Ruff gradually acquired more documents in that name, including a new Social Security number. After earning a college degree, she married and had a child. Due to some of her unusual behavior and her unwillingness to speak of her past, she clashed with her in-laws and the marriage collapsed. She ended her own life at her father-in-law's home in Longview on Christmas Eve 2010.
After her death, her husband and his family found the evidence of her falsified identity in a lock box in her closet. Her true origins remained a mystery until 2016, when a combination of Social Security Administration records and forensic genealogy based on her daughter's DNA led investigators to the McLean family, still living outside Philadelphia.
Ruff's earliest known activity dates back to May 1988, when she requested the birth certificate of Becky Sue Turner, a two-year-old girl who was killed, with two of her siblings, in a house fire in Fife, Washington, in 1971. The request was made in Bakersfield, California. She then traveled to Idaho, where she obtained a state ID card on June 16 using the girl's birth certificate.
After obtaining the driver's license, Ruff went before a judge in Dallas on July 5, 1988 and legally changed her name to Lori Erica Kennedy; a week later she obtained a Social Security number, effectively erasing her past. She received a Texas driver license in 1989, and the next year qualified for a GED. She enrolled in Dallas County Community College. She eventually graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1997, with a degree in Business Administration.
A man who knew Ruff has stated that she worked as a stripper in the early 1990s. She got breast implants during this time. Ruff is believed to have had a rhinoplasty.
In 2003, she met Blake Ruff, the son of a well‑established family in East Texas, in a Bible study class. Ruff describes her as being incredibly secretive, particularly regarding her past. She had told him she was from Arizona, that both her parents were dead, and that she had no siblings. She also said her father was a failed stockbroker. Despite the questions Blake's family had about Lori, the couple married in January 2004. The only person in attendance was the preacher.
After getting married, the Ruffs moved to Leonard, Texas. They tried several times to have a child, but had trouble conceiving and suffered multiple miscarriages. This led investigators to believe that Ruff was older than she claimed, though the difference turned out to be less than a year. She eventually gave birth to a baby girl via in vitro fertilization in 2008.
Ruff was "extremely protective" of her daughter, often refusing to let anyone else hold her, which angered her husband's family. She would also obsessively track the Ruffs' family history and try to find out their family recipes, but still refused to talk about her past. Additionally, she displayed many socially‑inappropriate behaviors, such as leaving social gatherings to take naps.
Eventually, Ruff did not want her in-laws to have any contact with her daughter. After some failed marriage therapy meetings, Blake Ruff moved back to his parents' house in Longview and filed for divorce, leaving Lori with their daughter in Leonard.
In the months between the separation and Lori's suicide, she behaved very erratically. A neighbor recalled that she and her daughter appeared to be very thin and that Lori would often ramble incoherently about her problems. She also began sending harassing emails to the Ruffs, created a scene at a custody exchange, and stole a set of house keys from them. The harassment was so severe that the Ruffs filed a cease and desist order just before Lori's death.
On December 24, 2010, Ruff's body was discovered in her car in the Ruffs' driveway, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. In the car were two suicide notes: One 11‑page note addressed to "my wonderful husband" and another addressed to her daughter, to be opened on her 18th birthday. The Ruffs opened and read the letter, but it contained only "ramblings from a clearly disturbed person" and no details about Lori's past.
After Lori's funeral, some of the Ruffs drove to Leonard to see if they could find out more about her in her house. The house was discovered in disarray, with piles of dirty dishes, laundry, and trash stacked up around the house, as well as shredded documents and papers with incoherent scribblings on them. They then discovered the lock box in a closet, pried it open with a screwdriver, and discovered the documentation of Ruff's past. Also found in the lock box was a paper with several seemingly random scribblings.
The suicide notes were quickly determined to be incoherent ramblings that offered no clues to Ruff's identity. Other papers included the birth certificate of Becky Sue Turner and a judge's ruling allowing someone presenting herself as Turner to legally change her name to Lori Erica Kennedy. A friend of the family investigated Turner, only to discover that she had died in a house fire at the age of 2.
Other materials she left behind failed to uncover Lori's birth name. The writings on the paper found in the lock box included the scribblings "North Hollywood police", "402 months", and "Ben Perkins", who turned out to be the name of an attorney. The nature of these scribblings has led some to believe that Ruff was trying to avoid prison time, due to the references to police, a possible jail term length, and the name of an attorney. However, Perkins stated that he had no memory of the woman, and there were no matches for the woman in fingerprint and facial recognition databases. The fact that Ruff was able to cover up her identity so well in a time before the Internet has led to speculation that she had visited an "identity broker".
In September 2011 the Ruff family, with the help of a congressional aide, sought the help of Joe Velling, an investigator for the Social Security Administration (SSA). Velling accepted to help identify her as a case of identity theft. An experienced investigator, Velling's "immediate reaction was, I’ll crack this pretty quickly". After following numerous leads he was stumped, and sought the help of the general public to identify her through an article published June 22, 2013 in the Seattle Times. The article was subsequently republished in a number of different newspapers with few changes.
Numerous theories regarding her identity can be found on various websites. In May 2016, several commentators on the internet noticed similarities to Ruff's story and to the plot of a 1987 crime drama called Positive I.D., which was directed by a professor of film at UT Arlington. Other commentators noted that Ruff briefly attended UT Arlington and may have become familiar with the film before changing her identity.
The following people were ruled out as possible identities for Ruff:Clara Giusti
Susan Luxen Williams
Colleen Fitzpatrick, a nuclear physicist and forensic genealogist, learned of Ruff in 2013 and began work on the case. Using a saliva sample from Ruff's daughter, she began to match records of DNA samples with the young girl. It took her a couple of years to establish a link, but when she had, Fitzpatrick informed Joe Velling, who had in the meantime retired from the SSA. He flew to Pennsylvania to meet the potential family. Velling approached a relative, who immediately identified the deceased Lori Ruff as Kimberly McLean.
Tom Cassidy, an uncle, provided background on the situation. Ruff's parents had divorced when she was a teenager, and after her mother remarried, Ruff had been unable to adjust to the situation. Eventually she left town and then the state, telling her mother to never look for her. Her whereabouts between that time and when she appeared in Dallas are unknown.