Details of Disappearance Ruth was married to her second husband, Gary W. Homberg, at the time of her disappearance. Gary, a German immigrant, was the president of Millfab, a wood processing company in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Ruth worked for Millfab also and this was how they met. They married in 1976 and lived on forty acres of land on Leslie Road in Dane County, Wisconsin.
The marriage was troubled, and in 1982 Gary and Ruth's daughter-in-law, Sharon Jacobson Nordess, were having an affair. Nordess wanted to marry Gary, but he told her he could not get a divorce and began speculating as to how he might murder Ruth so he could be free to marry again.
Ruth was last seen on November 4, 1983. On the night of her disappearance, Ruth found out about Gary's affair from friends. She told them she planned to confront him about it. She was last seen when she and Gary left their friends' home to return to their own residence.
The next day at 5:00 p.m., Gary called the police to report his wife missing. He did this without checking with any of her family to find out if they had seen her. The following Monday, Gary told their cleaning lady not to come in because Ruth was out of town and he didn't know when she might return. The cleaning lady came the following week instead and noticed that only Ruth's jewelry was missing.
Gary claimed she took a watch, a diamond ring and a diamond bracelet with her when she left. In fact, he had the items sold or reset after her disappearance.
Ruth left behind all of her medication, clothing, cosmetics and personal grooming items, which is uncharacteristic of her. She was close to her children and to her elderly parents, and her loved ones didn't believe she would have left them behind. Both of her parents died in 1988.
Nordess later stated that at 6:30 a.m. on November 5, Gary called her and asked her to meet him at the Dane County Regional Airport. Gary parked Ruth's car in the long-term parking lot, got in Nordess's car and asked her to drive him home by a circuitous route.
Gary had been embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Millfab and he told Nordess that Ruth had threatened to tell the owner. He told Nordess to keep Ruth's disappearance a secret and stated he would dispose of her body where no one would find it.
A relative later found Ruth's car at the airport. Nordess got a divorce in 1984, but she didn't marry Gary. She later married another man, and Gary moved to California.
In 1986, Gary's embezzlement was discovered and he was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing $645,000 from Millfab. By this time, a grand jury was investigating Ruth's disappearance; authorities believed she had been murdered and Gary was the prime suspect.
Nordess was called to testify and stated she knew nothing about the disappearance. In 1988, however, Nordess went to investigators and admitted her testimony had been a lie. She told them about her encounter with Gary the day after Ruth's disappearance and agreed to testify against him in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Gary was convicted of first-degree murder in Ruth's case in 1989. The judge offered to reduce his sentence if he revealed the location of Ruth's body, but Gary said he couldn't do so because he was innocent. Investigators think he may have destroyed her body in Millfab's industrial furnace, which could generate heat up to 2,500 degrees.
Gary is still incarcerated and has never revealed his wife's whereabouts. Foul play is suspected in Ruth's case due to the circumstances involved.
- Dane County Sheriff's Department
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated February 19, 2019; height and weight added.