Who killed Ruth Haut? Mourners, law enforcement still seek justice 27 years later

Mark Rivera, the son of Ruth Haut’s sister, Betty, holds an umbrella over Haut’s second sister, Barbara Madonna, center, and Jean Wagner, Haut’s girlfriend, at right.

Exactly 27 years ago on Tuesday, chiropractor Ruth Haut was abducted from her Kissimmee office and murdered.

Her friends and family gathered in the rain on that sad anniversary to remember Haut and to help bring her killer to justice.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office reopened the cold case in 2012, but who killed Ruth Haut and why remains a mystery.

“This case is very much active,” Sheriff Russ Gibson told those who gathered alongside Haut’s mourners and law enforcement Tuesday night.

“We’re trying to generate new leads. Somebody must have seen something,” Gibson said.

It was a heinous crime by all accounts.

Haut was killed after being taken from her office in Kissimmee. Her body was found the next day in a St. Cloud orange grove. She was stabbed to death and her throat slit.  

Jean Wagner, Haut’s girlfriend who shared a house with her at the time, called police when the chiropractor didn’t return home from a 7:30 p.m. appointment. She went to Haut’s office to look for her at around 10 p.m. There she discovered her girlfriend’s car in the parking lot with the keys inside, the office lights on and the building’s phone line cut.

By the next day, Haut’s murder was all over the news.

ATM receipts found next to Haut’s body led police to a bank in Vero Beach. A camera captured a picture of someone using Haut’s ATM card. Clad in a hooded sweatshirt pulled tight over their face, the person wore latex gloves and left no clues. No money could be taken from the account because of its low balance.

In 1995, investigators named Curtis J. Huff Jr. as the primary suspect in Haut’s murder. Huff grew up in Vero Beach and lived in St. Cloud at the time of the murder, according to police reports. By then, Huff was already incarcerated at the state prison in Hardee County for a 1993 attempted murder that occurred during a botched robbery at a Kissimmee motel.

Whether Huff is still a suspect is unknown.

Gibson and his detectives are keeping certain details close to the vest to preserve the investigation, he said. But they are encouraging anyone with any information they think could be relevant to the case to call the police.

“Someone might think what they know or what they saw is insignificant. But it’s not. And anyone with information can remain anonymous,” he said. “We don’t want them, we want their information. They can even remain anonymous and collect the reward if their information is helpful in solving the case.”

Wagner and Haut’s great-nephew Stephen Madonna – only age 4 at the time of her murder – joined forces last year to bring more attention to the case.

“It’s time this potential serial killer was off our streets,” Madonna said.

To report information regarding the abduction and murder of Ruth Haut, call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (8477) or go to crimeline.org/anonymous-tips.