Lori Erica Ruff was the alias of a identity thief who remained unidentified for nearly six years after her death. Ruff was eventually identified as Kimberly McLean, a native of the Philadelphia area who moved away from her Wyncote home in fall of 1986 and later vanished after struggling to adapt to her parents' divorce. Within the next two years, she obtained the birth certificate of Becky Sue Turner, who had died in a fire in Fife, Washington near Tacoma at the age of 2. Ruff used the certificate to get an Idaho identification card, then moved to Texas and changed her name to Lori Erica Kennedy.
Ruff gradually acquired more documents in that name, including a new Social Security number. After earning a college degree, she married and had a child. Due to some of her unusual behavior and her unwillingness to speak of her past, she clashed with her in-laws and the marriage collapsed. She ended her own life at her father-in-law's home in Longview on Christmas Eve 2010.
After her death, her husband and his family found the evidence of her falsified identity in a lockbox in her closet. Her true origins remained a mystery until 2016, when a combination of Social Security Administration records and forensic genealogy based on her daughter’s DNA led investigators to the McLean family, still living outside Philadelphia.
In the months between the separation and Lori's suicide, she behaved very erratically. A neighbor recalled that she and her daughter appeared to be very thin and that Lori would often ramble incoherently about her problems. She also began sending harassing emails to the Ruffs, created a scene at a custody exchange, and stole a set of house keys from them. The harassment was so severe that the Ruffs filed a cease and desist order just before Lori's death.
On December 24, 2010, Ruff's body was discovered in her car in the Ruffs' driveway, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. In the car were two suicide notes: One 11‑page note addressed to "my wonderful husband" and another addressed to her daughter, to be opened on her 18th birthday. The Ruffs opened and read the letter, but it contained only “ramblings from a clearly disturbed person" and no details about Lori's past.
After Lori's funeral, some of the Ruffs drove to Leonard to see if they could find out more about her in her house. The house was discovered in disarray, with piles of dirty dishes, laundry, and trash stacked up around the house, as well as shredded documents and papers with incoherent scribblings on them. They then discovered the lockbox in a closet, pried it open with a screwdriver, and discovered the documentation of Ruff's past. Also found in the lockbox was a paper with several seemingly random scribblings.
The suicide notes were quickly determined to be incoherent ramblings that offered no clues to Ruff's identity. The writings on the paper found in the lockbox included the scribblings "North Hollywood police", "402 months", and "Ben Perkins", who turned out to be the name of an attorney. The nature of these scribblings has led some to believe that Ruff was trying to avoid prison time, due to the references to police, a possible jail term length, and the name of an attorney. However, Perkins stated that he had no memory of the woman, and there were no matches for the woman in fingerprint and facial recognition databases. The fact that Ruff was able to cover up her identity so well in a time before the Internet has led to speculation that she had visited an "identity broker".
James Frederic McLean
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