Deb Rudibaugh Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison For Her Son’s Murder

Deb Rudibaugh Confession, Sentence

Gunnison County Sheriff\'s Office Deb Rudibaugh confessed to killing her son and then hiding his body in a pile of manure.

Tonight, Dateline NBC investigates the disappearance and murder of Jake Millison and the case against three of his family members implicated in the crime: his mother, Deborah Rudibaugh, his sister, Stephaine Jackson, and his brother-in-law David Jackson.

The episode of Dateline will include interviews with friends of Millison including Derek Chodorowski, Rebecca Diani, Jared Hooks, Nate Lopez, Randi Martinez, Jake Pettegrew, Chris Rourke and more.

Jake Millison was last seen alive on May 15, 2015, according to the Atlantic. His group of close friends worried about him within a few days, but it was months before Millison’s family filed a missing persons report. Prior to filing the report, they had told the story that Millison had left to go to Reno, Nevada and left his phone behind, the same report stated.

Millison was missing for years before his body was located on the 7-11 Ranch where he lived and worked. Rudibaugh later confessed to killing her son and said she did so because she was scared for her own life, according to The Washington Post.


Rudibaugh Told Investigators She Felt Threatened By Her Son

The Washington Post reported that Rudibaugh told police she went into her son’s room while he was sleeping and shot him with a stainless steel Smith & Wesson .357 caliber revolver.

The Denver Post reported that an arrest affidavit said Rudibaugh told police she was afraid her son was going to kill her. The report said that she claimed she worked alone when she moved Millison’s body from his bed to a manure pile and then later relocated the body to a location where she thought the wild animals would not be able to get to him.

Police did not believe that the confession told the whole story, however, according to the Washington Post. At the time of the murder, Rudibaugh was dwarfed by her son, coming in at just 5 feet tall and under 100 pounds. Millison, on the other hand, was closer to 170 pounds at the time of his death. Rudibaugh was also 60 years old and recovering from a surgery that had taken place just a week before the murder.


Rudibaugh Pleaded Guilty & Was Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

Rudibaugh was arrested after her confession, and she was charged at the time with first-degree murder, according to The Washington Post. Rudibaugh took a plea deal, however, choosing to plead guilty to second-degree murder of her son. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Investigators believed that there was more than one motive for the murder. According to The Atlantic, Millison was set to inherit the 7-11 Ranch one day, but his family was not always happy with the way he kept the ranch running, and there are conflicting reports about what was actually written in Rudibaugh’s will.

Some reports, like the Crested Butte News article, state that just weeks before he was killed, Millison’s mother changed her will so that his sister, Stephaine, would inherit the ranch.

On top of the tensions about who would inherit the ranch, the Atlantic reported that there were other tensions between the family members, and Millison and his sister had never really gotten along. At one point, according to the report, Millison had filed an order of protection against his brother-in-law, though he later withdrew the complaint.


Rudibaugh Died of Breast Cancer After Her Sentencing

At the time of pleading guilty to the crime, Rudibaugh was dying of breast cancer, the Crested Butte News reported.

“I’m dying,” she said at the sentencing hearing. “Basically, I’m 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.”

The Gunnison County Times reported that Rudibaugh died due to stage 4 breast cancer while serving her sentence in November 2019.

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