We can never say with any certainty that we absolutely know everything about someone. Even if you have spent years around someone, there can still be periods in time in that person’s life that have been kept a secret. Sometimes, people just change. Sometimes, they weren’t the person we thought they were from the very beginning.
This seemed to be true for Blake Ruff when he married Lori Kennedy. Meeting Lori while she was earning her nursing degree, Blake thought that he was going to spend forever with this wonderful woman, but things changed in the blink of an eye, and Blake ended up finding a whole new side to the woman he had taken as his wife.
Blake Ruff met Lori Erica Kennedy back in 2003 at the Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, whilst Lori was trying to meet her nursing degree requirements. Blake’s twin brother David had joined a bible study group and met the woman who would become his wife. While Blake often followed his twin’s lead, nobody expected he would duplicate David’s actions all the way to matrimony. But that is exactly what happened.
An Instant Spark
Lori and Blake instantly connected during their bible study group. And Lori’s dark eyes, leggy height and pretty face made an immediate impression on Blake. Eventually, Blake asked her out on a formal date and things progressed quickly from there. Blake was blown away. Lori struck him as the total package. She was pretty, smart, and loved animals.
She was also extremely level-headed, preferring to sip tea instead of hitting bars at happy hour. Asked about her allure years later, Blake remained a private man of few words. “She was tall, you know, an attractive person,” he said.
No Longer Alone
As for Lori, it’s easy to imagine she was thrilled with the relationship. Although she moved to Texas in 1989 and enrolled at Dallas County Community College in the fall of 1990, her life in the big, sprawling city of Dallas had been largely solitary. She made few friendships and lived a very isolated, solitary life while working her way through college and finally graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington with a nursing degree in 1997.
Now at age 32, she met a man who seemed like an ideal match. Level-headed, quiet, and hard-working, Blake had earned a degree in Economics at the University of Texas. Then he got a degree in telecommunications management.
In fact, for many Blake would seem like a huge catch. He came from a wealthy East Texas family that had made tons of money investing in oil and real estate. As a result, generations of Ruffs had prospered. They had the kind of money to send their kids to boarding schools, join elite clubs, travel and take ritzy vacations.
For Lori, who had a nursing degree salary, it must have felt like she had met a family from the set of the soap opera Dallas. As for Blake, he was extremely happy. The early days of the relationship were a dream. He could never have imagined the woman who had won his heart was carrying around deep, tragic secrets.
Without A Family
Lori was never very forthcoming about her past. The most anyone could get out of her was that she had suffered through loss and had gone through life mostly alone without any friends or family by her side. According to Lori, both of her parents had passed away and left her without anything to her name. Lori had no siblings or any other family in Texas.
This seemed suspicious to Blake’s family, whom seemed to question the back story of his new girlfriend. Blake ignored their inquisitions. He was in love.
A Life Together
Despite his family’s resistance to her, Blake and Lori were married in a private ceremony in 2004. Since Lori claimed to have no family or friends no one was in attendance beside the preacher. That was fine with Blake. Nothing seemed to get in the way of his love for Lori. Hoping for a fresh start as husband and wife, the couple moved to Leonard, Texas.
Their new home, on a two-acre spread, was 125 miles from her in-laws home in Longview. Apparently that distance was far enough away from Blake’s family. It seemed that the couple could begin a great life together as husband and wife.
Very Private Lives
For a new couple in a small town, Blake and Lori were not exactly outgoing. Blake made an effort to wave to neighbors and be courteous and respectful, Lori was the exact opposite. Neighbors would see her out taking strolls around her property, but she avoided any meaningful — or even polite interaction. Over a period of six years as their neighbor, Denny Gorena recalled that he only ever socialized with the couple once.
Lori’s professional life was as solitary as her personal one. Although she called herself a nurse, she had only apparently done her nursing degree online. Lori mostly worked from home being a mystery shopper who tested new products and new services. She’d visit a store or restaurant and write up her experiences. Having a nursing degree, she likely had hoped for something more.
Troubles Starting A Family
Unfortunately for the couple, starting a family presented difficulties. Blake and Lori tried for many years to get pregnant and in the process had suffered multiple miscarriages. Their inability to have a child was likely due to Lori’s age as she was around 35 at this time. After exhausting all other options, they tried in vitro fertilization.
It was successful, and they became pregnant with a baby girl. It seemed that the couple would finally be happy with their little family, but things wouldn’t turn out the way they had imagined.
A Daughter to Love
After her daughter was born in 2008, Lori began to put even more distance between herself and those around her. Her daughter was the world to her, and Lori was a great and loving mother. However, her overprotective behaviour became increasingly alarming to Blake’s family. Lori was turning out to be a bit more extreme than a helicopter parent.
She was uncomfortable with others holding her daughter, including the baby’s grandmother. Blake’s family couldn’t fathom what could possibly be the reason for such bizarre behaviour. They expressed their concerns to Blake, but he still ignored them.
Lori and Blake seemed to keep up all outward appearances of normalcy, but Blake’s family continued to have a bad feeling about Lori. What made them even more suspicious of her behaviour is when she began to show interest in the Ruff’s family history. Someone so unwilling to reveal information about her own family was digging into their family.
Perhaps she was just trying to find out more about the family she had married into precisely because she didn’t have any extended family; however, it didn’t sit right with the Ruffs.
The Breaking Point
Eventually, Lori decided to ban Blake’s parents from seeing her daughter. This was the last straw for the family. Tensions had come to a breaking point between Lori and Blake’s family, and it began to put a strain on the couple’s relationship. Blake wasn’t okay with Lori wanting to keep his family out of their daughter’s life and didn’t support his wife in the decision.
As a result, Lori became extremely depressed and was unable to take care of their daughter anymore.
Sinking Deep into Depression
Lori spiraled out of control, plunging into an abyss of dark, deranged behavior. Her neighbor, a church pastor named Denny Gorena, told the Seattle Times that she looked worn out and emaciated, and her own daughter looked rail thin, too. “She was frantic, about to the point of incoherence,” he said. “From that point on, I never saw her focus again.”
Therapy to the Rescue?
Worried about his neighbor’s mental health and the welfare of her small daughter, Jessica, Denny suggested Lori seek out counseling and recommended the church where he worked. Lori took him up on the offer and arrived with a slew of notebooks which were devoted to self-critical ravings and thoughts about “how she could get him back,” Denny recounted.
But watching Lori talk was even more disturbing than hearing what was in her notebooks. She frequently repeated herself and her hands gesticulated wildly while she talked. According to Denny, Lori was obsessed with her hands, which were in constant motion. There were times she would just hold her hand out before her, and study it as if were the most fascinating thing in the world.
Then she’d twist her wrist and adopt a new pose for her prized appendage—and study it some more before finally dropping it to her lap.
One Track Mind
When she wasn’t lost in the mystery of her hands, her words revealed a confused, fragmented mind, as she repeated herself over and over, remembered Denny. “This is what’s going on with Blake and me,” she’d start, and then utter the exact same phrase. “When she had a particular thought, her mind was stuck on it,” Denny told the Seattle Times, noting that Lori’s condition seemed to border on obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In retrospect, Denny’s observation makes perfect sense. Blake had previously mentioned that he recalled his wife taking ADHD or Tourette’s syndrome medication. If she was taking them at the time she saw Denny, they didn’t seem to be working!
Blake Tries Again
Blake came for counseling, sometimes bringing his more talkative twin David with him for support. According to Denny, David would sometimes wind up doing most of the talking. But no matter what was said or who said it, Denny came away with an awful feeling. Lori was in a bad place and getting her marriage to Blake back on track just didn’t seem possible because she was in such a negative space.
“Honestly, I don’t think she was capable of getting the help she needed because she was so obsessed about whatever she was obsessed about,” Denny said.
After that attempt to save their marriage in 2010, Blake felt he had run out of options. Lori had changed in dramatic, worrisome ways, and clearly, she was not the same woman that Blake had fallen head-over-heels in love with. Now, seeing her deeply disturbed and often unreasonable behavior, the suspicions and mistrust of Lori that his mother, father and brother felt finally began to make sense. Although he was worried about Jessica’s well-being, he eventually moved back home.
With space to gain new perspective, he faced the awful truth. His relationship with Lori was beyond repair, no matter how much he wanted it to be otherwise, and no matter how much he dreamed of raising their daughter Jessica Emily in a loving, secure nuclear family. It was just never going to happen. Blake met with a lawyer and filed for divorce from Lori that Spring. It was the end of their six-year marriage.
After the divorce, Lori’s mental condition continued to worsen. Her physical condition was also worsening as she continues to lose a significant amount of weight. In an effort to try to get help, Lori began to talk to a pastor at a local church, but she would just ramble on and on manically about how she couldn’t comprehend why her family was separating.
She was drowning in her depression with no one there to help her. To Lori, the possibility of life getting better seemed slim to none.
A Deadly Choice
By December 2010, Lori was completely debilitated by the pain of losing her daughter and husband. She couldn’t get out from underneath the weight of her mental illness. Once again, she was all by herself. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that it was the holidays, and she wouldn’t be spending them with the small family that had once been hers.
Lori travelled to the Ruff’s house on Christmas Eve with a shotgun. She parked her black Tahoe and remained inside the vehicle.
A Tragic Ending
It is impossible to know what, exactly, Lori was thinking when she sat in her car that evening knowing that just a few yards away her daughter and husband were getting ready to celebrate Christmas without her, but we can imagine that she was consumed with staggering feelings of pain, loss, powerlessness and confusion that must have become totally unbearable.
So unbearable, in fact, that at some point that night, Lori put the shotgun to her head and pulled the trigger.
A Mystery Memorial
Lori’s body was discovered in her car by Blake’s father. The family arranged for a memorial service on January 3, 2011, at a church in Longview, where Lori and Blake’s old neighbor Pastor Denny Gorena would appear. Reading the memorial announcement now is an almost ghostly experience. It becomes clear that Lori had no known roots.
“Lori was born July 18, 1969, and lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, before moving to Dallas in 1987,” reads her scant, one paragraph obituary. Study that sentence carefully and it’s clear the family didn’t know where, exactly, she was born. The only other biographical facts about Lori concern her education and the fact she ran a “marketing Research company.”
As for the list of survivors, everyone mentioned was a relative of Blake Ruff’s side of the family. Not a single person is mentioned from Lori’s side of the family. It’s as if she never existed until she became Lori Ruff.
Notes Left Behind
Two letters written by Lori were recovered from the car after her suicide. One letter was written to Blake; the second one was addressed to her two-year-old daughter, Jessica. This second letter bore instructions that it was to be opened on Jessica’s 18th birthday. Eager to see if Lori had revealed anything to Jessica, Lori’s request to keep the letter to her daughter sealed was ignored.
The documents provided very little insight beyond a window into Lori’s wounded, confused mental state; they were not so much farewell notes or love letters as they were incoherent rambling. They certainly didn’t provide a reasoning for Lori’s death.
A Family in Shock
Blake was devastated by the loss of his ex-wife. His family and he could not believe that Lori had taken her own life. They knew that she was troubled, but they had no idea to what extent her problems seemed to consume her. After Lori’s death, Blake began to go through some of her belongings.
It was during this time that he realized Lori wasn’t just mentally ill, but that his family had been right in their suspicions all along. Lori had been holding on to some pretty dark secrets.
Whilst searching through their home, Blake found a sealed box hiding in the back of Lori’s closet. Blake had seen the box a few times before, but Lori had asked Blake never to touch this private safe of sorts. When they were together he had never thought to question it. But given Lori’s death and her condition during her last few months of life, it was time to open the box and learn the truth. Nothing could have prepared Blake for what he was about to encounter though.
A Shocking Discovery
At the request of Blake, a police officer broke open the box. They pulled out varying documents that all seemed to belong to Lori. These included several ID’s from different states that had different names on them. Each ID had Lori’s picture on it. Included in the box was also a certificate of live birth for a person Blake didn’t recognize and a document for a legal change of name when his wife would have been only 17 years old. Blake was confused by what the ID’s and legal documents meant for his deceased wife.
A Stolen Identity
The documents revealed that in 1988, a Becky Sue Turner had altered her name to Lori Erica Kennedy, but this was nothing compared to what other information the Ruff family was about to learn. The Becky Sue Turner identified on the documents had died when she was only two years old. Becky and her siblings had been dead since 1971 when they were asphyxiated while trapped in a house fire that occurred in the state of Washington.
It appeared that Lori had assumed the identity of someone who had been dead for almost forty years. The reason for her secrecy about her past now became apparent—she had broken the law to assume a new identity.
Someone Get Me a G-Man
In 2011, more than one year after Lori’s death, a Texas congressman who was a friend of the Ruff family, sent an aide to a meeting in Washington, D.C. There, the aide handed a three-ring binder to a man named Joe Velling. Inside the binder were documents explaining the mystifying case of Lori Ruff. As the special agent in charge of the Seattle investigations office of the Social Security Administration, Velling is an expert in identity theft. Since Social Security numbers are frequently involved in identity theft, Velling seemed like the perfect man to track down the true identity of Lori Ruff.
Was She a Spy?
According to Velling, the congressman wasn’t just interested in solving the case for the Ruff family. The mystery surrounding the case seemed to have spooked him. “He just wanted to make sure she wasn’t a KGB mole,” Velling said. And while that might seem a bit paranoid at first, it isn’t—just a few years ago the FBI exposed a slew of spies living normal lives in American suburbs, a case that inspired the hit TV show The Americans. Also, as Velling has noted, people don’t just change their identities like they change hair styles. There has to be a reason for it.
An “Easy” Case
Indeed, Velling’s track record when it came to untangling identity theft was stellar. He’s nailed credit card fraudsters who open up accounts in strangers’ names. He’s found deadbeat dads who tried to assume new identities to skip out on child support and alimony. He’s located con artists who take out loans under fake names. Finding the identity of a tragic woman who took her own life seemed like child’s play.
“My immediate reaction was, I’ll crack this pretty quickly,” he recalled thinking when he saw the binder.
The Dogged Investigator
When it came to sleuthing identity scams, Velling was the perfect man for the job. At the Social Security Administration he lead a team of twenty-nine special agents, investigators and administrative assistants in four cities. He had a law degree and a degree from the Naval War College. When he focused on an issue, he never let go until he had achieved some kind of resolution.
A Timeline of Crime
Velling dug into the details of the case. He developed a timeline of her actions. In Late 1980’s Lori—who was not yet named Lori— obtained a PO Box in Boulder City, Nevada. On May, 20, 1988, she obtained a copy of Becky Sue Turner’s birth certificate from Kern County, Calif. One month later, she obtained an Idaho ID card with her picture and Becky Sue’s name—giving her an official government ID. Just weeks later, in a Dallas court, she legally changed her name to Lori Erica Kennedy.
On July 12, 1988, she applied for and received a Social Security number for her newly-minted persona. All this paperwork shows the mysterious woman was extremely shrewd and knowledgeable about creating a fake ID—by having a birth certificate sent to Nevada and then getting an ID card in Idaho and then changing her name in Texas, she made it nearly impossible for the various state and federal institutions to uncover her scam!
Hunting for a Motive
One of the first things Velling did was examine Lori’s life for clues to why she did what she did. People create fake identities for a reason. They commit crimes and don’t want to be caught. They owe someone lots of money. They are spies. They are living in fear of being found by someone—an abuser, a creditor, a cult leader.
As far as Velling could tell, though, Lori wasn’t running from anything. She didn’t have a criminal record, her credit rating didn’t raise any flags, she paid her taxes—there were no red flags that pointed to a motive for changing her identity. Velling also talked to the Ruffs. None of those scenarios fit the bill either for the intensely private and secretive woman who entered their lives and then left it so tragically.
Was Lori an Exotic Dancer?
At one point, Velling got a lead that provided a possible motive. An old acquaintance of Lori’s said that she had worked as an exotic dancer in the early 1990s. Was that the shocking past Lori was running from? Had she worked in the sex industry and gotten mixed up with a bad crowd? Even though she was said to have danced after she had changed her identity, perhaps she had danced in her previous life too, and gotten mixed up with a bad crowd?
Maybe that was the reason for the name change—she wanted to make a break from go-go dancing, but somehow fell back into it.
Boob Job Evidence
The investigator also looked at Lori’s medical records and learned she had breast implants. Getting breast implants is a common practice for exotic dancers—but hardly exclusive to them. Still, this discovery seemed to strengthen the claim that Lori had once been a stripper. While that filled in a detail about her past, it still didn’t explain why she had shed her identity or shine any light on her origins.
Shake If Off
Ultimately, though, the exotic dancing lead led nowhere, unfortunately — besides shocking and confusing everyone who knew her as a pious, Christian woman in Bible Study class. Lori Ruff was as big a mystery as ever when it came to who she was, exactly, before 1988.
Lori’s box of secret documents also yielded additional fascinating clues. One piece of paper contained the following jottings: “North Hollywood police. 402 months. Ben Perkins.” Ben Perkins, it turned out, was an attorney in L.A. Had Lori gotten into legal trouble during her time on the West Coast? It seemed like a strong possibility. But Perkins had no memory of Lori—or her original fake identity as Becky Sue Turner.
Velling and other investigators decided to refer to Lori as Jane Doe. This decision made a lot of sense. Lori had stolen a dead girl’s identity in order to legal change her name to the one she was using when she met Blake. So neither name was legitimate. So to Velling, her true identity remained unknown. Frustrated by the lack of progress, he pursued new tactics and ran photos of Lori — or Jane Doe— through facial-recognition databases, but he got no matches.
He sent her fingerprints to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and also came up empty. No matter what Lori had done in her previous life, she seemed to have steered clear of any legal issues.
Hitting the Investigation Wall
Solving a perplexing mystery often takes a huge amount of legwork, and Social Security Special Agent Joe Velling had done a great deal of that. He had run down reports of missing persons from decades earlier, diligently exploring whether the vanished people might be Lori. He had traveled across the country, talking to any and everyone who knew her, but he had never run across a case like Lori’s. She had taken great care to cover her tracks, making sure to hid crucial pieces of her story so that investigators like Velling couldn’t untangle her past.
He needed a big break to crack the case. In 2013, he decided to reach out to a reporter at the Seattle Times and share the mysterious case of Lori Ruff, a.k.a Lori Erica Kennedy, a.k.a. Becky Sue Turner.
A New “Old” Tactic
Velling hoped this old-school appeal to the public through the newspaper—a long-running practice of beating the bushes for information (in the age of the Internet, people now call such appeals “crowd-sourcing”) would lead to a break. Maybe someone would recognize Lori from the photos accompanying the newspaper article, or maybe it would remind them of a woman who went missing years ago who fit Lori’s profile. He didn’t know what connections the story would turn up—or if the story would generate nothing but silence.
Websleuths and Facebook
The article generated an enormous response, igniting interest in the case all over the world. A page popped up on Facebook titled: “Who Was Lori Ruff?” where users could post any information — or speculation about Lori. A thread opened on the site Websleuths.com, and for the next three years, amateur cyber-detectives posted photos, articles and theories about Jane Doe.
All this interest generated lots of ink, but little in the way of hard facts, in the short term, but desperate measures paid off big time for Velling when a perfect stranger—a woman named Colleen Fitzpatrick—read about the perplexing case.
A Scientist to the Rescue
Colleen Fitzpatrick is something of a legend when it comes to tracking down blood relatives. Fitzpatrick, who runs a company called Identifinders International, is widely credited with inventing a completely new field of study—forensic genealogy— that addresses legal issues surrounding kinship. But she’s also a crack scientist.
Decades earlier, Colleen had earned Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Duke University and formed a company that specialized in high-resolution laser measurements techniques. Frequently her laboratory work required her to use beams of light as a way to take readings. “People used to ask what I did for a living,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “I’d say I shine light on things.”
“I Can Help Find Her Family!”
When Colleen read a story about Lori and her confounding, unknown origins, she immediately thought she could help. Over the last 15 years, Colleen had guided Holocaust survivors as they searched and found lost family members. She had aided adoptees in tracking down their birth parents, and in one incredible case that made headlines around the world, Colleen discovered the identity of an unidentified child who died on the Titanic in 1912 by tracing his ancestry through his relatives’ DNA.
Since Forensic Genealogy is concerned with using bloodlines, family genealogies and DNA research to legally establish kinship, Colleen has frequently teamed up with estate lawyers to locate missing heirs. Finding Lori’s original identity—and solving where she came from—was just the kind of mystery, Colleen loved to spend time resolving.
Checking Her DNA
Reading the Seattle Times’ article, Colleen immediately realized the impact that DNA could have in finding out who Lori was. Lori had a daughter. If the daughter’s DNA were to be collected, Blake’s DNA report could be removed from the sample. What would be left would be Lori’s DNA, and that could open up a connection to Lori’s relatives.
The DNA was matched with many distant relatives around the world, the closest being Michael Cassidy who lived in Pennsylvania, but the name was too common to narrow down to one person. Fitzpatrick informed Joe Velling of her findings.
Trying to Dig Up the Past
Retired Social Security Investigator, Joe Velling was asked to investigate the Lori Ruff case and dig up anything that he could. An old acquaintance of Lori’s said that she had worked as an exotic dancer in the early 1990s, but there was nothing to tell Velling what she had been up to before 1988. Velling, along with a swarm of internet researchers, tried to dig up the truth following Lori’s death without any luck. Most speculated that Lori was in a witness protection program or that she might have been running from her past. The real question is why?
Few Facts Surface
The Ruff family sent a saliva sample of little Jessica to 23andMe and Ancestry.com. These are online genealogy companies that analyze DNA and add their findings to massive databases, which become tools to help people trace their family histories. For Jessica’s family, Velling and Colleen Fitzpatrick, the hope was that some connections would surface that would help reveal Lori’s true identity. “We were just wanting to at least have the ability to give her the answers,” said Miles Darby, Blake’s brother-in-law.
Another Wild Goose Chase?
Early results were disappointing. A number of people had DNA that matched with Lori’s. Unfortunately, most of the living matches were distant cousins who wouldn’t be able to identify Lori. But one match provided a glimmer of hope. There was a first cousin named Michael Cassidy. The database didn’t have an address, phone or email for Cassidy, however, so finding him among the thousands of Americans named Michael Cassidy was a needle-in-a-haystack proposition. The identity investigation reached an apparent dead end.
Zeroing in on an Answer
But Colleen Fitzpatrick never gave up. She would check the sites on a periodic basis, and spent hundreds of hours on the hunt, conducting searches, reaching out to distant cousins in the hope of finding someone who recognized Lori. Colleen developed a hunch, thanks to some clues, that pointed to the Pennsylvania area. But nothing was firm enough.
Finally, Collen conducted a search and found the name of a third cousin came up. The DNA expert decided to create a family tree that focused on the third cousin’s lineage. She traced the woman’s family all the way back to an Irish great-great-grandfather born in 1848. Then, casting her net ever wider, she traced a new branch and found a man named... Michael Cassidy, the first cousin she hadn’t been able to locate! “Suddenly, I had Lori’s extended family in front of me,” Fitzpatrick realized.
A Family Tree
This Michael Cassidy was from Philadelphia—a fact that seemed to confirm Colleen’s earlier hunch that Lori was from Pennsylvania. The genealogy genius suspected that Lori’s mother was Michael’s aunt. But she had no idea, what Lori’s real name might have been. Yet.
A Trip to Pennsylvania
Velling travelled to Philadelphia but decided not to contact Michael Cassidy. He wanted to try to reach out to a different family member. It was difficult because Velling wasn’t even sure of Lori Ruff’s real identity. He just crossed his finger for the best. He started off by telling the relative the story of Lori, the DNA profile, and the family tree, but it wasn’t getting him anywhere. Instead, he showed Lori’s photos to the family member. That’s when things started to change.
Immediately, the family member knew the face on the ID’s as Kimberly McLean. She was in disbelief. It was found out that a 17-year-old Kimberly had disappeared from her home in Pennsylvania in 1986 and had never returned. Kimberly told her mother never to try to look for her, and the family was never able to locate her. Now that there was a supposed family member that was able to identify the Jane Doe, Velling could go about locating her other family members and confirming her identity.
Things were beginning to fall into place.
For months, Velling had received many emails from those who believed they knew about Lori’s identity. Now, he had the answer. After sitting down with the family member, Velling spoke with Kimberly’s family and tried to answer their multitude of questions. The family was in disarray. They couldn’t deny that the woman in the photos was Kimberly. Her mother was indeed Michael Cassidy’s aunt. Her name was Deanne, and she had been married to James McLean.
The mysterious Lori Ruff had to be the missing Kimberly McLean. All that was left to do was for Deanne to take a DNA check and confirm the match.
The Truth Recovered
It had been a long road to get to this point. The SSA investigates identity theft, and Lori had clearly stolen the identity of Becky Sue Turner. Velling had started his investigation at the request of a Texas congressman. The congressman had been contacted by the Ruff family and had the believe that Velling could help explain why Lori Ruff was living with a stolen identity.
There was no indication Lori had adopted the new identity for any type of financial gain. So, why did she do it? Velling used every tool he had to figure out why but had turned up with nothing. This was highly unusual for an identity theft case.
Different Theories Put to Rest
With Lori’s identity established as Kimberly, one central question remained: Why had she run from her past and hidden her identity? All the questions and theories Velling had explored—cults, abusive partners, out-running the law, joining the witness-protection program, being a spy—came flooding back. What had driven her? As Velling would soon learn, the truth wasn’t quite as dramatic and sensational as some had imagined. But that just made Kimberly’s disappearance and her new identity even more puzzling than the mystery itself.
A Mother in Grief
To Deanne, now in her eighties, the news devastated her. She hadn’t seen her daughter for over three decades, and now she had learned that she never would again. There is so much that is unknown about the disappearance of Kimberly. The events that led up to it occurred back in the 1980s. Deanne has refused to speak to news sources about her daughter and the timeline that led up to her disappearance.
Rather, many answers were found by asking Tom Cassidy, Deanne’s brother.
Filling in The Blanks
Tom Cassidy has filled in some blanks regarding Kimberly’s past. Kimberly was raised in a nice neighbourhood in Pennsylvania. Her father worked as a carpenter and volunteered as a firefighter. The girls’ mother stayed home to take care of Kimberly. From all outward appearances, Kimberly had a great childhood; however, when she was still at home, her parents separated.
Deanne remarried Robert Becker and relocated the family to Wyncote, Pennsylvania. This was when the issues began, Cassidy explained. Kim just couldn’t adjust to the divorce and having to live in a new home. She had new rules that she just couldn’t abide.
Running Away from Home
When she was only 18, Kimberly relocated to a town in Pennsylvania that was nearly thirty minutes from her home. Then one day in 1986, Kimberly said she was leaving and not ever returning. The family had no contact with her after that. Kimberly made sure they would never locate her by assuming a new identity and changing her own name.
The family couldn’t understand why—which, of course, doesn’t really solve the question of what motivated Kimberly to conduct her elaborate, life-long ruse. She was simply a teenager than had ran away from home.
Again, to Velling, the real story of Lori Ruff seems incomprehensible given the speculation that surrounded it. He thought maybe she had ran away from the Army. He wondered if maybe there was some connection to Las Vegas when she had lived there and thought maybe she was caught up in crime-family stuff. Nothing like that ever turned up. She was never connected to any criminal investigation, as Kimberly McLean or as Lori Ruff. Velling hopes the speculation stops now that she has been identified.
The Sad Truth
What a lonely life Lori Ruff must have lived. For most of the celebratory moments in her life, there was not one single person from her family there to celebrate with her. She couldn’t even celebrate her real birthday. What a burden. The Ruffs saw that burden play out in the last few months of Lori’s life. They observed as she unravelled and, with no family or close friends to support her and prop her up in a time of trouble, eventually took her own life.
At least now they knew that Lori had had her own family that cared about her and now Blake and Lori’s daughter Jessica has discovered she has new grandparents. The two families have been re-united through the woman they both thought they knew.