The bodies of a popular local couple, Thomas Ruttle and Julia Holmes, were discovered under strange circumstances in their Limerick, Ireland, home on May 18, but now, almost three months later, how they died and why remains a total mystery to police there — and probably will for at least another month, when authorities finally have scheduled an official inquest.
The couple's badly decomposed bodies of Ruttle, a beloved local beekeeper, and Holmes — whose own life story was far more mysterious and bizarre — were found in their upstairs bedroom by a gang of burglars who broke into what they thought was the vacant home, but were so spooked by what they found inside that the crooks themselves called the cops.
The burglars were later questioned by investigators and cleared of any involvement in the deaths of Ruttle, 56, and Holmes, 63.
So, what did kill the couple? Investigators and medical examiners remain stumped. Original reports said that bottles containing some sort of poison were found near the bodies, but when toxicology tests were completed late last month, the results showed nothing definitive.
A gun, reportedly a licensed,.22 caliber rifle owned by Ruttle, was also found near the bodies — but police said that the weapon had not been fired. Investigators have looked into the possibilities of carbon monoxide poisoning and drug overdose, but have not been able to prove either.
Notes were found in the home, but police have not released the full contents of those notes. Acording to media reports, both notes instructed anyone who found the bodies not to revive them if either were found alive.
But there have been conflicting reports — as there have been in many aspects of the macabre story — as to whether Ruttle and Holmes each wrote their own notes, or whether Holmes was the author of both.
Authorities have not determined if the deaths were a murder-suicide committed by one of the two, a suicide pact, an accident, or a double homicide committed by an unknown third person. Sources told the Irish Examiner that "there was no evidence of violence" at the scene where the bodies of Holmes and Ruttle were discovered.
What police do know is that, given the disturbing background of Julia Holmes, anything is possible.
Julia Holmes was only the latest of what police believe were as many as 40 aliases used throughout her life by the woman born Cecelia Julia McKitterick in County Tyrone, Ireland.
A serial con artist and bigamist — whose stepdaughter from a previous sham marriage in Texas described her as "a violent, manipulative liar" — McKitterick, aka Holmes, had apparently targeted Ruttle as her latest victim. It also remains unclear whether the couple were ever actually married, though Holmes told neighbors that they had tied the knot overseas.
After the couple were found, police learned that Holmes had attempted to sell Ruttle's home without his knowledge, apparently planning to take the proceeds and flee to Spain, and that she stiffed local contractors out of more than €50,000 ($55,000) for upgrades to the couple's house.
She was wanted in connection with a $500,000 land fraud case in Texas, after leaving her native Ireland to escape a $28,000 fraud case in 2011.
Ruttle was said to be blissfully ignorant of his wife's sordid and dangerous past when the couple met online. How much of her background he may have later uncovered, and whether those possible discoveries led to his death, also remains murky.
Though Thomas Ruttle was laid to rest with a widely attended funeral in June, the body of Holmes remains unclaimed. Her own son refused to take possession of the body, condemning his mother for what he called her "wicked and selfish life." She will likely be buried in an unmarked, pauper's grave, authorities now say.
[Image via the Irish Examiner]