Rudibaugh sentenced to 40 years for killing her son in 2015

Claims her daughter not involved in the murder or cover-up

By Mark Reaman

Acknowledging that she would die behind bars “no matter what,” Deborah Rudibaugh on Monday accepted a plea agreement and again admitted in Gunnison District Court that she shot and killed her son Jacob Millison while he slept.

The plea agreement was signed Monday, May 13, one day after Mother’s Day, and called for a 40-year prison sentence for committing second-degree murder, a Class 2 felony.

Rudibaugh, who is struggling with a cancer diagnosis, also told the court that her daughter, Stephaine Jackson, had nothing to do with the murder or cover-up. Jackson is awaiting trial on first-degree murder, accessory to murder and other charges related to the incident. Her husband, David, is also awaiting trial. Both trials are scheduled for later this year, with Stephaine’s trial slated for late September.

“I admit that I did shoot Jake, but I felt it was in self defense because of the imminent, impending threat by him,” the 69-year-old Rudibaugh stated Monday afternoon. “It was hanging over me to the point where I could not sleep so I took matters into my own hands. Yes, I did shoot Jake. So yes, I feel it is right to punish me. I feel this is the best outcome I could have.”

Millison was shot in the top of the head as he slept in May 2015. He was buried in a corral on the 300-acre family ranch near Parlin. The ranch appears to have been a cause of tension between family members as Rudibaugh changed her will at one point to exclude Millison from inheriting any portion of the $3 million property. Jake’s friends reported him missing later that month.

Wearing an orange sweater, Rudibaugh entered the courtroom on Monday in a wheelchair with an oxygen tube in her nose. She took her place by her defense attorney, Randy Canney, who had gone over last-minute changes to the plea agreement before Rudibaugh came before the judge. Rudibaugh answered several questions from judge Steven Patrick, who asked her if she understood the ramifications of entering a plea agreement. He also asked her why she would do so.

“Basically it is the same no matter what,” Rudibaugh explained, because Patrick had last month rejected her request that she be able to mount a case that she killed Millison in self-defense. Patrick had determined that self-defense was not applicable in this case.

“I’m dying,” added Rudibaugh, referring to her terminal breast cancer diagnosis. “Basically, I am sentenced to death no matter what, if I can’t use a self defense plea. It’s doubtful I’ll have another six months. That definitely has a bearing on everything. By the time we file and re-file motions I’d be gone anyway.”

Despite Rudibaugh’s contention, authorities have indicated they believe that Rudibaugh’s daughter Stephaine and her husband, David, were active in planning the murder and covering up Millison’s death. There have been questions about how a sick, elderly woman could clean up the murder scene.

The frail Rudibaugh, who had already been diagnosed with cancer, said at the time of the shooting, she went into Millison’s bedroom early in the morning of May 16, 2015 and shot him in the head with her Smith & Wesson revolver. Over the next two days she claimed to have wrapped the 170-pound body in plastic, moved him downstairs and outside to the horse corral. She touted that she used “Yankee ingenuity” and a front-end loader to bury him in a pile of horse manure.

On Monday, Rudibaugh again claimed her daughter was not at all involved with the murder. “I considered this to be a case of self defense,” she emphasized. “And I want to state that my daughter, Stephaine Jackson, had nothing to do with Jake’s death or subsequent cover-up. I deeply regret any harm I’ve caused.”

Prosecutor Jessica Waggoner said, despite Rudibaugh’s entering a plea agreement, the court should not forget Millison. “Given the amount of coverage and media in this case, let’s remember who the real victim was. Friends say Jacob Millison was calm and friendly and intelligent. These friends fought for Jacob while Deborah Rudibaugh left him in a manure pile,” she said.

As part of the plea agreement, Rudibaugh will be credited with 437 days for time served. Defense attorney Canney said while Rudibaugh could go to the Colorado Department of Corrections, having her serve her time in the Gunnison County jail had been contemplated and discussed.

District attorney Dan Hotsenpiller said he was not sure where Rudibaugh would serve her time. “The plea agreement did not address this issue, and we really can’t control it,” he explained. “It is likely she will be transferred to the Department of Corrections in the near future.”

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