Ever since a Texas man married his girlfriend, she had constantly reminded him of the specific spots in their house he was never allowed to see. But after she tragically died, he and his brother checked one such place and found a mysterious vault behind her bedroom closet.
They say some twisted secrets should be taken to the grave to keep the peace in the bereaved families. But what happens when that deepest secret unfolds in the most unthinkable way? Even worse, think the dead person you loved and lived the life of your dreams with turned out to be someone who wasn't who you thought they were.
Such was the story of a Texas man who found a mysterious safe tucked in the bedroom closet after laying his wife and mother of his little daughter to rest. He combed its contents and froze after realizing why his late wife had strictly prohibited him from touching that vault for years.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH A STRANGER
Blake Ruff followed in his identical twin brother David's footsteps for most of his life. So, when David went to a Bible study class in church, Blake just happened to do it, and it was here that he met his lady love, Lori Kennedy.
His close-knit East Texas family were warm and friendly people in town. They were eager to meet his girlfriend and invited her to a family lunch to learn more about her and her family.
Lori claimed she had no parents, siblings, or relatives. The entire afternoon passed like that, with Blake's mother, Nancy Ruff, questioning and Lory deflecting. Although it was evident that Lori was hiding something, Blake ignored the empty blanks because he was blindly in love with her.
A SUSPICIOUS PAST
Blake decided to marry the woman he barely knew. At this point, Nancy decided to make the wedding news public in the local newspaper. She wanted the print to go something like Blake Ruff, son of Jon & Nancy Ruff, and Lori Kennedy, daughter of WHO? The missing gap about Lori's cloudy past hounded the Ruffs.
One day, the mystery climaxed when a woman reached out to Velling with disturbing details about Lori's true identity.
Lori didn't allow Blake's family to publicize the news for some reason. "She said, 'We don't do things like that,'" Nancy recounted. Eventually, Blake and Lori eloped and married in a small church wedding with only the preacher attending, much to the family's shock.
The couple moved into their 2-acre-property 125 miles from the Ruff family on the outskirts of Leonard, Texas. Blake tried being friendly with his neighbors during their stay there, but Lori didn't. She avoided people and always worked on her computer, alleging that she was a marketing consultant.
Lori constantly kept to herself, but if there was something she wanted more than anything, it was a baby. In the summer of 2008, Blake and Lori had their daughter. But after the baby's birth, Lori's behavior drastically changed.
She was overly protective of her child and never allowed anybody near her, not even Blake's mom Nancy, who thought it was weird because it was their ninth grandchild, and they were used to children in the family. For some reason, it felt strange and suspicious to them.
CHOOSING BETWEEN FAMILY & LOVE
As time went on, Lori's friction with the Ruffs escalated. She constantly found fault with them and tried her best to keep her daughter away from them. All this took an adverse toll on Blake. He was crushed and was left to choose between Lori and his family.
In the summer of 2010, Blake moved back to live with his parents and filed for a divorce later. Lori went to counseling at church and met Denny Gorena, a neighbor who served as a pastor. But counseling didn't save Lori's marriage due to her obsession, as Denny claimed:
"Honestly, I don't think she was capable of getting the help she needed because she was so obsessed about whatever she was obsessed about."
AN UNFORGETTABLE TRAGEDY ON CHRISTMAS EVE
Lori vented her frustrations on the Ruff family through threatening emails and even stirred drama during the custody exchange. But nothing outdid the incident on Christmas Eve 2010 when Blake's father, Jon Ruff, found a black Tahoe lounging on the driveway with a dead Lori and an 11-page final letter inside. The Ruffs were horrified.
After Lori's funeral, the family drove to Blake's house in Leonard to comb clues, if any. Arriving at the home, Blake informed his brother Miles about the specific spots Lori had prohibited him from looking. They found the secret vault and broke it open. Among other items was a court document from 1988 indicating that Lori was Becky Sue Turner before. Miles recalled:
"We go, 'Bingo!' We figured it out... She's Becky Sue Turner."
WHO WAS THIS BECKY SUE TURNER?
Miles reached out to a private investigator next door and eventually found out that the real Becky Sue was already dead. Reportedly, she was one of the three children who had died in a fire in 1971, aged just two years old. Meanwhile, Joe Velling, Social Security Administration (SSA) investigator, and forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick were called to examine the matter.
A trail of dead ends led Velling to Lori getting an Idaho ID card in the late Becky Sue's name when she was 18. After that, she approached a Dallas court to legally change her name from Becky Sue Turner to Lori Erika Kennedy, explained Velling.
"Once I have that name change and the Social Security number, I'm really a whole new person," Velling revealed. The discovery fueled more suspicions after he tracked down a few acquaintances that knew tidbits about Lori.
A CALL THAT UNRAVELED THE MYSTERY
Velling again reached a dead-end because the few people he met with Lori's case shared different details about her. For instance, one claimed that she was a dancer at a nightclub in the early '90s. Nothing proved helpful, so Velling rechecked the safe's contents to find any clue.
In the strongbox were some letters of reference and then the weird scribbles like 402 months, North Hollywood police, and Ben Perkins, an attorney. The job reference appeared fake, signed by someone who never existed. Velling couldn't recall any attorney called Ben Perkins. He then scanned Lori's photos on every facial recognition database he knew to track her criminal records.
But so far, there was no match, and people mostly concluded that Lori changed her identity to hide from someone or something. BUT FROM WHO AND WHAT? One day, the mystery climaxed when a woman reached out to Velling with disturbing details about Lori's true identity and her past.
THE HIDDEN IDENTITY BEHIND THAT FACE
Ms. Fitzpatrick, a California-based former nuclear physicist, contacted the investigator with a clue. According to her suspicion, Lori was related to the Cassidy family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Based on the derived evidence, Velling flew to Philadelphia and met the Cassidy clan and showed them some pictures of Lori he'd obtained from the Ruffs.
"My God! That's Kimberly!" one of the family members exclaimed in shock after seeing the photos. Velling then followed the clues to Deanne and James McLean, whose 18-year-old daughter Kimberly had voluntarily left her home and family in 1986. Before leaving, she'd even warned her mother not to try and look for her.
PERSONAL TRAGEDIES LEADING TO PARTED WAYS
Mrs. McLean never reported her daughter's disappearance for 30 years. She was crushed by the news of Lori, aka Kimberly's death. Meanwhile, Kimberly's brother Tom surmised the reasons that could have led her to part ways with their family.
According to him, his sister lived a normal life until their parents divorced. She reportedly never recovered from the turmoil in their parents' marriage and life with her stepdad.
Apparently, Kimberly stepped away from her family and went on to impersonate a long-dead Becky Sue Turner and then changed her identity to Lori Kennedy. She lived as Lori her entire life until she took her secret to the grave at 41, which was eventually unraveled several years after her death.
Do you think Lori, aka Kimberly's life, would've been smooth without any room for lies if she had not impersonated someone else? How would it affect Blake, and do you think it would be easy for him to move on and trust someone again?
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