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Mom charged after burned bones identified as teen girl's

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —  Prosecutors on Tuesday charged a Missouri woman with murder in the death of her 16-year-old biological daughter, whose remains were found in a burn pit on their rural property. 

Savannah Leckie, who was raised by her adoptive mother in Minnesota, was reported missing in late July from her home in Longrun, where she lived with Rebecca Ruud, who was Leckie's biological mother and Rudd's then-boyfriend. A forensic analysis was used to identify her remains, according to Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed. Leckie was raised by an adoptive mother in Minnesota but had returned to live with Ruud and her now-husband within the last year, authorities said.  

Teeth, a meat grinder, a knife and 26 bottles of lye, which can be used to accelerate the breakdown of bodily tissue, were found during searches of the remote property, according to court documents. Human bone fragments and teeth were found in a field about 400 yards from the home on Aug. 4, which was the day Ruud and her husband got married. A forensic analysis identified the remains as Savannah's, said Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed. 

Ruud, 39, is charged with first-degree murder and alternative counts of abuse of a child resulting in death, second-degree murder and felony murder. She is also charged with tampering with physical evidence and abandoning a corpse, said Ozark County Prosecutor John Garrabrant. He declined to say whether anyone else would be charged.

Ruud is being held in the county jail. The public defender's office didn't immediately reply to a phone message seeking comment.

Savannah's adoptive mother, Tamile Leckie-Montague, asked Ruud last November to take the teen because the girl couldn't get along with Leckie-Montague's new boyfriend. Ruud agreed and was given power of attorney. After the girl moved to Missouri, she was home schooled and had "almost no social contacts," according to an affidavit.

Ruud's ex-boyfriend, Buddy Smart, told investigators he had seen her discipline Savannah by "forcing her to crawl through a hog pen" and forcing her to bathe in a pond, the affidavit states. Ruud acknowledged that was true and told investigators that when Savannah cut her arm "in a suicidal gesture," she forced the girl to scrub the wound daily with alcohol and salt as punishment.

Savannah, who was described in affidavits for search warrants as having high-functioning autism, grew up with her adoptive mother, Tamile Leckie-Montague, in the Twin Cities. 

According to the affidavit, Savannah's biological mother told investigators she relinquished the girl for adoption when she was born and Savannah spent most of her life in Minnesota. 

In November 2016, the adoptive mother asked the birth mother to take Savannah because the girl couldn't get along with the woman's new boyfriend. The birth mother agreed and was given power of attorney. After the girl moved back to Missouri, she was home schooled and had "almost no social contacts," according to the affidavit. 

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