Who Inherited the 7-11 Ranch in Colorado?

A Tragic Tale of Inheritance and Murder

Inheritance disputes can be messy, but they rarely result in something as extreme as murder. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what transpired at the 7-11 Ranch in Gunnison County, Colorado.

A Slice of Paradise in the Rocky Mountains

Nestled on the Western Slope of the majestic Rocky Mountains, the 7-11 Ranch was a 700-acre property owned by Marion “Rudy” Rudibaugh. A resilient World War II veteran, Rudy purchased the ranch in 1964 and transformed it into a picturesque getaway. The ranch offered a range of amenities, including rental cabins, campsites, horseback riding, and guided hunting services.

A Dream Come True and a Forbidden Love

Deborah Millison and her family migrated from Ohio to Gunnison County in the mid-’80s, driven by Deborah’s lifelong dream of living in this enchanting part of Colorado. As a child, she had fallen in love with the area’s ranches and the sight of horses roaming freely. Embarking on a new chapter of her life, Deborah took a job at the 7-11 Ranch, where she eventually became Rudy’s most trusted confidante. In 1993, Deborah divorced her husband and married her boss, despite a considerable age gap of 25 years.

Sibling Rivalry and an Untimely Demise

Deborah’s daughter, Stephaine, and son, Jacob (known as Jake), grew up on the ranch and received homeschooling from their dedicated mother. Stephaine, at the age of 18, met David Jackson, a young man associated with a traveling carnival that had made a stop in Gunnison. After a whirlwind romance, Stephaine and David tied the knot in 2003. Rudy generously gifted Stephaine $80,000 from her inheritance to purchase a home in Denver. With his sister now married and gone, Jake shouldered more responsibilities at the ranch.

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Sadly, Rudy passed away in November 2009 at the age of 85. Deborah inherited the 7-11 Ranch, but the loss of Rudy took a toll on her, leading the once-thriving business to falter.

A Family in Turmoil

In 2012, Stephaine and David returned to Gunnison County with their young son. While they joined the workforce in the local community, tensions began to rise between Stephaine and Jake. Sibling rivalry ensued, with both vying for control and the ultimate inheritance of the 7-11 Ranch.

Jake, believing he had a stronger claim to the property, felt resentful, as Rudy had given a substantial sum to Stephaine and David for their new house. This simmering bitterness escalated in January 2013 when David allegedly brandished a firearm during an argument with Jake. Although Jake sought a restraining order against David, it was never enforced, as reported by the Gunnison Country Times.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Jake Millison

The last confirmed sighting of Jake occurred on May 15, 2015, when he went to the movies with friends. He had plans to meet up with others the next day but failed to show up. Concerned, friends Randy Martinez and Nate Lopez visited the 7-11 Ranch on May 20, 2015, to speak with Deborah Rudibaugh.

Deborah told them that Jake was on a trip with his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym. However, Martinez discovered discrepancies in her story when he spoke to Jake’s MMA sparring partners, who revealed there was no such trip planned. Additionally, they confirmed that Jake was injured and unable to train. These inconsistencies raised suspicions among Jake’s friends.

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Worried about their friend’s sudden disappearance, Martinez and Lopez promptly filed a missing person’s report. Detectives initially took Deborah at her word when they spoke with her.

Unsettling Revelations and an Elusive Truth

Concerned friends of Jake continued to collaborate with the authorities, filing additional missing persons reports. Finally, in August 2015, Deborah filed her own missing persons report for her son. She informed detectives that Jake struggled with substance abuse, specifically cocaine and steroids, and associated with a dangerous crowd. Deborah even claimed that Jake had taken a book from her titled “How to Disappear Without Leaving a Trace.”

A Facebook support group called “Where is Jake Millison?” was formed by his friends. They shared photographs alleging that David Jackson was riding Jake’s cherished Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle and attempting to sell his other bikes. This unexpected development perplexed not only Jake’s friends but also law enforcement.

Given the information provided to the police, which suggested that Jake had merely gone on a trip, it made no sense for David to be using his vehicles. Agent Jack Haynes from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation expressed his doubts regarding the motorcycle incident.

A Shocking Confession and a Web of Lies

In 2016, Deborah was diagnosed with Stage Four Breast Cancer, prompting investigators to expedite their search for answers. In July 2017, they obtained a search warrant for the 7-11 Ranch. During the search, they discovered Jake’s lifeless body near a corral, as reported by KCNC-TV.

Overwhelmed with guilt or fearing her time was running out due to her illness, Deborah promptly confessed to killing her son. She admitted to investigators, “I shot him in the head.” Deborah claimed she executed the act in the early morning hours of May 16, 2015, while Jake slept peacefully. Displaying what she called “Yankee ingenuity,” she moved his body outside and concealed it within a pile of manure.

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According to Deborah, the motive behind this horrific act stemmed from the ongoing conflict over who should inherit the 7-11 Ranch. She alleged that Jake had threatened her on the night of May 15, 2015. Feeling cornered, Deborah made a dreadful decision—either her life or her son’s.

However, the police raised several doubts regarding her account, especially concerning how she disposed of Jake’s body. Detectives found it implausible that a petite woman weighing less than 90 pounds could single-handedly remove a body weighing nearly 190 pounds and drag it outside. Agent Haynes firmly believed that Deborah did not act alone, stating, “If she did it, she did not do it alone.”

A Web of Deception Unraveled

Detectives questioned Stephaine and David Jackson extensively. While both denied any knowledge of Jake’s murder, a lie detector test indicated they were being untruthful, as reported by The Denver Post. Authorities also obtained Stephaine’s cell phone records, which revealed that she sent a text message reading, “It’s time to play!” at 3:17 a.m. on May 16, 2015, deleting it just six minutes later.

To compound the suspicions, Stephaine later posted a Facebook message that alluded to receiving fantastic news that made her want to scream with joy.

In January 2018, during questioning, David implicated his wife, hinting that Stephaine might have been involved in the crime. The Washington Post quoted him saying, “Honestly after this and all of that, I have a strong feeling it could have been Steph.”

Justice Served

In March 2018, Deborah Rudibaugh, Stephaine Jackson, and David Jackson were arrested for the murder of Jake Millison. It was believed that Deborah pulled the trigger, while the Jacksons assisted in disposing of the body. Deborah faced charges of first-degree murder, tampering with a deceased human body, and abuse of a corpse. Stephaine and David were charged with being accessories to first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

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In May 2019, Deborah Rudibaugh pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 40-year prison sentence. Unfortunately, she passed away in November while in custody at the age of 70.

David Jackson pleaded guilty and received a 10-year prison sentence. He will be eligible for parole in June 2023 when he is 37 years old. Stephaine Jackson, now 36, pleaded guilty to a single count of tampering with a deceased human body and was given the maximum sentence of 24 years in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2029.

For more gripping true crime stories like this, tune in to “Snapped” on Oxygen every Sunday at 6/5c or stream episodes on the official 5 WS website.

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