IT has taken six years for investigators to discover the true identity of a woman who married and had a child. She called herself Lori Ruff.
It was when Ruff killed herself on the driveway of her ex-husband’s home in the city of Longview, Texas, on December 2010, that the mystery to her real identity began.
Following her death her former husband Blake Ruff learned the woman he married and the mother of his child was not who she claimed to be.
Joe Velling, a former Social Security Administration investigator, was asked to look into the case, the Seattle Times reported.
He discovered Ruff’s name first became known to authorities in 1988 when she requested the birth certificate of a two-year-old girl killed in a house fire in Washington State. She used that girl’s name, Becky Sue Turner, for a few months until moving to Idaho, where she legally changed her name to Lori Erica Kennedy.
She moved to Dallas, Texas, and fell in love and married Blake Ruff, a member of a prominent family from East Texas. They had a girl and moved to Leonard, Texas, The marriage fell apart and Blake Ruff knew that his wife and the mother of his child was not who she claimed to be.
With the support of the Ruff family, Velling turned to a reporter he knew at The Seattle Times in 2013, hoping that crowdsourcing would provide an answer. The story ran on the front page and later in publications all around the world, capturing the imagination of people online.
For the past three years, the mystery of who was Lori Ruff has been fodder for amateur detectives online.
Velling linked up with a Californian nuclear physicist turned genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, who took DNA from Ruff’s daughter. Fitzpatrick removed Blake Ruff’s DNA from the sample, leaving essentially Lori’s DNA. A number of people with Lori’s DNA were matched but most were distant cousins. Just one person came up as a cousin, man named Michael Cassidy.
Michael Cassidy was contacted through genealogy sites 23andMe and ancestry.com but drew no response.
Fitzpatrick kept on trying to find out who Lori Ruff was and eventually knew that the cousin lived in the Pennsylvania area. A third cousin contacted her.
Fitzpatrick built a family tree based on the third cousin’s ancestry, tracing her family’s roots to an Irish great-great-grandfather who was born in 1848. Then — and this was the key — she traced that family tree all the way down another branch and came to the name Michael Cassidy.
Through Facebook, online obituaries, public records and people-finder tools used by private investigators, Fitzpatrick put together a picture of the Cassidy family. She learned that Lori Ruff’s mother almost certainly was one of Michael’s aunts.
Fitzpatrick showed her results to Velling, who flew to Pennsylvania in March.
He approached another family member, who from photos of Lori Ruff, was able to identity her as Kimberly McLean.
Kimberly’s mother was Michael Cassidy’s aunt Deanne, now aged 80. Deanne was then married to James McLean.
Deanne took a DNA test and the match was confirmed.
Kimberly had disappeared and severed contact 30 years earlier after her mum remarried and she failed to get along with her stepfather.
Kimberly’s family tried to find out after she ran away but Kimberly ensured they would never find her by changing her name not once, but twice.