A dentist was found guilty by a federal jury on Monday of killing his wife with a bullet to the heart during a big game hunting trip in Zambia in 2016, then collecting nearly $4.9 million dollars in insurance benefits.
The jury found the dentist, Lawrence Rudolph, guilty of one count of murder of an American national in a foreign country and one count of mail fraud after deliberating for a day and a half following a trial three weeks in federal court. in Denver.
Bianca Rudolph, Dr. Rudolph’s wife of 34 years, died at the end of a hunting trip. Dr Rudolph, 67, who goes by the name Larry, pleaded not guilty to her death in January.
“We are grateful for the diligence of the jury in reviewing all of the evidence in this case,” Cole Finegan, the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado said in a statement. “Bianca Rudolph deserved justice.”
Lawyers for Dr. Rudolph will appeal the decision, said David Oscar Markus, a Miami-based criminal attorney. Two of Dr. Rudolph’s adult children signed affidavits saying they believed in his innocence.
“We are extremely disappointed,” his lawyers said in a statement. “We believe in Larry and his children.”
Dr. Rudolph, who is due to be sentenced on February 1, 2023, could face a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty for the murder charge. The mail fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
In 2016 the couple traveled to Zambia, traveling to Kafue National Park, an area roughly the size of New Jersey that is popular with safari operators. It is home to cheetahs, hippos, lions, rare antelope and leopards, the last of which Ms Rudolph hoped to hunt during the trip.
A hunting guide and scout said they rushed to the cabin on the morning of Oct. 11, 2016, after hearing a gunshot, according to federal court documents. They saw Mrs. Rudolph bleeding from the left side of her chest. Dr. Rudolph said his wife accidentally unloaded the shotgun while she was putting it away, while he was in the bathroom.
Local Zambian law enforcement determined that Ms Rudolph’s death was an accident.
Investigators later said that Dr. Rudolph had a relationship with Lori Milliron during the marriage and around the time of his wife’s death, and that he made adjustments to life insurance policies for her that same year. Prosecutors argued during the trial that Dr Rudolph killed his wife for financial reasons and to be with Ms Milliron.
“I absolutely did not shoot my wife,” Dr Rudolph said at the trial on Wednesday, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I didn’t kill my wife for insurance. I didn’t kill my wife to be with Lori Milliron or anyone else.
Ms Milliron was found guilty of accessory to murder, obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury before the grand jury. She is the director of his dental practice in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, according to court documents.
She will remain free with an ankle monitor until sentencing, according to the Associated Press. Ms Milliron was found not guilty on three other counts of perjury. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
“We can only hope that this verdict brings some peace to Bianca’s family,” Mr. Finegan, the US attorney, said.
Dr Rudolph told investigators that a 12-gauge Browning shotgun had accidentally exploded as Ms Rudolph was packing it. He sought to have her body cremated shortly after her death, which made US consular officials suspicious. At the time, he cited the inconvenience of moving the body overseas, but investigators noted that Dr Rudolph arranged for several large animals he hunted to be transported overseas in the past.
A friend of Ms Rudolph also told FBI officials it was unlikely she wanted to be cremated because of her religious views.
The Zambia Police Service determined that “the firearm was loaded during previous hunting activities and that normal safety precautions when packing the firearm were not taken into consideration. , which resulted in the firearm being accidentally fired,” according to a summary cited by the federal court. documents.
But when the FBI and US consular officials tried to piece together the shooting, they determined it was unlikely she had accidentally pulled the trigger. They said she was shot from a distance of six and a half to eight feet.