SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – For eighteen months, Jennifer Campbell raised her children without a father.
Her then husband Bryan Ruff vanished in December 1991. But Ruff had done this before.
“He had taken off a week before Thanksgiving,” recalled Campbell who is now remarried. “At the time (he was) saying he just needed a break. He said he needed to get his emotions where they needed to be.”
This time, Campbell sensed it was different.
Jennifer and Bryan Ruff married in 1989 in South Carolina. They attended Ricks College in Idaho and her parents moved to Salt Lake. Campbell said they also moved to Salt Lake to be closer to her parents.
“He was going to school to become a nurse,” said Campbell. “He got a job with Kennecott to be their ambulance driver.”
Ruff was rehired after he disappeared the first time in November 1991. He became a security guard for Kennecott and was stationed in a remote area of the property. It was at his new position that Ruff became friends with Dale Bradley, another security guard.
“Apparently they were just friends,” Campell said. “They were both guards at that shack.”
Ruff’s disappearance lingered and made local headlines. Newspapers and television news accounts from the time mentioned his disappearance. Authorities said they had no leads and the former Mrs. Ruff tell reporters that she “had no idea where he had gone.”
One of the news accounts on KTVX (ABC4) said that it was odd that Ruff, the father of a fifteen-month-old and another on the way, would just disappear from Kennecott.
“We searched high and low,” Campbell told reporters in 1991.
The last time Ruff disappeared he eventually returned after learning his daughter was hospitalized. But after visiting Ruff’s workplace, Campbell knew something was wrong.
“The minute I saw the shack and our car there, his lunch, his books were on the desk, I knew that he had not runoff,” she told reporters in 1991. “I knew that something really bad had gone wrong.”
The days turned into weeks and months. There was still no sign of Ruff. Across the country in South Carolina, his parents waited by the phone. Frank Ruff (who pronounces his last name “Roof”) said it was an agonizing time in their life.
“We were wondering what happened to him and every phone call we get, we’re hoping that it was (him),” said the elder Ruff. “But we were on pins and needles for nineteen months.”
Back home in Salt Lake, Campbell watched important dates come and go. She hoped that Ruff would contact her on those occasions. She kept hoping that he would show up and want to see their daughters. But the door never knocked and her phone never rang.
“The whole year and a half having to go through delivering a child, raising a two-year-old by myself, it was heart-wrenching,” Campbell recalled. “It was the most horrifying feeling to not know where he was. It wasn’t until the summer of 1993 when the phone rang.
Wednesday night, in part two, she learned of Ruff’s secret life which eventually led to his murder.