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The fall of a man who once served the people

Ken Ruffing once enjoyed the perks and privileges afforded members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies arrested him in the woods after hunting him down like a dog.

Deputies went to his mother’s home, where Ruffing now resides, after he failed to appear for numerous child support hearings. The $34,750 he owes in support payments could buy a 2011 Chevy Equinox at Century III Chevrolet in West Mifflin, the community where he lives and which he used to represent in Harrisburg.

Ruffling fled to a wooded area behind the house as deputies arrived, but he was caught after a brief chase. That moment, his sixth arrest for child support issues over the past four years, represented perhaps his deepest descent yet from the lofty heights he once enjoyed.

“I know the guy fairly well, but what brought all this on, I have no idea,” said C.L. Jabbour, the former Allegheny County councilman from West Mifflin. “I can tell you he was a good legislator. He brought money into his district.”

A former insurance agent, Ruffing, 44, vaulted to the Legislature in 1999, succeeding the late, legendary Rep. Richard Olasz.

Jabbour’s opinion of his tenure aside, Ruffing’s years at the Capitol were undistinguished until he voted for the notorious and subsequently repealed 2005 legislative pay raise.

Criticized for that vote during his 2006 re-election bid, Ruffing claimed he donated his additional salary to an autism charity. When he declined to identify the organization, suspicious voters declined to re-elect him, casting him aside in the Democratic primary for current Rep. Bill Kortz.

Ruffing later admitted that the “charity” he aided was one of his two sons. The money went toward school tuition for the boy, who is autistic.

Since his defeat, Ruffing’s life has grown increasingly turbulent.

Shortly after losing the primary, Ruffing was charged with DUI after witnesses saw his vehicle hit a parked car at a church festival in Munhall.

His wife, Karen, obtained a protection from abuse order against him, and the couple subsequently divorced.

Ruffing’s West Mifflin house was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 2007.

Ruffing’s attempt to build a new life after his marriage crumbled proved tumultuous as well, according to Allegheny County court records.

Ruffing moved in with a Whitaker woman, Pamela Robes, 38, who obtained a protection from abuse order against him last July. In the protection petition, she accused Ruffing of twisting her arm and throwing her down.

“He threatened to destroy me and have my kids taken off me,” Robes stated in the petition.

Jabbour, who said he believes what Ruffing needs most right now is a regular job, expressed regret over the former legislator’s train-wreck existence.

“I’m sad, not only for him and his (ex)-wife, but also for his kids,” Jabbour said. “I pray to God he turns things around.”

That prospect increasingly seems unlikely. For a man just apprehended in the woods, Ruffing gives every indication of still being hopelessly lost in them.


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