Dentist killed his wife on African hunting trip, US authorities say
A US dentist and his wife of 34 years, avid big-game hunters, went on an African safari, where she died of a gun-shot wound. Now, five years later, he has been detained by US authorities and is facing charges related to her death.
Investigators and prosecutors believe the 67-year-old father of two, who collected millions of dollars from her insurance policies and started living with his long-time mistress, was responsible for his wife’s death, US media reports said.
The couple were on a hunting trip at a national park in Zambia when the incident happened, on Oct 11, 2016.
Lawrence Rudolph told Zambian police that he was in their cabin's bathroom when he heard the gunshot and that his wife Bianca may have tried to pack the gun while it was still loaded.
Zambian investigators found that one round was in the shotgun at the time of the shooting and determined it was an accident.
But less than 12 hours after the shooting, Rudolph called the US Embassy in Zambia and discussed where he could have his wife's body cremated, immediately raising some suspicions.
The consular official who said he spoke to Rudolph later inspected the body at a funeral home.
The official, who had served in the US Marine Corps for some two decades and was familiar with firearm injuries, observed that the chest wound did not have the characteristics of having been caused by a weapon fired at such close range.
He estimated that the shotgun was 2-2.5m away when it was fired.
US investigators also believe that the woman, who was barely 165cm tall, could not have shot herself accidentally with the Browning gun, which was about 113cm long.
A couple of weeks after the incident, an unnamed friend of the wife called the Federal Bureau of Investigation and told agents that the death was suspicious.
Rudolph had allegedly been in a long-time extramarital affair with the manager of his practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He and the woman had gone on vacations to Mexico, where he had a holiday home, multiple times between 2010 and 2016, and his wife did not travel on any of those trips, according to business and travel records obtained by the FBI.
"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," the friend reportedly told agents.
Soon after his wife died, Rudolph made claims under seven life insurance policies in her name, and a total of nearly US$ 4.9 million (about S$6.7 million) was paid out in the first quarter of 2017.
Rudolph has denied the charges and his lawyers were trying to get him released from detention in Denver, Colorado, where one of the insurance companies he is alleged to have defrauded is based.
They argued that he had no criminal record, had every opportunity to flee when he learned of the investigation five years ago, but did not, and that he would fight the case in court to clear his name.