was fleeing something horrible and now it's all dragged out into the open for the whole world in direct contravention of the deceased's wishes.

There seems to me to be literally only one possible benefit to this excursion on the part of the ex-husband's family*, and that is that they find out her family medical history so the child knows about any possible genetic inheritance for diseases. Which, weighed against everything else, seems hardly worthwhile. This whole story is a modern-day version of Pandora's box with the addition of a strange controlling family.

*I put it this way because it seems from reading all this information that that they, not the ex-husband, are the impetus for all this research.
posted by winna at 4:28 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's possible this woman was fleeing something horrible in her past. It's possible that mental illness drove her to flee from family and friends in her past who still love, miss, and wonder what happened to her. Both of these possibilities may be true.

If there are friends and family still waiting for her, they're worth finding for the sake of her daughter.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:07 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went ahead and read some of the comments. There was a lot of govno to wade through, but a few people had interesting theories and good advice for further investigation.

I should point out that ordinarily people did not know how to disappear this well.

Disappearing as she did was not the gold standard of disappearance, but the platinum standard of self disappearance.

She probably had advice as to how to disappear.

Which leads to motive. Most people commenting at the Seattle Times seem to think she was hiding from an abuser. If she was fairly young, this could have been a relative, if she was a little older, this might have been a husband, ex-husband, or other intate partner.

She was VERY protective with her child. She had a hard time even getting and staying pregnant.

A few people commenting thought this could have been after-effects of sexual abuse at an early age

The sheer difficulty of producing a child could have her a bit more protective.

I know that losing a child can do the same thing. My mother lost my youngest sister to a tragic accident. She was never the same afterwards.

Some went so far as to speculate that she played a rôle in the deaths of Becky-Sur and the other kids.

If that was the case, did a girl disappear from town about then?

She had a passport and had visited Germany.

A few people speculated that she was in the Witness Protection Program, or a program for domestic violence survivors.

Her daughter does have a right to know who her mother really was.

She has that right for reasons beyond the medical ones.

I do think they will find out something sad though.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


There seems to me to be literally only one possible benefit to this excursion on the part of the ex-husband's family*, and that is that they find out her family medical history so the child knows about any possible genetic inheritance for diseases. Which, weighed against everything else, seems hardly worthwhile.

I think it's extremely worthwhile given that there is a strong likelihood of mental illness, and it would be incredibly useful if they could determine just what type it might have been. The older I get the more my family's lore starts to sound like things I wish I'd understood better before they started happening in my own brain, and it's starting to get too late to get better information from anyone who knows anything. I'd be completely adrift without the little data I've got.

Being able to discover whether the erstwhile Lori Ruff had specific diagnosed issues could save her daughter a lot of pain, time, and effort down the road.
posted by padraigin at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


My $0.02, and the reason I posted this: my view on annihilating your own identity is pretty much the same as my view of not wearing a helmet when you ride a motorcycle: if you're utterly alone in the universe, then sure, you go right ahead - no harm, no foul. But if there is anyone AT ALL who loves you, or whom you love, you can and SHOULD expect to eventually catch flak for your actions (for different reasons in both cases, obviously). I don't think Jane Doe did anything WRONG, necessarily (although clearly no one knows)... but I do think that her next-of-kin (her ex-husband and daughter, her friends, those who loved and were loved by her) deserve to seek some answers. Uncovering her identity cannot hurt her - she's dead. It CAN, however, help those she left behind, if only by not leaving the cavernous, gaping maw of "WHY?!" forever in the forefront of their lives.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:34 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


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