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Donald Ruby

Other Pennsylvania DNA Exonerations
On May 27, 1984, a fisherman stumbled upon a cardboard box along the Juniata River in Perry County, Pennsylvania. The box contained the torso of a woman wrapped in plastic. The legs had been removed at the knees, the arms cut off at the shoulder and the head had been removed at the shoulders. The limbs and the head were never found.

The victim was still unidentified in March 1985 when law enforcement officials published a small notice in a newspaper saying that the body was going to be buried. A woman came forward to say her sister-in-law, 31-year-old Edna Posey, had been missing for about that long. The torso was soon identified through comparison of a surgical scar and birth marks as Posey, a woman who had fought mental illness and alcoholism for years.

A year before her death, Posey had sought out Donald Ruby and granted him legal custody of her 12-year-old son, Randy, while she was hospitalized for treatment. Posey reached out to Ruby because Randy had been a Boy Scout and Ruby was his scoutmaster. Police said that on May 25, 1984—two days before her body was found—Posey went to Ruby’s home to retrieve her son.

Randy told police that he woke up during the first night she was there because he heard a loud noise. He noticed his mother was not on the couch in the room where they were sleeping.

In September 1986, Ruby was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He went on trial in Perry County Court in February 1987. Randy testified that he heard the loud noise during the night and noticed his mother was gone. He testified that on two occasions he had engaged in wrestling matches with Ruby, and he believed Ruby had been sexually aroused during the matches. Randy also said that Ruby took him to an adult book store on one occasion and once asked if he could take pictures of Randy in the nude.

An FBI agent told the jury that Ruby fit the profile of a pedophile based on Randy Posey’s testimony and the fact that Ruby had been a longtime scoutmaster.

A forensic pathologist testified that an autopsy indicated that the victim had died 18 to 30 hours before the body was found—not long after she arrived at Ruby’s home.

A state police investigator testified that he interviewed Ruby during the initial stages of the investigation after the body was identified as Posey. Ruby told him that on May 26, 1984, he took Posey to buy clothes and then dropped her off at a convenience store in Middletown, Pennsylvania at about 1 p.m. Ruby said he never heard from Posey again. According to the investigator, Ruby first said he took Posey by himself. In a later interview, Ruby said he was accompanied by his wife, Leigh Maser. The investigator testified that Ruby speculated that Posey had left and gone back to Florida where she had been in a psychiatric facility.

Maser testified that she accompanied Ruby and Posey, but her testimony was undercut when the prosecution produced a timecard from her job at a Lancaster Sears store showing she was still at work when Ruby said they were taking Posey to buy clothes in Middletown.

On March 31, 1987, the jury convicted Ruby of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

In March 1992, a three judge Superior Court appeals panel vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial. The judges held that the profiling testimony should not have been allowed into evidence even though Ruby’s defense attorney did not object to its use. Ruby’s defense argued on appeal that “introduction of this evidence cast him in the eyes of the jury as a member of a group with values alien to the rest of society, thus implying that it was more likely that he committed the crimes charged.”

The appeals court said, “We hold that the admission of this testimony, under the circumstances in this case, constituted reversible error.”

Ruby went on a trial a second time in May 1993. The defense presented new expert testimony that showed—based on an analysis of blowfly eggs depicted in photographs of the body—that the time of death was only a few hours before the body was discovered. At that time, Ruby was at home, 90 miles from the location of the corpse. The defense also showed that there was dew on plants in the area at the time of the discovery—except for a swath left when the box containing the body slid down the hill from the road toward the river. This strongly suggested the box had been dumped not long before it was discovered.

Ruby’s wife testified that she had lied about accompanying Ruby and Posey to the store at the first trial. She said she lied because she was scared for her husband and thought she was helping him.

Ruby testified and denied killing Posey. He also denied having any improper contact with Randy Posey at any time.

The defense also presented the results of DNA tests on sperm recovered from the body. The DNA profiles of three different men were identified. Ruby’s DNA was not found on the body, according to the testimony.

On May 20, 1993, the jury acquitted Ruby and he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/28/2014
State:Pennsylvania
County:Perry
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1984
Convicted:1987
Exonerated:1993
Sentence:Life
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:39
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*