‘The Killer Inside: The Ruth Finley Story’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Was Ruth Mentally Ill?

Many films deal with serial killers and the psychological trauma that causes people to commit crimes. It is always a breakthrough that connects these two topics. The Killer Inside: The Ruth Finley Story is based on the true story of a woman who had suffered deep trauma-related psychological issues, which were brought to the forefront in the 1970s, right when a serial killer was out there killing many women. The film is a Lifetime Original, and was released on June 29, 2024.


Spoilers Ahead

Why was Ruth Finley extra alert?

The movie began with a housewife being killed by a man who walked into a suburban house pretending to be a detective. The murder of the housewife was the news of the day, and Ruth Finley had been extra cautious since then. The man was known as the BTK killer and had claimed many victims so far, which was why Ruth had been slightly paranoid. Ruth’s husband, Ed, was also trying to pacify her by asking her maybe not to dig deeper into the news. 


What happened to Ruth when Ed was hospitalized?

As Ruth and her husband were finalizing their trip to London and Paris, Ed suffered a heart attack. Ed was hospitalized, and Ruth had been petrified ever since because of the serial killer news that was flying around the town. On her first night away from her husband as he was recovering, she received a phone call from a man who happened to address her by her name and threatened to harm her. Ruth was terrified and conveyed the same to her husband and her colleague/friend Susan. Both were worried for Ruth because, as a teenager, she was physically abused by a man in her apartment with a hot iron. The mark was still there, and she had vivid memories of the incident. 

After Ed was back home from the hospital, Ruth was harassed on the street, and she had to run away from the attacker, whose face looked familiar to her. She had to file a police complaint against the attacker. Detective Bernie wanted to know if there was a connection between the serial killer and the man who had attacked Ruth. 


Was there a serial killer at large?

Apart from the phone calls Ruth was receiving from the person who assaulted her, the town of Wichita had a serial killer at large known as the BTK killer. The man was killing many suburban women by entering their homes through the back door. Several killings happened around Ruth’s home, and she began to feel paranoid about her surroundings. She had gotten acquainted with the police officer and his family, who were facing the brunt of not finding any lead in the serial killer case. 

What kinds of threats was Ruth facing?

Ruth was being sent all kinds of letters to her home stating she would pay for the consequences of approaching the police. She and her husband were at the end of their ropes and Ed once spent a whole night awake guarding the home. Ruth was also kidnapped by these men just outside of her place of work. She rescued herself from the men and contacted Ed and the police from a gas station. Since the case had gotten severe, Captain Price of the local police department took over the case to get to the bottom of the matter. Ruth was stabbed outside the mall she had visited, and this led to matters escalating as the police and Ed were alarmed at the rate at which she was being targeted and other women in the town were being killed. 


Who started the fire around Ruth’s home?

A few days after her recovery from the stab wounds, Ruth was seen setting her garden on fire, and her husband had to wake up to try to find out who was responsible for the arson. Ruth woke up not knowing how the fire started, and this led to the police investigating the matter but coming across no evidence to lead them to the culprit. Detective Bernie and Captain Price were clueless, and they began to wonder if the culprit was in the house itself. They brought Ed Finley in for questioning as he was closest to his wife. Ed was offended and demanded to do a polygraph test to prove himself right. The polygraph test, as expected, came out in favor of Ed.

Why was Ruth being questioned?

Around that time, the police received footage of Ruth’s attack outside the mall. To their shock, there was no one found in the footage, with Ruth fighting with an imaginary person, and stabbing herself. The police were flabbergasted at why she was attacking herself and then claiming men were following her constantly. It was not hard to conclude that Ruth could be suffering from schizophrenia or some other mental health disorder. 

Since it was set the late 1970s, the investigating team may not be aware of her mental health conditions. She was being questioned by the detectives, and it was hard for her to believe that she was capable of doing what they claimed she had. Ruth was kept in the police station until she confessed to the crime, as the CCTV footage was solid evidence. Ruth, however, could not come to terms with the allegations, and her husband, Ed, was helpless as well. 

Ruth eventually had to accept she was suffering from some mental health condition, and to avoid prison time, she would spend time at a court-appointed mental asylum to find out the reason behind her behaving strangely. This was her only option, as she was sure she did not do anything wrong. Ruth had the support of her husband, who wanted to get to the bottom of this and asked her to follow the instructions of the police, especially in the wake of their incriminating evidence. 


Was Ruth mentally ill?

Ruth Finley was finally admitted to a mental asylum, in the hopes she would open up about her childhood trauma, which would help the psychiatrist find out if she was sick. As her session started, she opened up about having lived on a farm and knowing how to take care of animals and plants all by herself. She also shared the assault she faced as a teenager, a memory that never left her. This was just the psychiatrist’s way of getting to the bottom of her mind to find out what caused her trauma or if any seeds existed that made her act the way she did. 

Ruth was initially not keen on opening up because she was raised to believe problems needed to be suppressed and not shared. Ruth was close to her mother, but she’d always maintained a distance from her because she was from another generation. Ruth hesitated to open up even with her husband, and began to wonder if he would leave her.


Soon her journal entries and intense therapy sessions with the psychiatrist revealed that she was sexually abused by the next-door neighbor farmer, and she had suppressed those memories, which came out in the form of another alter ego. Her condition involving another alter ego which was known as dissociative personality disorder, was aggravated when Ed suffered a heart attack. Her fear led to the alter ego trying to bring up those memories and threatening her. 

Soon Ruth confessed that it was she herself who had harmed her all this while and sent those threatening letters, which added to her trauma. This cycle of trauma fueling her alter ego had to stop, which was the reason all these incidents took place, including Ruth stabbing herself. This was the classic case of multiple personality disorder, and her husband Ed was only happy to help her get out of the situation. Her mental health might have been fragile since the memories of the abuse were triggered by Ed’s heart attack and subsequent hospitalization.


The whole point was to make Ruth acknowledge that she suffered from a psychological condition, and she would have to let the psychiatrist help her. Ruth admitted to the attacks on herself, and this would further help her to get closer to her husband, who was unaware of her repressed childhood trauma. Ruth was also told that her mother was aware of the abuse but chose to stay silent to avoid causing shame. This was the state of many children of that era who were not allowed to internalize the pain and had parents who never believed their words.

As the movie ended and the credits rolled, it claimed Ruth was treated for the condition and continued living with it. Ed’s support of his wife was very similar to what many of the Indian audiences have seen in the Malayalam language film “Manichitrathazhu.” That film was also about a woman suffering from the same condition as Ruth, and she had a great husband who was willing to treat her instead of abandoning her. This was true love. As for the BTK killer, the man was finally arrested in 2005. The technological advancement in DNA testing helped the police nab Dennis Rader, the killer. 


Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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