Investigators Haven't Closed The Book On 5-year-old Homicide

Southwest Baltimore Man Found Slain In His Automobile On Finksburg Road

April 05, 1992|By Brian Sullam | Brian Sullam,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The person who killed John Clayton Ruhs five years ago may have picked the wrong county in which to do it, said investigators still working on the case.

"You have to remember in the past 19 years there are only three unsolved murders in this county -- Robert Stipling, John Ruhs and Charles W. Therit, who was just killed last week," said Maryland state police Sgt. James Leet.

"We have the attitude that a murder case never stops until the killer is brought to justice."

On March 27, 1987, Ruhs got into the Plymouth Duster and drove off in a hurry from his house in southwest Baltimore.

He had told his Irvington neighbor Jerry Goodnow that they would talk when he returned.

But the 46-year-old electrician never returned.

Several hours after he left Baltimore, his body wasfound slumped over the steering wheel in his car on a remote dirt road in Finksburg near Liberty Reservoir.

Ruhs had been shot severaltimes by a shotgun-toting assailant from the passenger side of the car.

For Ruhs' mother, the unanswered questions surrounding her son's death still trouble her.

No one knew why Ruhs traveled to southern Carroll County. Friends in Baltimore thought he was going to Ocean City.

Using a profile developed by Detective Samuel Bowerman, a Baltimore County police officer, investigators were able to determinethat Ruhs was killed by somebody he knew, that the person who shot him was much smaller than Ruhs and the killer was someone who was insecure but liked to project a "macho" image.

About 20 months after the killing, police arrested four people and charged them with the murder.

The Carroll County Grand jury indicted Cordell Albert Patton,33, a Baltimore Housing Authority mechanic; and Diane Patton, 34, his wife; Steven Lucado, 34; and Merle Lucado, 36, his wife.

At the time of the arrests, police and prosecutors refused to discuss why the four were arrested. However, Ruhs' friends and neighbor speculated that Patton was seeking revenge.

In the months leading up to his death, according to the neighbors, Ruhs had been friendly with Diane Patton. She had been separated from her husband.

Although some people speculated Ruhs was romantically involved with Diane Patton, he had told his friends he was interested only in her friendship.

Patton, who is the sister-in-law to Ruhs' younger brother Milton Fefel, had returned to her husband at the time of the killing.

Within several months of the arrests, the case against the four was dropped.

Prosecutors apparently decided their evidence was not strong enough toobtain a conviction.

"Sometimes probable cause isn't enough for conviction," Leet said.

He said the investigators still have a great deal of physical evidence to work with and are continuing to followleads that have developed.

For John Ruhs' family, the unsolved case haunts them.

"I would like to know who killed him and why," said his mother, Hilda Mae Fefel, from her home in Roxanna, Del. "I would also like to know why they couldn't settle their differences without violence."

Fefel says she keeps in touch with the investigators and is encouraged by their dedication. However, she said she misses her son.

"Not having someone you love around is very hard," she said. "He lived right next door to me, and we were very close. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do. That is why it is so hard."

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