State

Official: Ex-NIU professor prime suspect in murder-suicide

P.S. Ruckman
P.S. Ruckman

CHERRY VALLEY – Winnebago County Deputy Sheriff Mike Schultz confirmed Monday that P.S. Ruckman, a former Northern Illinois University professor, is the prime suspect in a double murder-suicide that left both of his sons shot dead Saturday.

“It’s a horrible, disgusting tragedy,” Schultz said. “It’s a pretty cut-and-dried investigation, as to whodunit. It was all contained within the house.”

Ruckman, 58, was found dead about 7 a.m. Saturday by Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies in a bedroom in his house in the 4600 block of Chandan Woods Drive, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. The bodies of his two sons, Christopher Ruckman, 14, and John Ruckman, 12, were found in separate bedrooms with gunshot wounds.

A firearm was found in the house, said Schultz, who declined to reveal any further details about the gun or where it was found.

“It was a firearm,” he said. “I’m not ready to get further into it at this time.”

P.S. Ruckman had been a political science professor at Rock Valley College since 1998, but he was an assistant professor in public law from 1991 to 1998 at NIU, according to his LinkedIn page, which said he was the department’s nominee for the university’s Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching award three of the six years he taught there, and that he served as the Political Science Department’s director of undergraduate studies from 1996 to 1997.

NIU spokeswoman Lisa Miner said Ruckman taught two online courses for NIU – one in spring 2015 and a course in American presidency in spring 2017. She said that in both of those instances, P.S. Ruckman was a temporary adjunct instructor.

“NIU was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless tragedy involving former NIU employee P.S. Ruckman and his two young children,” a statement from NIU reads. “Our hearts and thoughts are with their mother, family, friends and the Rockford community.”

P.S. Ruckman had appeared as a commentator on such networks as BBC, PBS and MSNBC, and has been quoted in multiple political reports, including in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and Associated Press.

He wrote extensively on federal executive clemency, and was editor of the Pardon Power blog at pardonpower.com.

Schultz said that as the sheriff’s office is “dotting the T’s and crossing the I’s” on its investigation, investigators are going through every electronic device found in the house for information.

According to court records, Ruckman and his wife, Heidi Ruckman, were divorced in August. Heidi Ruckman is listed as a partner and a civil defense lawyer with a major law firm with Chicago and Rockford offices.

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