LeeAnn Wilmoth found safe in Munising, Eric Ruska arrested

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MUNISING - After four full days of a U.P.-wide search, a missing woman is safe tonight while her alleged captor is in police custody.

LeeAnn Marie Wilmoth and Eric Scott Ruska were found early this morning at the Shell (East) Gas Station in Munising. The investigation began Monday when police received reports that Wilmoth and Ruska did not return from a fishing trip.

"During the course of this week, we had several tips; we interviewed numerous people, both within the family and the community and their employers," said Detective First Lt. Robert Pernaski of the Michigan State Police Special Investigation Division. "We narrowed down their location into about three or four different counties within the central upper Michigan area and the culmination was early this morning at 4:25 when Mr. Ruska and Ms. Wilmoth were found at the Shell station in Munising."

Police knew of Ruska's criminal history, being a convicted 3rd tier sex offender. He was arrested and convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

Early this morning, officers dressed in plain clothing were in Munising conducting surveillance on a number of 24-hour businesses.

"We knew that there were only so many 24-hour stations available in the central U.P., so we staffed them with undercover officers- we did a surveillance on those businesses," said Pernaski. "When they came, their vehicle was immediately identified. I mean the plate number was the same, the description and everything else. He came out of the vehicle, she stayed inside and immediately we knew it was them."

Ruska was placed under arrest while Wilmoth was taken to U.P. Health System - Marquette for evaluation.

Officers with the Michigan State Police are thanking the public for the outpouring of support.

"We had, as the press release indicates, just numerous agencies involved with this that helped as if it was their own investigation," said Pernaski. "We had people calling very good, quality tips in and people were excited when we were getting closer or when we thought we were getting closer. The overall support and assistance that we received from the public and these other agencies is just overwhelming."

Michigan State Police say Ruska is being held for questioning and the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, private citizens joined together to establish a reward of more than $3,000. They told Local 3 News they wanted to do whatever they could to help get LeeAnn home safely.

LeeAnn's family also thanked God, the police, and the many people who called in tips to numerous law enforcement agencies.

The statement continues with, "There are no words to express how extremely grateful we are for your tireless efforts to locate LeeAnn. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to the residents of the Upper Peninsula for searching along side us, we were truly humbled by the amount of strangers willing to saddle up and ride out in search of LeeAnn."

The family also had a message to Eric Ruska, saying they "will make it our mission that you never have the chance to harm another innocent woman again."


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