Clutching a poem and a picture of his stepdaughter, Gary Ruggles struggles to accept the news he received Monday morning that James Pressler will never stand trial for his alleged crime. Ruggles found out Pressler, the man accused of killing his stepdaughter died Sunday night from a heart attack. Pressler had complained of chest pains in the Monroe County Jail in Key West, Florida where he was awaiting extradition.
"I'm starting to feel a sense of closure and a sense that it's a relief," said Gary Ruggles, the victim’s stepfather.
Pressler was charged last month in the rape and strangulation of seven-year-old Michelle McMurray on April 11th, 1976. McMurray was found dead outside her home on Jay Street. Her mother had left to pick up a pack of cigarettes, when she returned, the little girl was gone. Pressler, who lived in the same building as McMurray, was originally interviewed by police shortly after the murder. Recently, police in Florida recovered a cigarette butt and it was DNA from that cigarette that connected Pressler to the murder.
"In my mind this doesn't go down in my mind as an unsolved case. I feel very comfortable that we had the right person and we wouldn't have charges filed in City Court and taken the steps we took to get the extradition process going," said Mike Green, the Monroe County District Attorney.
A belief Ruggles can live with.
"I just want the world to know a monster's been removed from society and there are children that can sleep safer, parents that can sleep safer," said Ruggles.
Green says he's waiting for Pressler's death certificate before he can formally dismiss the case. But as it stands now, there is no one left to prosecute in the crime. Green believes Pressler acted alone when he killed McMurray.