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Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.
It was a cool California night. Ron Ruse was an easy-going likeable guy who loved spending time outdoors with friends. If he wasn’t surfing, he was playing softball. But tonight, he decided to stay home. He did not feel safe to go out – not that he felt much safer at home, to be honest.
He walked around his apartment and made sure all the doors were locked. He closed all the curtains and only had a couple of lights on. In the lounge room, his phone rang and rang and rang, but he didn’t pick it up. It stopped for a while, then it started ringing again. Ron didn’t pick up, because he knew who it was.
Since he broke up with his long-term girlfriend, Linda Ricchio, this is how things were for Ron. Linda was calling all hours of the day and night, trying to get him back. But Ron had moved on and did not want to rekindle the relationship – if only Linda could accept that…
When the phone stopped ringing for a while, Ron became anxious. He knew exactly what that meant: Linda had given up on calling him and was on her way over. He switched off all the lights and went to his bedroom.
Hiding out in the cover of darkness, Ron thought to himself that this was no way to live. When did things get so out of hand that he felt like a prisoner in his own home? Then he heard the first loud knock at his door, followed by the all-to familiar hysterical female voice of his ex.
She was angry and assertive, yelling obscenities and insulting him for all his neighbours to hear. A part of Ron wanted to open the door and tell her to shut up, but he had done so on previous occasions and that only escalated the situation. His best option was to try and ignore her, wait it out until she eventually relented.
After endless knocks and bangs on his doors and windows, Linda finally called it a night. But Ron knew, this was not the end of it…
Ron Ruse was born in 1960 and grew up in Escondido, San Diego, California. He was one of five children and theirs was a happy home where something was always happening. Ron was a cruisy kid who had many friends. He was naturally athletic and loved spending his time at the beach, surfing.
He was always good with his hands and once he graduated high school, decided to become a car mechanic. He had no trouble finding a job and he was popular at his place of work.
When a new office assistant called Linda started working at the mechanic shop, Ron could not keep his eyes off her. She was beautiful with a friendly and outgoing personality. Linda was exactly the kind of girl Ron liked: positive and strong-willed. Linda did not want to be a shop assistant forever, she had aspirations to go to college and was saving up to pay for her tuition.
The two of them hit it off immediately. They met for drinks after work a couple of times and enjoyed spending time together. Their dates were usually spur-of-the-moment, nothing serious. Ron had many friends and he had many social commitments. He was in no hurry to enter into a serious relationship.
One night, after only a couple of dates, Linda showed up at Ron’s place in Vista in the middle of the night – she was crying and shaken up. She said that her mother had kicked her out of the house. Everything she owned was in her car and she had nowhere to go. She asked Ron if she could stay with him for a while, only till she found her own place. Ron, always generous and kind and happy to help anyone, welcomed Linda into his apartment. Little did he know, Linda never intended to move out again.
Their casual relationship quickly blossomed into a serious one. They spent all their time together – at work and at home and on weekends. She went along to all his activities and cheered as he played sports and partied with his friends.
Ron became so comfortable with his new girlfriend, that he took her home to meet his family. The Ruse family was very close and Ron’s siblings were glad to see Ron settling into a loving relationship. Linda was open and friendly and slotted into the big family with ease. She asked questions about the family and made an effort to get to know them. The family accepted her with open arms.
It may have looked like a great love story, but it was all moving along at a feverish pace. Within a couple of months, Linda had become of every single aspect of Ron’s life. Wherever Ron went, Linda went. For someone like Ron who had a full life with many friends, it was unusual to always have somebody by his side. He loved playing sports and hanging out with the guys, Linda didn’t give him any space to do stuff without her. If Ron wanted to go anywhere without her, she would sulk or explode and make things very difficult for him. So he usually caved and said she could join him.
Linda became increasingly possessive of Ron and manipulated him. She would always get her way. Her control of Ron became evident to family and friends too. If Linda thought Ron took too long to drive home or when she was not 100% sure of his whereabouts, she called his sisters or his friends, anxiously asking if they knew where he was.
Ron was easy-going and did not like confrontation and drama in his life. For the most part, he went along with Linda’s controlling behaviour, but it gradually became too much to take. Linda had pushed him too far and he just wanted his old life back – a life where he could come and go as he pleased, without having to explain himself to anyone.
A couple of years into their relationship, Ron puckered up the courage and suggested they broke things off. Linda did not see it coming and lost it. She was hysterical and threatened to end her life if he left her. This put Ron in a terrible situation. He did not want to be with her anymore, but he also did not want her to harm herself. He knew how volatile she was and believed that she could actually go through with it. Ron was a good person and his concern for Linda was stronger than his desire to end the relationship, so he decided to stay with her for a while longer.
Her behaviour calmed down for a while, but before long, she was monitoring his every move and controlling every aspect of his life. When it looked like Ron had had enough, she would reign it back in and convince him to stay by threatening suicide again. Ron stuck it out for three more years before he realised he could not go on any longer. He finally broke up with Linda in April of 1986. Ron left Linda and moved out of the apartment that was technically his.
The 27-year-old Linda did not take the break up well at all and strongly believed that it was only temporary. As is the case with many long-term relationships, it took a while for the two to split for good. Although Ron had moved out, they still saw each other occasionally for about another year. But Ron realised he was ready to move on and the only way he could do that was to break all ties with Linda. He told Linda that it would be for the best if they moved on and did not see each other again.
Linda was furious. Threatening suicide didn’t seem to work, so she tried a new approach and said she would kill Ron for cutting her out of his life. She also threatened to harm his family, as she knew the Ruses were close. By this time, Ron had learnt not to read too much into Linda’s outbursts and left without looking back.
For a while Ron was piecing back together his personal life and it seemed like Linda had accepted their split. She started studying at San Diego State University and from the outside, it looked like life went on.
That is until September 1987, when Ron met someone at a friend’s wedding. Vicki Woodruff was gorgeous and bright and Ron cautiously entered a romantic relationship with her. It was almost a year and a half after he walked out on Linda and he was ready to commit again. The relationship was simple and peaceful, something Ron had forgotten was possible.
When Linda heard about Ron and Vicki, her anger propelled her back into Ron’s life. She confronted him at his work and demanded he took her back. Ron said that it was over between them and that he was happy with Vicki. He asked her to leave them alone. This only infuriated the already fuming Linda even more. Ron was hers and she was not going to let anyone else have him.
Linda was motivated to get him back, no matter what it took. In an attempt to be a part of his life again, she started stalking him incessantly.
Everyday, Linda called Ron’s apartment. It didn’t matter what time of the day or night, she would let it ring, until he picked up. At first Ron picked up and talked to her, asking her not to call again, but she simply ignored him. Ron realised it was better to let it ring out. Ron’s friends and family struggled to get a hold of him, as his landline was his only contact number.
If Ron did not pick up his phone, Linda went to his apartment. She banged on the windows screaming and yelling for him to take her back. Her wails and moans could be heard all around his apartment complex.
Because of her unannounced visits, Ron had to keep his doors locked and windows shut. He even changed his locks to be extra safe. It felt like Linda was always lurking outside, trying to get in.
Frustrated that she could not get to Ron at home, Linda went to look for him around town. Because they were together for so long, she knew his routine and his friends and inserted herself into his life. Whenever Ron met friends to go surfing, Linda would be on the beach. If he played softball, Linda was sitting on the bleachers, watching him. On more than one occasion she showed up at his work and begged him to take her back. Every time there was a big scene with Linda shouting and crying and Ron trying to hush her, firmly asking her to leave.
She also gathered personal information about him. She obtained copies of his phone and electricity bills, prowling to see if there was any way that she could get to him. In the 1980s, privacy laws were quite relaxed and a plausible story and a warm smile was sometimes all it took to get information.
One night, Linda was stalking Ron’s apartment when she saw Vicki arrive. She took down Vicki’s license plate number and stewed for a while as she watched her adversary entering Ron’s place. The next day, Linda called the DMV and told them that she had driven into a parked car and wanted to make it right with the owner. She gave them Vicki’s license plate number and asked if they had any contact details for her. Unbelievably, they gave it to her. Again, things were a bit different back then. Legislation has changed quite a bit since then and getting someone’s personal information would not be as easy – or even possible – today.
Linda started harassing Vicki too. She called her home and hung up when Vicki answered. She also wrote letters, saying that Vicki had no right to date Ron and that Linda was going to get him back. Vicki was rather unnerved about it all, the constant pestering caused a lot of stress.
On one occasion, Linda mistook one of Ron’s acquaintances, Viccie Young for Ron’s girlfriend, Vicki Woodruff. Linda confronted her at her work at Plaza Camino Real in Carlsbad, causing a scene. Viccie Young said to Linda that she knew Linda and Ron had broken up and that Ron was free to date whomever he chose to. Even though she told Linda that she wasn’t the one who was seeing Ron, Linda threatened her and said she would kill her and any of Ron’s friends who came between them. According to Linda their relationship was not over. She also told Viccie Young that she was pregnant with Ron’s baby – a claim that was absolutely not true.
Ron and Vicki had a strong relationship and decided it would be better if they moved in together. At the beginning of November, they left Vista for Carlsbad, mostly to get away from Linda.
Linda lost it when they left and found other ways of stalking them and gathering information. She was so obsessed with Ron and Vicki, that she quit her job and stopped going to school so she could stalk them full-time. She became so engrossed that she even left her cats to starve and die in her apartment.
In hindsight, psychologists were able to say that Linda was suffering from borderline personality disorder (or BPD). People with BPD have trouble regulating emotions and get so caught up in what they are feeling, they need help to return to a baseline of stability. Situations become extreme, like if something is good, it’s fantastic, if it’s bad, it’s debilitating. In some instances, a person suffering from BPD have trouble controlling their anger. All of this was true for Linda. Of course, not everyone suffering from BPD becomes a stalker.
She could only focus on her mission, which was to get back together with Ron. It was the only thing that mattered to her. She saw herself as the victim and everyone else was out to destroy her and her happiness. Within herself she felt incomplete and in her mind, the only way to fix it, was to be with Ron.
Linda showed up at Ron’s sister, Susan Fisher’s house one day in October 1987, frazzled and distraught. She told Susan:
“I’m going to do something to your brother I’m going to regret.”
Susan said it wasn’t the first time Linda threatened to harm her brother. On another occasion Linda pointedly said that she ‘felt like killing him’. Susan was concerned and felt that Linda was out of control. Susan knew that Ron was truly done with Linda and there was no hope for reconciliation. She tried to encourage Linda to put her relationship with Ron behind her and move on. Susan suggested Linda got herself together and lived a good and happy life – there would be no better revenge than that.
When Linda left Susan’s home, it seemed like she had calmed down and that, although she was still heartbroken, she was of the intention to get over Ron and start over. But this wasn’t the case. Her harassing behaviour not only continued, it increased.
Ron felt like he was under constant attack. Wherever he went, Linda was there. Her onslaught affected him deeply. The once happy-go-lucky surfer had become depressed. He was trapped and could not see a way out of the situation. He also felt responsible for bringing trouble into Vicki’s life. If she had not become romantically involved with him, she would never have been the object of Linda’s obsession.
Ron’s friends told him to report Linda to police, but he did not think they would take him seriously. Linda was petite and seemed harmless and friendly on the surface. In the 1980s, there was no legislation to protect people from stalking. The word ‘stalking’ was not even in use. What Linda was doing could at best be described as harassment or domestic violence. If Ron were to report Linda and she denied everything, it would have been a case of her word against his.
It was embarrassing for him to admit that he had a crazed ex-girlfriend who would not leave him alone, that he did not have the situation under control. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that Linda kept showing up at his work. Every time there was a violent outburst, Ron felt like there was a chance that he could lose his job.
He finally made the decision to file for a restraining order against her. He went to court on the 13th of November. His desperation could be heard during the court hearing, when he said:
“She continually calls me at all hours of the day and night. She shows up at my apartment and demands to come in. I have told her that I no longer want to see her. Today she showed up at my place of work and verbally abused me in front of my fellow workers and my supervisor. This is the second time in a week she has appeared at my workplace. My job is now in jeopardy.”
This step may seem simple enough, but at the time, it was incredibly brave on Ron’s part to take action against Linda. Sadly, he was not really taken seriously. As a sign of the time, even the judge at the restraining order hearing said, on record, that he personally had never been so lucky as to have attractive women chasing after him. He told Ron he should be flattered. Officers of the court laughed and the whole thing was seen as a joke. It was extremely humiliating for Ron.
Ron obtained a restraining order against Linda. She was not to come within 100 yards of him or Vicki at their home or places of work. But because he was a man and the judge failed to see him as a victim, the order was a mutual restraining order, which also ruled that neither Ron nor Vicki were to come anywhere near Linda.
Linda was angrier than ever. After receiving the restraining order, she went out and bought herself a gun. She visited a shooting range, incessantly practicing shooting a silhouette target’s head and crotch.
Despite the restraining order, she kept pestering Ron. The court order seemed useless, Linda simply ignored it and kept up her malicious behaviour. Only a couple of days after the court hearing, Ron came home to find a note on his door. The note said to check another note inside. He entered his apartment, dreading to find out what was there. On his favourite arm chair was a handwritten note, taunting him:
“A piece of paper is not going to stop me from getting to you.”
Linda had broken into his apartment and he had no idea how she got in. Because there were no signs of forced entry, he realised that she must have had a key. Ron took the notes to police and told them about the break-in. But as there were no witnesses who saw Linda leaving the notes, they could not arrest her. There was not enough proof that she disobeyed the restraining order.
Linda also upped the ante regarding her threats to Vicki. She kept calling her and sending her letters. One of the letters was signed off:
“I’m going to tear the two of you to the bone. It was never about you and Ron. It was always about me and Ron. I win – you lose.”
All of it became too much to bear and Vicki and Ron decided to break off their relationship. Ron moved out of his apartment, and started drifting so that Linda could not find him. He rented a car so she could not follow him and also stayed in different hotels every night. He checked in late and check out early and parked the rental car around back of the hotel. He took so many measures to throw Linda off his trail, he was essentially living like a fugitive. Ron’s family and friends offered him a place to stay, but he declined, because he didn’t want to drag anyone else into his personal hell.
Ron confided in a high school friend, Ray Hieronymus, that he was worried that Linda would make good on her threats of killing him.
When Ray spoke to Linda, he realised how serious the situation had become. He said:
"She said she had a gun and was going to blow him away. I said, 'Whoa, let's calm down and talk about it' because she was making a threat. She said she was going to blow him away and then kill herself. She said she felt used, that she put a lot of years in with him and couldn't understand why he was not seeing her and was avoiding her phone calls."
Ray warned his friend and told him that Linda had purchased a gun. She also told Ray that been taking shooting lessons.
Ron took Ray’s warning to heart. He tried to figure out how he could protect himself from her. All the while, he never thought that she would actually harm him. But it was playing on his mind, as he painted a hypothetical scenario, asking Ray what would happen if Linda came at him with a gun and he managed to get it off her and shot her – what would the legal implications be? Would it be self-defence or would he get into trouble? He seemed to be more concerned about getting into trouble with the law than he was of getting shot himself.
Towards the end of November, things had calmed down and it looked as if Linda had finally moved on. Ron felt it was safe to resume his normal life and found an apartment in Carlsbad. It was his third apartment in 1987, all the moves because he wanted to get away from Linda.
But Linda was not done. During this time, she had gone to San Francisco and asked her brother to help her develop hundreds of surveillance photos she had taken of Ron. She used the distance from Ron to plot her next move.
Ron was still finding his way around and settling into his Carlsbad apartment. He told friends that it was a temporary move, as he was sure Linda would find him again. With her ability to track him down, he thought that even moving out of State would not help. Eventually she would trace him and harass him.
And he was right. Linda was on his trail yet again. She had found his address through the utility company. This time, she was closer to Ron than she had been since their break-up. When the apartment next door to Ron became available, Linda made sure that she got the lease. On the 9th of December 1987, she moved in, making sure that Ron had no idea she was there. Both apartments were on the second floor and there was a privacy wall separating the entrances.
Ron went about his business, thinking that Linda had finally moved on. He was relieved and thought that his ordeal was finally over, as he had not heard from her in a while. But even so, she was constantly in the back of his mind, he always had the feeling that she would find him again somehow.
For Linda, the situation was perfect. Ron had let his guard down a little bit and was more relaxed about looking over his shoulder. Living next door to him, without his knowledge, Linda could familiarise herself with his new routine. She was watching him come and go and listening to everything he did, she was right there with him.
Less than a week after Linda had moved in, on the evening of December 14th, Ron came home from work. He had stopped off at the grocery store and was carrying a six pack of beer and some sandwiches. He was ready to spend a quiet night at home by himself, watching TV. When he put his key in the door to unlock it, he heard movement behind him. He turned around and saw Linda coming out of the shadows. She had a gun and was pointing it straight at him. Ron’s worst fear had some true, exactly what he had been trying to avoid had caught up with him.
The first shot hit Ron in the torso. The second bullet blitzed past him and he made his way past her and started running down the stairs, desperately trying to make his escape. As Ron was running away, Linda fired three more shots. One hit Ron in the back. A neighbour later testified that he heard five gunshots.
A badly injured Ron managed to make it to his neighbour’s door. Janet Bates heard the anxious cries for help and rushed to open up. She recalled the incident, saying:
"He was banging and yelling, 'Janet, let me in!' He came in and said, 'I just took two shots to the heart.' He collapsed by the dining room table.”
Janet tried to calm him down and made sure he was comfortable before she left him to call emergency services.
"He told me, 'Thank you for calling for help.' Those were the last words he spoke to me."
Immediately after the shooting, Linda ran away from the scene, jumping over a fence and keeping off main roads. It was obviously a route that she knew well, something she had planned out. As she ran away, she also discarded of the bullet casings.
Some hours later, Linda turned herself in at the nearby town of Oceanside. She went to a payphone and called 911, sobbing as she said:
“Um, I shot a person.”
When police took her into custody, she kept asking if Ron was okay, if he had survived. It was like the gunshots had clicked her back into reality, like it made her realise how wrong her actions had been. But it was too late.
Ron was taken by Life Flight to Palomar Memorial Hospital in Escondido – where he later passed away, succumbing to his injuries. His family and friends were shocked when they heard what had happened. The worst part of this story was that Ron had reported the stalking and his concerns and nobody could do anything to protect him and prevent this tragedy from happening.
Although Linda admitted to shooting and killing Ron, she did not show much remorse. She was saddened by the fact that he was no longer alive, but she made it out that he brought it on himself. Her point of view was that Ron gave her no other choice.
“My sole intent never included wilful of knowingly malicious actions or conduct, but purely harmless heartfelt and deserving attempts to communicate, to help me understand. The emotional stress and turmoil has exhausted me.”
Her trial began in spring of 1989, about a year and a half after Ron’s death. She pleaded self-defence. According to Linda, Ron had called her that night and asked her to meet him. She had the gun, because she was the one who was afraid of HIM, and felt it would be prudent to have something to protect herself. She said that as soon as Ron came up the stairs, he lunged at her, attacking her.
This made absolutely no sense. No evidence supported her claim. She had been planning the confrontation for months. Buying a gun, taking shooting lessons, moving into the apartment next door to him… It was all part of a calculated plan.
During her trial, Linda Ricchio was dubbed The Fatal Attraction Killer, because of similarities to Glen Close’s character Alex in the 1987 film. In the film, the jilted mistress kills her ex-lover and his family.
Linda’s defence stated that it was her intention to kill herself in front of Ron, so he could witness her suicide. But Ron lunged at her and tried to take the gun as she was pointing it at her own head. In the scuffle, a shot went off that killed Ron. She could not recall shooting more than once or that Ron tried to flee down the staircase.
Nobody believed her. In court, she seemed to lap up the attention. Her trial was televised and the courtroom was packed. Her statement almost resembled a performance as she looked at the cameras and the crowd.
"This is absurd… My heart goes out to the Ruse family . . . (but) to the court and to the public, I did not murder Ron Ruse."
Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Miller did not buy her version of events and said that it was ‘illogical and false’. Before she was sentenced, the probation officer made it clear that Linda’s actions were pre-meditated. He stated that she:
"…stalked Ron like a hunter stalks his game. Prior to his murder, she took shooting lessons, then showed off her target to people in a bar.”
On the 18th of April 1989, Linda Ricchio was found guilty of first-degree murder. That is, pre-meditated murder and lying in wait. She was sentenced 27 years to life in prison.
Outside the courtroom, her defence attorney, Jack Earley said his client still did not believe she murdered Ron Ruse.
"She hasn't accepted the fact she murdered him. She accepts responsibility for his death, that maybe he was trying to save her life (when she fired the weapon), and that is worse than murder."
Ron’s family became very involved in writing legislation for anti-stalking laws, to help other victims of stalking to not suffer the same fate as Ron. Legislation came into place in 1990. They wanted to make the public aware of the fact that men can be victims of violence too. And the experience of being stalked is as horrifying for a man as it is for a woman. There is no reason why men should not have the same support as women in stalking cases.
Drama seemed to follow Linda wherever she went, even in prison. Four years into her incarceration, she married a former prison guard, she met when both of them worked in the prison kitchen. They were married for more than ten years when she filed for divorce in 2003, saying that he had cheated on her.
She sued another guard, Shaun Robinson, for sexually victimising her in prison, a claim that led to an internal investigation. What they found was that Linda was not the one being victimised at all, in fact, she was stalking Shaun inside the prison. Firstly, she managed to obtain personal information from a family member of HERS. Court records state that witnesses came forward and confirmed that Linda…
“…was infatuated with Robinson and endeavoured to be located wherever the officer was in the prison. She also kept a photograph of [Robinson] which [she] had claimed he had given her but which was actually printed on a vocational graphic arts in-service training book.”
Linda Ricchio denied stalking the guard and claimed that he set her up, because he had read her file and knew she stalked a boyfriend in the past.
In 2005 Linda was moved to the higher security Valley State Prison, a clear indication that Linda was not a model prisoner.
Linda also made a big drama when Susan Fisher (Ron’s sister) was appointed as a member of the parole board. Even though Linda’s case never appeared before Susan, she still felt that Susan had some influence on decision makers. She also felt that she was being punished for marrying and then divorcing a former prison guard.
In March 2019, she decided to forego a parole hearing as she agreed that she was unfit for parole. She had been denied parole three times before, the most recent hearing taking place in 2016. After that time, she sued the Department of Corrections for refusing to transfer her back to California Institution for Women (or CIW) and for NOT granting her parole. She accused them of entering false information into her file, making her an unsuitable candidate for parole. The case was thrown out of court.
Today, there are laws are in place to protect us from stalking, but it is still a dark and scary situation to be in. Ron’s sister Susan stated:
“Things have changed in legislation, but the pathology of stalking remains the same.”
Legislation also differs from state to state and country to country. And the law can only protect one to a certain point.
It is absolutely terrifying having someone watch your every move. The problem is, not all stalkers are the same and they don’t all have the same motive. In today’s day and age, the internet and social media make victims much more vulnerable to falling prey of someone like Linda Ricchio.
Stalking is also a pattern of behaviour rather than an isolated incident, which makes it harder to prove. The statistics are staggering, statistics on ‘asecurelife.com’ show that 6.6 Million people are victims of stalking in one year in the United States alone. One in four victims are male, with 41% of male victims stalked by a romantic partner or ex-partner.
It is essential to keep a log with as much evidence as possible, including photos or saved text messages. Experts suggest that a person who has a stalker should always take it seriously and understand that they are under threat. It is best to confide in close friends or family, there is no shame in admitting you have a stalker.
Ron Ruse had his whole life ahead of him. A life he never got to live. He did nothing wrong, in fact, with limited resources about stalking at the time, he did everything he could do to protect himself, sadly it was not enough.
In killing him, Linda immortalised their bond in a way. Their names will always be tied together, you cannot do a Google search on the one without the other coming up. Before her first parole hearing, she said:
"I don't minimize my responsibility for Ron's death, and his death will live within me each and every day, whether I'm incarcerated or not. But I also believe I have served my time. I am not a threat to the victim's family or society."
In Linda’s mind, Ron was and always will be hers, and hers alone. She does not see herself as a dangerous individual. She did to Ron, what she had to. That is why she honestly believes that she does not pose a threat to anyone else.
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This was The Evidence Locker. Thank you for listening!
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