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Man who shot and killed his wife sentenced to prison

Crime Watch

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Eugene Ralph Ruff

BLACKFOOT — An Aberdeen man who shot and killed his wife after a drunken argument will spend 18 years to life in prison.

District Judge Darren Simpson sentenced Eugene Ralph Ruff on Monday in the killing of his wife of 43 years.

“To the Honorable Judge Simpson, I plead with you for leniency of my sentence,” Ruff said Monday.

Ruff pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Jan. 4. The plea agreement stipulated the court could impose a fixed sentence between 10 and 18 years and an indeterminate life sentence. Both parties were free to argue what fixed sentence they saw fit. In exchange, the charge was amended from first-degree to second-degree murder.

“I have to tell you and those in attendance, that this court puts high value in life and the sanctity of life. And 10 years, in my opinion, is inappropriate,” Simpson told Ruff during his statements.

Some watching the proceedings burst into tears when Simpson handed down the 18-year sentence.

Earlier, in a victim impact statement, one of Ruff’s three daughters asked for leniency. He was a good man and a good father, she said.

“On July 5, at 9:41 p.m., I received a call I never would have expected. My dad called and said, ‘I just shot Momma,'” the daughter said in her victim impact statement.

The night Bettilee Ruff died, she and her husband had been drinking. Later an argument ensued. Both the prosecution and defense discussed the events of that night during Monday’s sentencing hearing.

The defense argued that Ruff was “startled” by his wife jumping on his chest and putting her hand over his mouth while he was in bed. He rolled away, grabbed a gun out of the gun cabinet and killed Bettilee. He called 911 immediately afterword.

The prosecution went into more detail in their argument.

Ruff didn’t just get the first gun in the gun cabinet. He grabbed one, then either grabbed another because the first wasn’t loaded or because the first was in the way of the one he wanted. Apparently, Ruff gave conflicting details about exactly what happened.

The gun he used was a .22-250 bolt-action rifle. He fired once, missed, and fired three more times, striking Bettilee each time, killing her.

“I take full accountability of my actions. I loved her with all my heart,” Ruff said tearfully. “To my daughters, I most sincerely give my apologies.”