Two weeks before she died, Katrina Rugg gave her mother the moment she had been waiting for: She asked for help getting treatment for her drug addiction.
“She wanted to turn her life around. She was into a lot of scrapes with the law, drugs, things like that. She says, ‘I want to get off it,’ ” Rugg’s mother, Anita Tharp, said. “We had been talking to her about it before, but this time she came to us about it instead of us going to her.”
Tharp never got to see where her daughter’s newfound commitment to get clean would have taken her. Rugg, 36, was found dead Dec. 3 on the side of State Route 12 just outside Aberdeen, near Sargent Boulevard.
Washington State Patrol detectives believe she was the victim of a hit-and-run by a Chevrolet van, commonly referred to as a “contractor’s van.” It could range in year from 2003 to 2011 but the body style has remained consistent through those years. Detectives hope to identify the color of the van through crime lab analysis. It may have damage to the right front side.
The only girl of five children, Rugg joined Tharp and her husband, Steve, when they moved to Port Orchard about three years ago from California. Rugg’s issues with crime and drugs had been much more severe before the family’s move, Tharp said, but she had been making progress.
“This is something we kind of half expected when she was in California, something like this might happen, but not up here. Never even considered it,” she said.
Rugg had been with them most of the time since they moved to Aberdeen about a year ago.
“She loved her brothers. Katrina was one of the people that when she loved somebody, cared about them, she gave it all. Everything. She gave it all. As far as people are concerned, if they got to know her … people could come up to her and say I need this or that, and if she had it, she would give it to them, no question,” Tharp said.
She was last seen Sunday, Dec. 1 at her mother’s home at about 6 p.m. Rugg said she was heading to Port Orchard to care for her boyfriend’s mother, who was ill.
“Nobody could find him and she was sick, and she didn’t want her being alone. I tried to get her to wait until the next morning but she wouldn’t listen to me,” Tharp recalled.
These trips to Port Orchard were fairly common, so Rugg’s family had not reported her missing when her body was discovered Dec. 3. It wasn’t until later that week, when Rugg’s brother was arrested on an unrelated matter, that police were able to find her family.
“It wasn’t a blessing at the time but I guess it’s a blessing now,” Tharp said.
She heard the news from her husband the night of Dec. 6.
“I’m doing OK until I start talking about her, then I start getting upset. The pain comes back,” Tharp said. “We have a lot of support from our family and friends. We’ve had support from people we didn’t even know.”
She was particularly struck by the number of people sharing her daughter’s story and asking others to look for the van believed to have killed her. Tharp hopes someone out there could help her family understand what happened.
“I hope they can help us find this person. From the way that I feel, and the way that things are feeling and looking, it wasn’t just a hit and run. We need answers, and I hope they can help us find the answers,” she said.
Rugg leaves behind five children, all of whom have been adopted. Four are with the same family in California. Tharp said she’s in touch with all of them.
“I’m so grateful for it,” Tharp said.
She’s hoping to hold a memorial service in California.
“We’re just waiting until we get to the point where we can handle it,” she said. “We’ve just been going through it a step at a time, taking care of what we’ve got to do.”
Anyone with information regarding the van or the events surrounding Rugg’s death is asked to call Detective Rodney Green at 360-473-0148.
Brionna Friedrich: 360-537-3933 or firstname.lastname@example.org and @DW_Brionna on Twitter.