Woman killed cheating husband with overdose of heroin
Published Thursday, November 18, 2010 5:38PM PST
A Vancouver Island woman has been found guilty of murdering her adulterous husband with a lethal dose of heroin.
Saanich resident John Ruffolo was drugged to death at home on Oct. 19, 2003. His body was discovered by a hiker six days later in a remote wooded area in the Victoria suburb.
His wife, Ruby Ann Ruffolo, was arrested after a five-month investigation that revealed she sedated her husband with an antidepressant mixed into a protein shake before injecting him with an overdose heroin.
She was found guilty of first-degree murder in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday, when she was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years.
This was Ruffolo's second trial for her husband's murder -- the first ended in mistrial last year.
John's parents told reporters they were frustrated by the long wait to see their daughter-in-law behind bars.
"No family should have to wait seven years for justice for their son," Lois Ruffolo said. "He's missed seven birthdays while she walked free."
Justice Mary Humphries wrote in her decision that Ruby Ann Ruffolo had ample motive to kill her husband, who had more than one affair with other women and was planning to leave his wife to be with a co-worker.
The marriage was on the rocks, witnesses told the court, and Ruffolo was worried about the financial implications of dividing up the family's numerous rental properties, which had largely been paid for with her money but were in his name.
"Many witnesses testified to her preoccupation with the division of property...and Ms. Ruffolo's desire to keep John Ruffolo from having any of it, rather than divide it with him in a divorce," Humphries wrote.
"Ms. Ruffolo's reaction, when faced with the possible breakdown of the marriage, was to consider the death of John Ruffolo rather than divorce, and to ask others for assistance."
The judge also wrote that Ruffolo blamed her husband for her son's suicide by hanging in the family's backyard in 2002.
The murder of John Ruffolo
About a month before the murder, Ruffolo met with a one-eyed man named Robert Johnson at a Victoria community centre to ask him to kill her husband.
Johnson thought it was a joke and refused.
"But having seen a TV program the night before on ‘hot capping,' that is, injecting a large amount of heroin, told her that would be a good way to kill someone," Humphries wrote.
He suggested that $150 worth of the drug would be enough to do the trick
Ruffolo's tenant and friend Vivian Kirkland told the court that Ruffolo pressured her to use her connections to buy the heroin.
After the deed was done, Ruffolo asked Johnson to come to her house to help with some "heavy lifting." When he arrived, he found John lying dead in the driveway of the family home at 994 Tulip Avenue. Ruffolo told him her husband had died of a heroin overdose.
He refused to help move the body, and told the court he left immediately.
But Kirkland and another tenant, Douglas Murray, testified that they helped Ruffolo lift the body into her car. Kirkland drove more than 15 kilometres with her landlord to dump the dead man in a culvert running under Humpback Road.
Kirkland pleaded guilty in 2007 to offering indignity to John's remains for her role in moving the body.
The investigation and trial
Ruffolo reported her husband missing the day after the murder, and told police that he was depressed and possibly using heroin.
"Every witness who had known John Ruffolo was asked if they ever saw him display any indications of drug use or drug dealing, particularly heroin," Humphries wrote.
Forensic scientists later found that John Ruffolo died of a lethal mix of heroin and the antidepressant amitriptyline. They also discovered bruising and puncture wounds where the heroin was injected on both elbows.
Johnson visited the police a week after John Ruffolo's body was discovered, and told them what he knew.
But despite the testimony of Johnson, Kirkland and Murray, Ruffolo has denied having any involvement in the murder.
"She said she left him sleeping at home on the morning of Sunday, October 19, 2003 and assumed when she returned that night after a long day of looking after the rental properties that he had gone to work," the judge wrote.
The defence argued that there were no eye-witnesses to John's death, and described the Crown prosecutors' evidence as "almost ridiculous" and its suggested motive as "nonsensical."
Defence lawyers suggested that John may have gone into to hiding because he owed money to drug dealers. They brought witnesses who said they had sold heroin to John, and another pair who said they saw him at a local restaurant four days after he was supposedly murdered.
But the judge rejected that theory, writing that there were "many difficulties" with it, particularly the idea that he would let himself be seen in a popular pub while he was running for his life.
"I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the only rational conclusion is that Ms. Ruffolo either injected the heroin herself, or if Vivian Kirkland participated, she did so with the assistance and encouragement of Ms. Ruffolo," Humphries wrote.
"The only rational conclusion to draw from the evidence...is that the killing of John Ruffolo by administering drugs to him was intentional."
The Ruffolos had one daughter together, Jovanna, who is now 20 years old.