John Carl Ruger, right, was the first homicide victim of the year in Manatee County. With him in this photo are his brother Dan Gayler and mother Sondra Ruger.
Like so many family members of victims of Manatee’s worst year ever for homicides in 2009, 68-year-old Sondra Ruger stood in front of her Bradenton home and reflected on her son John Carl Ruger’s life, and sudden violent death this morning. It was the first homicide in Manatee this year.
“He didn’t deserve to die,” Sondra Ruger said. “I have nothing to live for now. He was my baby boy.”
Palmetto police say Ruger, 44, was shot in a parking lot behind a piano store sometime between midnight and 4 a.m., but a possible motive has not been released.
Sondra Ruger said her son spent time in the Navy while in his 20s, and as a talented machinist worked several jobs in the Bradenton area over the years, including at Tropicana.
Two years ago Ruger moved to North Carolina and began working at a factory there. But that job dried up in the down economy, and Ruger returned to Bradenton to live with his mother and brother, Dan Gayler, who suffers from cancer and is confined to his bed.
“He had been unemployed for nine months. He looked for work everywhere,” Sondra Ruger said. “He had worked since he was 13 years old, so he started to get bored and got involved with some bad people.”
As police continue to investigate leads, Ruger said she has one hope.
“I have had eight heart surgeries and am up for another one, so I am dying, I know that,” she said. “I just want to see whoever did this pay before I die. I lost my baby boy, but that is nothing new in this town.”
--- Robert Napper