Missing family found safe in Florida

Ozark County Sheriff Cass Martin said the Ruggles family, an Ozark County husband and wife and their 5-month-old child baby, who went missing last month, was found safe in Florida, in a short-term rental home.

Ozark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Justin Brown, who led efforts to find the missing family, said he has spent at least half of every work day on the case since the family went missing. May 5.

Brown said the Ruggles family was found after obtaining the family’s bank statements and found a charge the day he obtained the statements.

Brown contacted the owner of the company behind the card, who provided officers with a cell phone number for the family which was different from the one they had used to try to locate the family.

The new cell phone was sent to a general location in Florida, but officers had to narrow the area in order to find them.

Because a Missouri judge cannot issue a search warrant for Florida, Brown sought help from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, which worked with the Secret Service to draft documents that acted as a sort of warrant. search for the area. This led to a more accurate location at an AirBnB short-term rental home, Brown said.

In order to avoid spooking the family or others, the FBI traveled with local law enforcement in that area to the home under the pretense that a noise complaint had been filed in the neighborhood. Officers made contact with the family and found that they were safe.

Brown said the family allegedly told officers they didn’t know anyone was looking for them, but assured officers they were safe and in good health.

“Sergeant. [Justin] Brown worked very hard and diligently on this,” the sheriff said.

After each reported sighting, Brown endeavored to either follow up on his own or contact law enforcement in those respective areas to ask them to follow up on the tip.

The OCSD thanked the many other agencies and private citizens who were involved in locating the Ruggles.

“There’s no way we could have done it without them. No way,” Brown said.

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