Dentist ‘killed wife’ while hunting animals in Africa to ‘collect insurance’
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A husband has been accused of murdering his wife on an African safari hunt more than five years years ago to collect insurance money.
Bianca Finizio Rudolph died after being blasted at close range in the chest with a shotgun having travelled to Zambia "to kill a leopard" in 2016.
Now her husband Lawrence Rudolph, 67, is accused of murdering her in a bid to gain millions of dollars in life insurance money, it has been claimed.
Lawrence Rudolph, who is a dentist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told Zambian police that his wife had died accidentally after trying to put the shotgun back into its case without realising it was still loaded.
According to court papers filed in the US this week, Rudolph contacted the local US consulate shortly after his wife’s death and told them he was keen to have his wife’s body cremated as soon as possible.
He has now been charged with foreign murder and mail fraud, officials said.
A consulate official told the FBI after speaking to Rudolph that he had "a bad feeling about the situation, which he thought was "moving too quickly”.
The official told investigators that Mrs Rudolph appeared to have been shot in the heart from – in his estimation – between six an eight feet away.
He took some photographs of Mrs Rudolph’s wound, which apparently made the suspect “livid," reports the New York Post.
Those photos were later shown to the Colorado Medical Examiner, who stated: “In my opinion, it would be physically impossible to accidentally fire this shotgun in its carrying case and produce the [injury] noted on the body of Ms. Rudolph”.
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A friend of the victim, speaking to the FBI, said that her children from a previous marriage had not known about her death until after the cremation and added that as a “strict Catholic” Mrs Rudolph would not have wanted to be cremated.
According to court papers obtained by CBS 2, Rudolph claimed just short of $5 million (£3.64 million) in insurance benefits after his wife’s death.
A former employee at Mr Rudolph’s Three Rivers Dental, told investigators that Rudolph had been having a relationship with another staff member who had given him “an ultimatum of one year to sell his dental offices and leave Bianca” shortly before Mrs Rudolph’s death.
The victim also updated her insurance policy shortly before her death.
Travel documents show that Mr Rudolph and his alleged mistress took numerous holidays together after Mrs Rudolph’s death, including one booked immediately after the incident.
Investigators said that by January 2017, Rudolph was living with his girlfriend.
Four of the seven insurance companies holding policies for Mrs Rudolph hired a private investigator to probe into the circumstances of her death.
All of them decided in the end to pay out on the policies. .
But a friend of the Rudolph's told the FBI that the alleged killer had a motive for murder: “Larry is never going to divorce her because he doesn’t want to lose his money, and she’s never going to divorce him because of her Catholicism.”
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Rudolph’s lawyers have rejected the FBI’s accusations, saying that with personal assets valued at over $8 million (£5.83 million), he would have had no motive to kill his wife and obtain the insurance payout.
“This is an outrageous prosecution against Dr. Larry Rudolph, a man who loved his wife of 34 years and did not kill her,” his attorney, David Oscar Markus, said in a statement.
“Back in 2016, his wife had a terrible accident during a hunting trip in Zambia. The investigators on the scene concluded it was an accident. Several insurance companies also investigated and agreed.”
“Now, more than five years later, the government is seeking to manufacture a case against this well-respected and law-abiding dentist. Dr. Rudolph looks forward to his trial, where he will demonstrate his innocence.”
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