A Lebanon woman being beaten and strangled by her ex-boyfriend on Wednesday was saved by a Las Vegas company that made a sales call to her, according to police logs.
After the victim’s phone picked up in her pocket for whatever reason, a worker overheard the attack and the company called local authorities.
Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley said the woman didn’t intentionally answer her phone. “At the very least it was lucky. At the most it might have been providence,” he added.
Walter Warren Ruck, 33, of Lebanon, was charged with fourth-degree assault and strangulation on Thursday in Linn County Circuit Court. Both crimes are misdemeanors.
Judge David Delsman gave Ruck a conditional release based on his lack of criminal history. He cannot possess firearms per terms of the release.
The incident was reported at 3:10 p.m. at Ruck’s residence in the 31800 block of Eastway Street.
Mario Gonzalez, president and CEO of Americare Health, said that one of his sales associates was doing follow up with a customer and told him she had a concerning call.
“She said she heard the lady being beaten,” Gonzalez said. “I jumped on the phone. I could hear the lady screaming and getting hit over and over again, her screaming and begging for her life.”
Gonzalez had the woman’s address from previous sales, and searched online to find the number for the Lebanon Police Department.
Since the incident was happening outside city limits, the agency transferred him to Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
Gonzalez continued to listen to the assault for 15-20 minutes until deputies arrived and arrested Ruck. He said the woman was being beaten most of that time.
When deputies came to the residence, they knocked on the front door repeatedly, and could heard a woman calling for help, then her voice being muffled and a male telling her to be quiet, Riley said.
The lawmen then entered the unlocked front door of the residence, believing the woman’s life was in jeopardy, he added.
Ruck was restraining the woman, then let her go, and she bolted out the front door.
According to police reports, Ruck pushed the victim onto a bed and put his hand over her mouth and nose. He also tried to smother the woman, who suffers from asthma, by pushing pillows and blankets on top of her.
The victim, 33 years old, told investigators that she had moved out of the house two days earlier because of ongoing fights. Ruck lured her back on Wednesday by saying that he was sick and needed help, police logs indicate.
When the woman arrived, she saw that Ruck wasn’t as sick as he claimed and he had a rifle out, which he normally has put away securely, Riley said.
At one point during the struggle, Ruck put the rifle barrel up to his face, put the butt against the victim’s chest and told her to pull the trigger, he added.
Riley credited Gonzalez and Americare with helping out. “If this guy hadn’t have gone the extra mile, we’re not sure what would have happened. … A lot of people would just hang up,” he said.
Domestic violence situations can escalate over time, and sometimes turn into murder-suicides, Riley said. And authorities had been to the address several times for previous domestic violence cases, he said.
During Thursday’s court hearing, Prosecutor Michael Wynhausen said Ruck said the victim was having mental health issues, that he was trying to help her and that she had fallen.
“I think Mr. Ruck is highly unstable,” Wynhausen said, in asking for security in the case.
Ruck responded that he was a military veteran and that he wasn’t unstable. His next court appearance was scheduled for Feb. 17.
Gonzalez told Riley he would come to court if necessary.
“One of my managers was smart enough to hit the record button (on the phone call.) We actually have the call recorded, and we will be able to forward that to police. Hopefully that will help in the prosecution,” Gonzalez said.
“I’m just glad she’s okay,” he added. “I’m just happy I was able to intervene.”