A dentist was found Monday by a federal jury guilty of fatally shooting his wife in the heart while on a big game hunting trip in Zambia in 2016 and then collecting nearly $4.9 million in insurance claims.
The jury found dentist Lawrence Rudolph guilty of one count of the murder of a US citizen abroad and one count of mail fraud after deliberating for a day and a half at the end of a three-week trial in a federal courtroom in Denver.
Bianca Rudolph, Dr. Rudolph’s wife of 34 died at the end of a hunting trip. dr Rudolph, 67, who is known as Larry, pleaded not guilty to her death in January.
“We are grateful for the diligence of the jury in examining all of the evidence in this case,” Cole Finegan, the US Attorney for the District of Colorado, said in a statement. “Bianca Rudolph deserved justice.”
dr Rudolph’s attorneys will appeal the decision, said David Oscar Markus, a Miami-based criminal trial attorney. Two from Dr. Rudolph’s adult children signed affidavits believing his innocence.
“We are very 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 on charges of murder. The charge of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In 2016, the couple went to Zambia and traveled to Kafue National Park, an area about the size of New Jersey that’s popular with safari operators. It is home to cheetah, hippo, lion, rare antelope and leopard, the last of which Mrs. Rudolph hoped to hunt on the trip.
A hunt guide and game 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 Ms. Rudolph bleeding from the left side of her chest. dr Rudolph said his wife accidentally fired the shotgun when she put 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 was involved in a relationship with Lori Milliron during the marriage and at the time of his wife’s death and that he made adjustments to the 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 Mrs. Milliron.
“I absolutely did not shoot my wife,” said Dr. Rudolph at the trial Wednesday, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. “I didn’t kill my wife for insurance reasons. I didn’t kill my wife to be with Lori Milliron or anyone else.”
Ms. Milliron was found guilty by the grand jury of an accessory to murder, obstruction of justice and double perjury. According to court documents, she is the manager of his dental practice in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
She will stay free with an ankle monitor pending sentencing, according to The Associated Press. Ms Milliron was found not guilty on three other counts of perjury. Her attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
“We can only hope that this ruling will bring some peace to Bianca’s family,” said Mr. Finegan, the US Attorney.
dr Rudolph told investigators that a 12-gauge Browning shotgun accidentally fired when Mrs. Rudolph was bagging it. He attempted to have her body cremated shortly after her death, which made U.S. consular officials suspicious. At the time, he cited the inconvenience of shipping the body internationally, but investigators determined that Dr. Rudolph had in the past arranged for several large animals he hunted to be transported internationally.
A friend of Ms. Rudolph also told FBI officials that it was unlikely that she wanted to be cremated because of her religious beliefs.
The Zambian Police Service found that “the firearm was loaded from previous hunting activities and the normal safety precautions at the time of packing the firearm were not observed, resulting in the firearm being accidentally fired,” according to summary documents cited in a federal court.
But when the FBI and US consular officials attempted to reconstruct the shooting, they determined it was unlikely that she had accidentally pulled the trigger. They said she was shot from a distance of eight to eight feet.