The Bizarre Story of Identity Thief Lori Erica Ruff

Lori Erica Ruff photo

From an outsider’s perspective, Lori Erica Ruff lived an ordinary life. While not a career woman, she seemingly found purpose in being a mother and wife, though she and her husband Blake would divorce shortly before her death in 2010. That Christmas Eve, she took her own life via a self-inflicted gunshot wound. What she left behind would shock not only her family, but the whole world of true crime.

Some Background on Lori Erica Ruff

Lori Erica Ruff Drivers license photo
Driver’s license photo of Lori Ruff
Source: Wikipedia

In 2003, Lori Ruff—then going by Lori Kennedy—met Blake Ruff at a Bible study in Dallas, Texas. The two married only a year later. Blake, the son of a socially prominent family, was perhaps a bit naive when it came to relationships: he never seemed bothered by his wife’s secrecy with regard to her past. She simply told him that she was from Arizona, that both her parents were dead, and that she had no siblings.

Prior to the birth of their daughter in 2008, the biggest strain on their marriage was Lori’s antisocial nature. In the midst of family gatherings, she would frequently leave to take naps. In fact, she always displayed a subtle disdain towards Blake’s family, something that would reach its peak after her daughter was born.

The Death of Lori Erica Ruff

“Overprotective” would be an understatement when it came to Lori’s relationship with her daughter. She would not even allow family members to hold her, and she even took the baby with her when she used the restroom. For Blake, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Lori declared that his family could have no further contact with the child. After several failed marriage therapy sessions, he filed for divorce in 2010.

Following the divorce, Blake briefly moved into his parents’ house in Longview, Texas. On Christmas Eve, Lori pulled into the unsuspecting family’s driveway and shot herself.

A Shocking Revelation: Lori Erica Ruff Was Not Who She Claimed to Be

Lori left two suicide notes. One was for Blake, and one was for her daughter. The notes did not delve into her past, nor did they offer a concrete explanation for her suicide. According to authorities, they were the incoherent ramblings of a woman who was clearly mentally sick.

Looking for any clue as to why Lori decided to take her own life, Blake scoured their home in Leonard, Texas. He came across a lockbox stored in a closet. Inside the box, he found documents that shook him to the core. Lori was not who she was claiming to be throughout their marriage.

Prior to changing her name to Lori Erica Kennedy in 1988, she was using the alias Becky Sue Turner. But this was not her real name. Confused yet? Don’t worry. Read on, and things will begin to unravel.

The real Becky Sue Turner died in a Washington house fire at two years old. “Lori” had somehow gotten her hands on the child’s birth certificate, which she used to apply for an ID and new social security number. And with a name change, she had adopted an entirely new identity.

But all this begs the question, who was she really?

The True Identity of Lori Erica Ruff Revealed

In 2013, Colleen Fitzpatrick—a nuclear physicist turned forensic genealogist—learned of Lori Ruff and, with the blessings of Blake and his family, began to investigate the case. Using a DNA sample from Lori’s daughter, she was able to locate members of Lori’s extended family. And after hundreds of hours of grueling detective work, her true identity was finally revealed in 2016.

Lori’s real name was Kimberly Maria McLean. She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 16, 1968. According to her uncle Tom Cassidy, she was a quiet child who was really only close to her sister. Her parents’ divorce left her emotionally scarred, and this was only augmented by the arrival of a stepfather with whom she did not get along.

Lori Erica Ruff 1
A photo of McLean
Source: Wikipedia

While there’s a lot we don’t know about her family life, we can assume that it was troubling for her: her overprotectiveness of her daughter likely stemmed from trauma. This is further backed up by the fact that she ran away from home at 18, telling her mother not to look for her. This was in 1986, two years before she stole the identity of Becky Sue Turner.

Case Closed?

Even with Lori’s true identity finally revealed, questions remain. How did she come to possess the birth certificate of Becky Sue Turner? What was she doing in the two years between running away and stealing Becky’s identity? Why exactly did she run away? Unfortunately for the family she left behind, we may never have the answers.

It’s frightening to think that the people closest to us may not be who they’re letting on. While he was perhaps too trusting in the beginning of their relationship, Blake Ruff has had to cope not only with his wife’s passing, but the fact that he was lied to throughout his marriage. 

On Key

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