(02/06/13) - It's a story that recently made headlines right here in Mid-Michigan. A Saginaw Township woman goes missing and is later found dead. The man police say killed her? A man she met on the Internet.
It's estimated that several million people use online dating services to find Mr.or Mrs. Right. Sometimes the search is successful, sometimes it's downright dangerous.
"I actually met my first husband online," said Anndrea Ruth.
When Ruth's first marriage ended, she went back online with hopes of meeting someone. This time, she tried Craigslist.
"With two kids, it's hard to go out and meet anybody and one of my friends suggested, 'Hey try this,'" she said.
It worked. Anndrea found Shaun Cleary. He said he worked for an investment company, lived in the Detroit area, he traveled a lot, but through occasional visits, phone calls, and texting, they built a relationship.
"He took very good care of me and the kids," Ruth said.
They were to marry later this summer.
"We did lots of things," Ruth said.
Ruth says she never saw any signs of a problem, but a problem did develop in a cabin in Gladwin County - a cabin Ruth had been to before. It's where Cleary's father lived, before he died in December.
Ruth heard news reports that a man who lived here had been arrested for shooting a woman and holding her captive for five days.
"Couldn't believe, there has to be a mistake, it can't be him," Ruth said.
But it was. Shaun Cleary was behind bars, again. Gladwin County records show Cleary had served nine years in prison for assaulting another woman, his fiancee at the time, in 2000. He was released from prison in 2009, and was on parole when he got in touch with Ruth online in 2010.
Now, investigators believe Cleary shot Cynthia Hartman twice in the head, and she was held captive until she was able to escape and get help. Hartman says she was in a relationship with Cleary and was trying to end it when he assaulted her.
Ruth knew nothing of the other woman, or Cleary's criminal past.
"I feel the last two years of my life have been a lie," she said.
"They are not necessarily telling you the truth about who they are. They could be lying about their marital status, their job, their income," said Midland County Sheriff Scott Stevenson.
Stevenson says online dating can work, but there is danger. He should know - his county is finishing an investigation into the shooting death of Leigh Swanson.
Investigators believe Swanson was on a date with a man she met online, Steven Fabi, when Fabi killed Swanson, and later killed himself. Stevenson recommends using well-known online dating services like eHarmony or matchmaker.com.
"If you go through a reputable company, they will do a background investigation on them," Stevenson said.
As for Ruth, she has been getting letters from Cleary while he sits in the Gladwin County Jail. Twice she has gone online to find someone, and twice it hasn't worked out, but she's not done with online dating just yet.
"I have been on there since this happened, just to see what kind of things people are posting," she said. "I may try again at some point to see if I can meet somebody. but it's going to be a lot different."
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