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Ranch murder update; arrest timing explained

What took so long to make an arrest?

By Kristy Acuff

In the wake of the recent arrests of accused murderers Deborah Rudibaugh and Stephaine Jackson of Gunnison, some have wondered why, if investigators obtained Rudibaugh’s confession in July, 2017, it took nearly eight months before she was arrested.

According to Gunnison County undersheriff Mark Mykol, “Even though a person confesses, that has to be corroborated. A person may confess for numerous reasons.” During the eight-month period, the investigation team waited for test results for many pieces of evidence collected on the ranch and continued to conduct multiple interviews with involved parties.

Rudibaugh was arrested March 2 and her daughter, Stephaine Jackson, was arrested on February 28. Both were charged with first-degree murder of Jacob Millison, Rudibaugh’s son and Jackson’s brother. David Jackson, Stephaine’s husband, was arrested March 6 on charges of accessory to murder in the first degree. Millison, who had been living with Rudibaugh on a ranch near Parlin, went missing in May 2015 and a team of investigators eventually found his remains buried in a horse corral on the property in July 2017.

During subsequent interviews, the 68-year old Rudibaugh confessed to shooting Millison in the head while he slept and then disposing of the body by herself using various farm implements. She claimed he was abusive toward her and was upset because she cut him out of her will, leaving the 700-acre ranch to his sister Stephaine and a step-brother. In her confession, Rudibaugh repeatedly insisted that Stephaine knew nothing about the murder, but her story was inconsistent and left investigators questioning her claims.

“We looked at the whole picture and the possibilities of the person confessing actually being 100 percent honest,” Mykol wrote in an email. “Rudibaugh kept changing her story, leaving us to piece together the crime.”

When asked whether they were concerned that Rudibaugh or Stephaine might flee after police discovered Millison’s remains on the ranch, Mykol insists it was not a major concern. “We were not actively keeping them under surveillance, but if they were to flee during the investigation, that would not look good for them,” Mykol wrote. “Throughout the investigation, we were always aware where the people of interest were because we conducted a lot of interviews and there weren’t many days that passed before our offices were contacting one of them for an interview.”

Rudibaugh is currently being held without bond in Gunnison Detention Center and is scheduled to appear in court for a status conference April 11. Stephaine Jackson is being held on $500,000 bond and will appear in court on April 13 for a preliminary demand hearing. David Jackson will appear in court on March 27 for a bond hearing. He is currently being held on $100,000 bond.

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