On Christmas Eve 2010, the body of 42-year-old Lori Erica Ruff was found in a car parked outside the Ruff family home in Longview, Texas. She had ended her life with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
Lori's husband, Blake Ruff, was devastated. In the days following the death, he began the grim task of sorting through his wife's possessions. Included among the items was a sealed lockbox buried deep in Lori's closet.
The grieving husband recognized the box. In life, Lori had warned him to stay away from it. Upon opening the container, Blake discovered why: Inside was a birth certificate and IDs belonging to several different people.
His wife was not who she claimed to be. She was an accomplished identity thief.
Blake Ruff married the woman known as Lori in 2004. Her suicide came after Blake had filed for divorce and moved back in with his parents. Lori's behavior was highly erratic in the time between the separation and her death; she sent threatening emails to Blake and his family, and might have even attempted a break-in at Blake's parents' home.
Prior to marrying Blake, Lori was known as "Lori Erica Kennedy." She arrived at this identity by way of a girl named Becky Sue Turner. Little Becky was just 2 years old when she died in a house fire outside of Seattle, Washington in 1971. Lori acquired Becky Turner's birth certificate in 1988. She then moved to Idaho and procured a driver's license using the deceased girl's birth certificate. After several months living as Becky Sue Turner, she legally changed her name to Lori Kennedy. It was under this new assumed name that she eventually moved to the Dallas area, where she met and married Blake Ruff.
Blake's family was suspicious of Lori from the beginning. When asked about her background, she was guarded and evasive; Lori claimed her parents were dead and she had no siblings. After Blake and Lori had a daughter in 2008, via in vitro fertilization, Lori sometimes refused to let Blake's family spend time with the girl. The tension between Lori and Blake's family continued to grow, which is what led Blake to seek marriage counseling, and, eventually, to file for divorce.
Lori left behind two suicide notes, one of which was addressed to her husband and the other to her young daughter. Authorities inspected both letters, which they described as "ramblings from a clearly disturbed person." They contained no reference to Lori's life as an identity thief, nor a confession of her true identity. With little to no clues about who she might actually be, the woman once known as Lori Ruff was registered in the federal government's database of missing and unidentified persons as a Jane Doe. Investigators then began to search of her true identity—a process that would take six years to complete.
Just last month, in September 2016, the case of Lori Ruff was finally solved: Her real name was Kimberly McLean. Using DNA analysis from Ruff's daughter, investigators were able to trace Ruff's identity back to a family in Pennsylvania, whose daughter had disappeared in 1986, when she was 17. They believed she fled because she did not like her mother's new husband.
While the file on Lori Ruff may be closed, her bizarre case continues to fascinate, and will forever raise this chilling question: Just how well do you know those closest to you?
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