P.S. Ruckman Jr., a prominent political science professor known for his writings on presidential pardons, and his two sons were found shot to death inside the Ruckman home in a suburban Illinois community.
Ruckman also went by the name of Peter Ruckman. My Statesman reports that the bodies are those of the professor and his two sons, and authorities are calling the deaths a murder suicide. Ruckman and his wife, Heidi Ruckman, were recently divorced.
Authorities identified the deceased boys as Christopher Ruckman, 14, and John Ruckman, 12,
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Father & His Sons Died of Gunshot Wounds
When deputies arrived at the home in Cherry Valley, Illinois, they discovered the father shot to death in one room and his two sons shot to death in separate bedrooms. The village is within the Rockford, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area.
“The preliminary findings of this investigation indicate that this was a murder-suicide and there is no risk of danger to the public,” the sheriff’s department wrote on Facebook.
According to rrstar.com, the bodies were found in bedrooms inside the home in the 4600 block of Chandan Woods Drive.
“Deputies made entry to the house and made the discovery. There’s no reason for the public to be concerned, there’s no mysterious bad person roaming the neighborhood. Everything was contained to this home,” said Deputy Chief Mike Schultz of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office.
“Although still an ongoing investigation, detectives believe the father killed the two boys and then shot himself,” reported WIFR.com. The children’s ages and names were not given, but WIFR said “the older one was an outstanding musician, often traveling to Memphis to play with bigger bands and the younger one being a great baseball player.” The Facebook page of the boys’ mother, Heidi Ruckman, has been deleted.
2. Ruckman Wrote Extensively on Presidential Pardon Powers
Ruckman, 58, was the editor of a blog called pardonpower.com. He was also the author of books or forthcoming author of books on the topic, including, Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy (Forthcoming), and Guilty No More (with George Lardner, Forthcoming).
Ruckman’s website lists a series of media appearances, showing he was frequently turned to as an expert on the topic. For example, he discussed clemency and the end of President Obama’s presidency on California Public Radio in November 2016. Many of his appearances came on public radio stations throughout the country, including National Public Radio. On Aug. 8, 2016, he noted, “Rush Limbaugh references Prof. Ruckman.”
The audio clip from Limbaugh features Limbaugh criticizing Obama’s commutations. Limbaugh says, using Limbaugh’s own words, that Ruckman had found that “Obama has released a total of 562 criminals more than the previous nine presidents combined.” Ruckman also appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC to discuss cancelled pardons.
His other publications included such topics as “The Study of Mercy: What Political Scientists Know (and Don’t Know) About the Pardon Power. University of St. ThomasLaw Review 783-837″ and “Seasonal Clemency Revisited: An Empirical Analysis” and “Inside Lincoln’s Clemency Decision Making.” He also presented many such papers at panels and conferences throughout the country.
Ruckman also appeared on/was quoted in many of the country’s top media outlets, from The Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times to MSNBC to Politico to History Detectives on PBS.
3. Ruckman Taught at Two Universities & Had a National Reputation
Ruckman’s website says he was a Professor of Political Science, Rock Valley College and Instructor, Northern Illinois University. According to his website, he taught the following classes: American Government, Introduction to the Legal System, The American Presidency, International Relations, Introduction to Political Philosophy, and The American Presidency.
His LinkedIn page says he was also currently teaching “an online course on The American Presidency (POLS 308) via Blackboard. Also fund (in part) the ‘Kevin McKeough Award,’ given to an outstanding undergraduate student each year. Prof. McKeough was a colleague, and dear friend.”
Ruckman was a “nationally renowned political expert,” according to Rrstar.com.
According to his LinkedIn page, “P.S. Ruckman, Jr. is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on federal executive clemency (the pardon power of the president) and serves as Editor of the “Pardon Power Blog” (http://www.PardonPower.com). His research is published in such professional journals as the Journal of Politics, Social Science Quarterly, White House Studies and Presidential Studies Quarterly and is currently cited in more than 100 books and professional journals as well as dozens of law review articles and government reports.”
The page continues that Ruckman “is consulted by ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and FOX News, as well as the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Bloomberg News, The Hill, The Daily Kos, Reason and Huffington Post. He serves as Editor of the “Ultimate Political Science Links” page (http://UPSLinks.com) a resource employed by political scientists, colleges and universities world-wide. ”
4. The Ruckmans Were Recently Divorced
Ruckman and his wife, Heidi Ruckman, were divorced in August 2017, an action initiated in July. Heidi Ruckman is a civil defense attorney with a major law firm with Chicago and Rockford offices.
According to her law firm website, Heidi Ruckman “concentrates her practice in civil defense litigation, including trucking and auto litigation, premises liability, business disputes, and the defense of asbestos claims. Her clients have included trucking companies and carriers, mortgage companies, construction and excavation companies, gas station owners, disposal companies, farm chemical companies, automobile dealerships, and real estate companies.”
Authorities told local media it was her weekend for custody and that police had received no prior signs of problems at the home.
5. Ruckman Was Trained in Florida & Received Many Awards
Ruckman’s LinkedIn page lists many awards, including, “Nominee, Faculty of the Year Nominee, Faculty of the Year Nominee, Faculty of the Year Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers Nominee, Faculty of the Year Nominee, Faculty of the Year Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers Best New Adviser, Rock Valley College Department Nominee, Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award Department Nominee, Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.”
He also served as a visiting professor at the University of Memphis and as an assistant professor of public law at Northern Illinois University. He was part of a research grant funded project at Florida State University, in which he was a “research Assistant to Burton M. Atkins: National Science Foundation funded project. Coded data related to party capability in British appellate courts. Research led to publications in Law and Society Review and the American Journal of Political Science.”
He received his Ph.D in political science and government at Florida State University in 1991. His doctoral dissertation was on “Statistical analysis of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices.”