Gone Cold: Hope persists in area homicide cold case
This is a weekly feature highlighting some of Iowa's unsolved homicides in the hopes that it will lead to new tips and potentially help solve cases. The project is a partnership between this newspaper and other members of the Iowa Newspaper Association. Find out more about these and other unsolved homicides at www.IowaColdCases.org.
Eighteen years after her death, the search for answers in the disappearance of an area woman has never ended. The case of Connie Marie Ruddy is featured on the website IowaColdCases.org.
The 21-year-old mother of two, was reported missing from her Ida Grove, Iowa home on Feb. 10, 1997. Her 2-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son were found alone inside the residence, unharmed.
Ruddy had last been seen by her sister around 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, in Ruddy's home. About 10:30 a.m. Monday, a friend stopped by and discovered Ruddy gone and her children alone. Ruddy's car was still at the house and she hadn't taken her purse. Those who knew her described Ruddy as a responsible young mother -- one who wouldn't leave her children unattended -- and knew her disappearance indicated something was wrong. Ruddy had lived in Ida Grove for two years and wasn't employed outside the home. Her husband, Shad Ruddy, was in the Army and stationed at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Wash., but the two were said to be going through a divorce.
On Saturday, Feb. 15, officials and volunteers mounted a search for Ruddy, bringing in dogs to see if they could determine whether Ruddy had gotten into a vehicle or left on foot. Ida County's Emergency Management Coordinator Dick Madsen and the Siouxland Area Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted in arranging the search, which produced no new clues or information.
"We've got a big fat zero here," Jensen is quoted as saying, according to the Iowa Cold Cases report by Jody Ewing. "Most questions I have to respond with "I don't know, I don't know.'"
On Aug. 31, 1999, more than two years after she went missing, a man looking for fossils near Ida Grove found a human jawbone on the Boyer River's sandbar in Crawford County not far from Denison.
The fossil hunter took the mandible to the Crawford County sheriff's office, and Sheriff Tom Hogan -- already treating it like a homicide -- immediately had the scene sealed off and a guard posted while sheriff's officials and the National Guard searched along the river and surrounding area for additional evidence. Nothing was found, but a process of elimination led them to Ida County and the disappearance of Ruddy. DNA testing later confirmed that the jamboree belonged to the missing woman. Officials reclassified the missing persons case as a homicide investigation.
On the 12-year anniversary of Ruddy's disappearance in 2009, the Iowa DCI and the Ida County Sheriff's Office held a press conference to announce a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Ruddy's death.
"We want to remind folks that this case is still open and we haven't forgot about it and we know Connie's family has not forgot about it," said Ida County Sheriff Wade Harriman. "We want to re-energize the case any way we can and hopefully get some help from the public so we can move this case forward."
Officials hoped that publicity from re-opening the case would jog someone's memory about something that had seen or heard at the time of Ruddy's disappearance.
"There is probably not a day that goes by that I don't think about her or remember her," Ruddy's father told an area TV station.
He described his first-born daughter as a quiet and very caring person who loved her children and animals, and as someone who never hurt anybody.
"The one thing they've told us, they'll never close the case," Gary Neumayer told KTIV. "It will always be open until they do find out what happened to her."
The family eventually buried the jawbone as some form of closure. No arrests have ever been made. Her husband, parents, children and other relatives continued to reside in the Ida Grove and Mallard areas.
A post identified as coming from the woman's now-grown daughter responds to the Iowa Cold Cases story: "I miss you so much mom... I wish you were still here, I think about you every day. Wishing I knew what actually happened and who did this to you. I love you mom. Always and forever.
Another post from a childhood friend of Ruddy's reads, "Connie you may be gone but you are not forgotten. We all miss you very much and one day we will find the people responsible for this horrific crime. May you one day rest in peace."
Anyone with any information about Connie Ruddy's disappearance and death should contact the Ida County Sheriff's Office at 712-364-3146, or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, or may make an anonymous report to the Ida County Crime Stoppers line at 1-800-568-4401.