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The Case Of Adopted Arnold Archambeau and Ruby Bruguier

Arnold Archambeau, AKA Arnold Picotte, (20) and Ruby Bruguier (18) were a young Native American couple (of the Yankton Sioux tribe) living in South Dakota, and they had a child together in 1991 (a child they adored, and Ruby was still breastfeeding this child at the time of disappearance which just adds a layer of sadness to it). Arnold was really good at basketball, which impressed Ruby, and they became highschool sweethearts. Arnold was described as incredibly kind, polite, and thoughtful. He was very athletic and popular – he was actually crowned prom king in his senior year. Ruby was gentle but had a roaring sense of humor.

Ruby and Arnold were staying with Arnold’s aunt Karen when they disappeared. Karen had raised Arnold since his mother had died when he was 13. She was more than happy to have them and the baby living there. Ruby and Arnold’s lives revolved around schoolwork and taking care of a newborn, so on December 12, they decided to take their family’s advice and go have some fun.


December 12, 1992 – The couple went out drinking with Ruby’s cousin Tracy Dion (17), leaving their baby with Ruby’s uncle for the night so they could go have some fun with friends. Arnold shouldn’t have been driving (period) but wasn’t reported as being drunk, per se.They got in a car accident in their Chevrolet Monte Carlo (while Arnold was driving) after hitting some black ice. The car flipped onto its hood, and strangely, Arnold and Ruby abandoned their vehicle together with Tracy still inside. Tracy later told Unsolved Mysteries that while she did not see Arnold leave the car after the accident, he was not in it when it came to rest upside down. She says Bruguier was just shouting, “Oh my god!” while hitting the car; she managed to push one of the doors open and slide out. When Tracy went to do the same, the door was shut and she couldn’t get out. She was trapped inside the car until rescuers arrived some time later. Arnold and Ruby strangely did not attempt to get her out.

Deputy Sheriff Bill Youngstrom figured it’s a young couple who got a little too tipsy and drove under the influence, they’re scared of consequences, so they took off and will be back in a few days. He shrugged his shoulders about the whole ordeal, as did many of the deputies. Arnold and Ruby’s family knew something wasn’t right.

The sheriff was wrong. They didn’t come back.

January 1, 1993 – A witness claimed to have seen Arnold in a car accompanied by three other people on New Year’s Eve, almost three weeks after he was reported missing. Deputy Youngstrom believes that the sighting is credible. The witness talked to Arnold and knows him personally. There was no doubt in her mind that the man in the car was Arnold. Authorities brought the witness in for a polygraph exam. She passed. Later, the couple she identified as being in the backseat of the car also underwent a polygraph. They denied being in the car. However, they both failed their polygraph exams. They were questioned extensively, but maintained that they were not with Arnold that night. They claimed that they were at home.

Side note: Five other witnesses also came forward, claiming to have seen Arnold and Ruby after they disappeared. One witness reported seeing the couple get into a car after the accident; the car was then seen heading east. Another witness reported seeing Ruby on January 20, over a month after the accident, in nearby Wagner, South Dakota.

March 1993 – the bodies of Arnold & Ruby were found in a water-filled depression between the accident site and a disused railroad right-of-way a short distance from the road. The water was only 4ft deep. Along the roadside was a tuft of Ruby’s hair – it was in far better condition than it should have been if it had been there the entire time since the accident.

March 19, 1993 – a press conference takes place, led by state’s attorney Tim Whalen

Asked if he had taken pictures of the scene on the morning of the accident, Youngstrom said that he had but through a processing error the negatives were rendered useless. “It sounds like you’re trying to cover your butt,” Mike Archambeau (Arnold’s dad) said. “It sounds like you didn’t investigate in the first place.”

It was announced at the news conference that police had talked to a witness who had seen Archambeau and Bruguier get into a vehicle headed east on Route 281 shortly after the accident. It was not the only sighting of the two after their apparent disappearance; Ruby had reportedly been seen January 20 in Wagner“We’ve not ruled out foul play, but we haven’t ruled out other theories”, Whalen said.

The police made at least one big mistake: the two had not been placed on a national database of missing persons because authorities believed neither would have left the area. That sort of closed-mindedness is what leads to cases becoming cold in my opinion.

Cause of Death

The cause of death was determined to be exposure, but investigators found the deaths suspicious, believing that the two had not died right after the accident.

Deputies and the sheriff visited the scene in the intervening months, when the weather was warm and there was minimal snow; neither had seen the bodies at those times, and others who had been in the area made similar statements. A horseback rider who had gone through the area in late January 1993 was in search of his missing hubcap. With warmer weather, the depression was bare and dry. He didn’t find his hubcap, nor did he find the bodies of the couple that would be discovered just over a month later. The confusion surrounding this case is palpable.”I believe they were placed in the ditch after they passed away someplace else,” Westendorf maintained. “I do know that they weren’t there in January. It’s pretty hard to prove somebody was murdered when you don’t have any evidence to prove it.”Other aspects of the bodies suggested that the two might have died elsewhere, and perhaps at different times. Ruby’s body had to be identified by a tattoo as it was in an advanced state of decomposition; it was dressed in the clothes she was wearing the night of the accident, but without the shoes and glasses. Arnold’s body, found underwater in the depression, showed far less decomposition. A set of keys found in his pocket was never found to match any house or car in the area.

Law Enforcement’s Frustration

Local law enforcement who were involved in the investigation have stuck to the belief that at the very least the couple’s bodies were placed there after they died somewhere else, but other than that, they are bamboozled.

“There isn’t any indication of anything else,” said Special Agent Matt Miller of the bureau’s Sioux Falls field office. “All we know is that they appeared in the ditch and that was it.”

Deputy Youngstrom was further baffled by the discovery of two items that seemed to support the theory that Arnold and Ruby had not died in the ditch:*“We found a tuft of hair alongside the road. This hair was later determined by the forensic laboratory to belong to Ruby Bruguier. That hair couldn’t have stayed there for three months. In my opinion, it was when whoever brought the bodies back to the ditch, that’s when that piece of hair fell off of Ruby. At the time we pulled Arnold’s body from the ditch, I found a set of keys in his pocket, the keys were a car or vehicle key. And what appeared to be two house keys. I still have these keys in my possession. And to this day I have not found the vehicle nor that house that these keys fit.”*The New Mexico lab the police sent clothing to had “found some additional evidence”, but they could not elaborate on it. Several people had come to the sheriff’s office saying that they had seen Arnold and/or Ruby after the accident, and some of those people had taken polygraph tests. The sheriff had also gone down to Nebraska to speak with some former Lake Andes residents (I wish we knew more about this). The families had increased the reward money offered to $5,000 within a few months of finding the remains.

A cousin of Ruby’s submitted her case to Unsolved Mysteries, and their segment was taped as a re-enactment where Sheriff Youngstrom played himself. He said he badly wants the following 3 questions answered:

  1. How did they die, because they didn’t die at the scene?
  2. Where were they at?
  3. How did they get back [to the scene]

Where does that leave us?

Confused, ladies and gentlemen. It leaves us confused.

None of the leads generated by Unsolved Mysteries panned out. The FBI therefore took over the investigation of the deaths, but they closed the case 4 years later when they were unable to find any evidence that a crime occurred.

Something sketchy I cannot find much info on is that reportedly authorities have been unable to locate two men who were seen near the ditch just a few hours before the bodies were discovered. They were driving a dark, Blazer-style vehicle. Rumors also circulated that their deaths were the result of clan disputes, but I can’t find much on this either. I’ll update if I can find more. I could see that theory making sense – perhaps they got rammed off the road hence the accident, then abducted, and ransom perhaps didn’t work out bc criminals aren’t geniuses, so the plan went off-kilter maybe? I’m totally unsure. Would like to hear your thoughts.

Arnold and Ruby and their baby Erika didn’t deserve this. I hope Erika is living her best life (she got adopted by Ruby’s mom).

About Fehmeeda Farid Khan

A freelancer, blogger, content writer, translator, tour consultant, proofreader, environmentalist, social mobilizer, poetess and novelist. As a physically challenged person, she extends advocacy on disability related issues. She's masters in Economics and Linguistics along with B.Ed.

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