Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Pennsylvania Family Feud Ends in Bloodshed and Death

A 20-year-long family feud was effectively ended Friday in Ashville, Pennsylvania, when an estranged daughter and her husband killed her mother and brother in a violent home invasion that culminated in their own deaths at the hands of her estranged father. Police are still searching for a motive.

The murders took place on September 27, 2013, at the home of John Frew, 67, and Roberta Frew, 64, at around 10 p.m. The Frews and their adult son John Jr., 47, were reportedly watching TV in the living room, having just returned from dinner out. According to police, Josephine Ruckinger and her husband Jeffrey, both 43, planned to kill her whole family. They parked at the end of the long driveway and walked to the rural home, Josephine armed with a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun, and her husband with a Derringer and a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun. According to police they left a lot of ammunition in the car as well as a gas can with gas and a can of charcoal lighter fluid. It is not known if they intended to torch the house.

Roberta Frew answered the knock at the door and cried out  “Oh my God, they have guns!” before her daughter pumped a shotgun shell into her chest at point blank range. She died instantly. Jeffrey Ruckinger then killed John Jr., shooting him multiple times in the chest as he went for a rifle. John Frew Sr., who heard the shots from the bedroom, emerged with a 22-caliber revolver from the bedroom in time to find his daughter pointing the shotgun at him. It is not clear how far apart they were, police, who say Frew had not see his daughter sin 20 years, do not think he recognized her. Frew reportedly shot Josephine Ruckinger first, then exchanged gunfire with Jeffrey Ruckinger. She died later at a trauma center; he was dead by the time police arrived.

Frew, who was not injured in the exchange, called 911, and is reportedly cooperating with investigators.

With both Ruckingers dead, the motive for the murders may remain a mystery. According to relative Virginia Cruse, when Josephine was about 20, she and her boyfriend vandalized the Frew’s home, robbed it, took a pistol and ran off the Pittsburgh. After that incident, said Cruise, “more or less, they disowned her.” Josephine, she said, hated them.

Slideshow: Home Invasions

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