School Closings & Delays

Former Police Sergeant Admits She Lied about Being Attacked

WEST PENN TOWNSHIP -- A former police sergeant in Schuylkill County pleaded guilty to lying about being attacked last year.

Melissa Ruch served as a West Penn Township officer and even received an award for heroism after the alleged attack.

Last September, there was an all-day manhunt while law enforcement searched for the man Ruch claimed attacked her. On Wednesday, Ruch admitted to a judge that she made the whole thing up.

At her preliminary hearing in Orwigsburg in January, Ruch was adamant that, while she was working for the West Penn Township Police Department in September of 2015, she was attacked after pulling over a car on Route 309 near Tamaqua. She was even insulted by the accusation she made the whole thing up.

Just as a trial was set to start, Ruch changed her tune and pleaded guilty.

"She admitted to the public, to the police, to everyone that was inconvenienced and startled and afraid that day that she did make a false report to incriminate another," said Schuylkill County District Attorney Christine Holman.

Ruch was flown to the hospital after her alleged attack. She gave authorities a detailed description of a tall, heavyset Hispanic man with the name Jose Cruz Mendez. As it turns out, that was just an elaborate lie.

“We were concerned by the issues that were raised, you know, the safety, that someone would do that. Policemen in the area were looking for him. It made us feel less secure, so it's better that the truth came out," said Linda Zimmerman of West Penn Township.

Ruch never said why she lied, and the district attorney's office was never able to determine that either.

"I'm guessing only she will know why, and that is something she is going to have to live with. She will have to answer to somebody one day," said Michelle Rausch of West Penn Township.

Although Ruch admitted to making a false report, she will not spend a day in jail. Ruch received 12 months probation and will have to pay back more than $80,000 for workers compensation that was paid and crime lab fees.

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