American dentist and big game hunter is found guilty of killing his wife on their African safari

Lawrence Rudolph, 67, killed his wife, Bianca Rudolph, with a shotgun and defrauded multiple insurance companies, a federal jury found Monday. Rudolph took in more than $4.8 million in life insurance payments after he died nearly six years ago.

Rudolph maintained his innocence and said he believed the gun fired accidentally.

“I didn’t kill my wife. I couldn’t murder my wife. I wouldn’t kill my wife,” Rudolph told jurors when he took the stand in his own defense at a federal trial in Denver. last week.

The Phoenix couple shared a passion for big game hunting and traveled to the South African nation of Zambia in September 2016 so Bianca Rudolph could add a leopard to her collection of animal trophies. They carried two rifles for hunting: a Remington .375 rifle and a Browning 12-gauge shotgun.

Two weeks later, while Bianca Rudolph was packing for the couple’s return home, she suffered a fatal blast from the Browning shotgun at their hunting cabin in Kafue National Park. Rudolph told investigators he heard the shot at dawn while in the bathroom and believed the shotgun had accidentally exploded as she holstered it , according to court documents. He told investigators he found her bleeding on the floor.

But federal prosecutors at Rudolph’s trial in Denver, where the insurance companies are based, described it as a premeditated crime. Prosecutors argued that Rudolph killed his wife of 30 years for insurance money and to be with his girlfriend.

“Bianca Rudolph deserved justice,” U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said in a statement after the jury’s decision. “We can only hope that this verdict brings some peace to Bianca’s family.”

Defense attorney David Markus had argued that Larry Rudolph had no financial motive to kill his wife. In court documents, he noted that Rudolph owned a dental practice near Pittsburgh valued at $10 million.

“We are obviously extremely disappointed. We believe in Larry and his children,” Markus and fellow defense attorneys Margot Moss and Lauren Doyle said in a statement following Monday’s verdict. “There are a lot of very significant appeal issues, which we will pursue after we have had the chance to regroup.”

Embassy official expressed suspicion after shooting, FBI says

In court papers, investigators alleged that Rudolph raised suspicion when he sought to quickly cremate his wife’s body in Zambia.

Rudolph scheduled a cremation three days after his death, according to court documents. After reporting his death to the US Embassy in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, the consular chief ‘told the FBI he had a bad feeling about the situation, which he said was changing too quickly’ , FBI Special Agent Donald Peterson wrote in the criminal record. affidavit.

As a result, the chief consular officer and two other embassy officials went to the funeral home where the body was being held to take photos and preserve any potential evidence. When Rudolph discovered that embassy officials had taken photos of his wife’s body, he was “livid,” Peterson wrote.

Rudolph initially told the consular chief that his wife may have died by suicide, but an investigation by Zambian law enforcement concluded it was an accidental discharge.

Insurer investigators came to a similar conclusion and paid out on the policies.

But forensic evidence showed Bianca Rudolph’s injuries came from a shot fired from at least two feet away, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

“At this distance, there is reason to believe that Bianca Rudolph was not killed by an accidental discharge as stated,” the complaint states.

A friend of Bianca Rudolph asked the FBI to investigate

But federal investigators argued the shooting was premeditated so that Rudolph “could falsely claim the death was the result of an accident.”

Rudolph orchestrated his wife’s death as part of a scheme to defraud life insurance companies and allow him to live openly with his then-girlfriend, the FBI has claimed.

Larry Rudolph was charged with murder abroad in the death of his wife in 2016.

Bianca and Lawrence Rudolph moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona about four years before her death. Rudolph’s dental practice remained in Pennsylvania, and he commuted between his Phoenix home.

Federal authorities became involved after a friend of Bianca Rudolph asked the FBI to investigate the death because she suspected foul play. The friend said Larry Rudolph had been involved in extramarital affairs and had a girlfriend at the time of his wife’s death.

The girlfriend worked as a manager at her dental office near Pittsburgh and told a former employee she had been dating him for 15 to 20 years, according to court documents.

Three months after Bianca Rudolph’s death, the girlfriend moved in with Larry Rudolph, according to court documents.

The jury found Rudolph’s girlfriend guilty on Monday of being an afterthought accessory to murder, obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury before the grand jury, according to the Justice Department.

CNN has reached out to his attorney for comment.

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