Woman who left man to die in California motel freed decades early over COVID concerns

U.S. & World

YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – Family members said they thought they had closure when the woman who killed their loved one was sentenced to prison nearly two decades ago. 

But her release is now opening up old wounds. 

“Loyal and funny,” Dena Love said about her brother, Kevin John Ruska Jr., who was also known to friends and family as Johnny.

“We were very close in age. Only around 16 months apart,” Love said. 

To even drive I-5 south without getting overly emotional knowing that there is a trail of his blood down that highway.

Dena Love

Former Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Ann Hurd remembers the case from 1998 vividly.

She said Ruska picked up Terebea Williams, who is now 44, to take her to work in the Tacoma, Washington, area. The Davis Enterprise reports that Williams was Ruska’s ex-girlfriend.

After a short argument, Williams forced Ruska, 23, into the trunk of the car and shot him. 

Hurd said Williams then drove hundreds of miles to Davis, California and bound Ruska to a chair in a motel, leaving him for dead. 

“To even drive I-5 south without getting overly emotional knowing that there is a trail of his blood down that highway,” Love said.

Williams was inevitably convicted of first-degree murder, among other charges and sentenced to 84 years to life in prison. 

But on Wednesday, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Williams was released from prison due to COVID-19 concerns. 

“(Williams was) only be behind bars for 22 years, less than the amount of time that he was alive,” Love said. 

“It’s heartbreak for the victim’s family because there’s no notice to the victims,” Assistant Chief Deputy DA Melinda Aiello said.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced he is working to release more than 8,000 inmates from prison by the end of August. But only those eligible can be released. 

It’s something Hurd said shouldn’t apply to Williams. 

“From my perspective, there should be a number of different considerations that should come into play,” Hurd said. 

Love said Williams’ release is a day they never thought they would be alive to see. 

“Shame on you for putting these victims and their families through this trauma all over again,” Love said.

A spokesperson with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued a statement about the release.

In an effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic, CDCR has implemented emergency measures to protect all those who live and work in our state prisons, and the community at-large, in a way that aligns public health and public safety.

Terebea Williams was released from CDCR custody on July 29 under Government Code section 8658 regulations, which allows the release of an incarcerated person in the case of an emergency that endangers their life. Prior to the release of an offender, CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services makes notification to registered victims and provides referrals to community-based mental health and wellness resources.


The CDCR spokesperson went on to say that the department gives prior notice to registered victims.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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