Family Crimes

Colorado Ranch Family Arrested Over Son's Alleged Murder For $3 Million Inheritance

Mother Deborah Sue Rudibaugh says she acted alone in killing her son Jacob Henry Millison, but two other family members have also been arrested.

Details of an alleged gruesome murder case in Colorado have come to light thanks to court records, which reveal that a man was killed in his sleep and buried by members of his own family. 

Gunnison County District Court records indicate that a woman, Deborah Sue Rudibaugh, confessed to killing her own son, Jacob Henry Millison, then burying his body in a pit due to a long-awaited feud over who will inherit the $3 million ranch in the family's tiny southwest town of Parlin, Colorado. She allegedly confessed that she had killed 29-year-old Jacob by herself more than two years prior. However, investigators suspect that the confession by the 5-foot-tall, 70-pound woman burying her son's 170-pound body on her own may have been made to spare her daughter and son-in-law from blame, according to The Denver Post

The horrific case seems to go something like this: The family has been feuding over the inheritance left by Rudibaugh's second husband, Rudy. Before his death in 2009, Rudy gave his four children from his first marriage sums from $35,000-$45,000. He also gave Stephanie Jackson (pictured above), Rudibaugh's 33-year-old daughter, $30,000 to buy a home in Denver with 34-year-old husband David Jackson, according to arrest warrant affidavits. 

Upon his death, Rudibaugh inherited the 700-acre ranch but in 2012, the Jacksons rented out their Denver home and came to live on the ranch. 

Since Millison's alleged murder, detectives have been attempting to piece together a case. The 68-year-old Rudibaugh was recently joined in Gunnison County Jail by her daughter, who was arrested on March 1 on a charge of first-degree murder, and son-in-law, who was also taken into custody on Tuesday. All three of them face multiple felony charges in relation to Millison's death, including tampering with a corpse. 

"I was afraid he was going to kill me," Rudibaugh originally told investigators, according to The Washington Post, of the May 16, 2015, incident in which she allegedly sneaked into her son's room and shot him in his sleep with a stainless steel Smith & Wesson "Lady Smith" .357 caliber revolver. 

However, the confession was always suspicious to detectives, including Gunnison County Undersheriff Mark Mykol. 

"Just because somebody confesses, you have to continue to investigate to corroborate that," he recently told the Gunnison Times.

A forensic report conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation confirmed that the bullet which killed Millison was fired from the Smith & Wesson revolver. Further testing also found Rudibaugh's DNA on the handgun, but was inconclusive for daughter Jackson.

The case kept unraveling for investigators. 

After a two-year search for Millison's body, the police received a tip and found Rudibaugh's will, which she had lied about changing only after her son's disappearance. The will was instead dated on April 27, 2015. This is when the mother came up with a new story and told police that her son became verbally and physically abusive, according to The Washington Post. She claims to have killed him because she feared for her life. But police were suspicious that the frail woman could act alone and a Facebook post eventually led them to Jackson.

Police confirmed that cellphone records indicated that the Jacksons were in Gunnison, not Denver as Rudibaugh originally claimed, on the day of Millison's murder, according to The Denver Post. Furthermore, Stephanie Jackson sent a text that said "It's time to play!" at 3:17 a.m. on May 16, 2015, which was deleted six minutes later. She also posted a message on Facebook that said, "Have you ever been woken up with such awesome news you wanted to run outside screaming?"

As police continued to investigate, David Jackson implicated his wife in a January 2018 interview. 

"Honestly after this and all of that, I have a strong feeling it could have been Steph," he said, according to court records acquired by The Denver Post. "I really get a hunch it was Steph, but I’m not positive."

The couple failed a polygraph test about their knowledge and involvement of the killing earlier this year. Investigators believe that Stephanie was "the only person with a motive to kill Jacob." 

"Stephanie knew that Deborah’s will had been changed to make her the sole heir of the ranch," the arrest affidavit said. "Stephanie’s lies and actions after the murder show that she knew Jacob was dead immediately … and intended to cover up the homicide."

[Photo: Gunnison County Sheriff's Office]

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