A wealthy Pennsylvania dentist and big-game hunter may spend the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary following a conviction for murdering his wife while on an African safari to collect millions in life insurance money.
A federal jury in Denver on Monday found 67-year-old Dr. Lawrence P. Rudolph guilty of foreign murder in the 2016 death of his wife, Bianca Rudolph, prosecutors announced.
The jury of six men and six women also found Rudolph guilty of mail fraud for pocketing $4.8 million in life insurance proceeds following Bianca’s death. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February and faces up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Rudolph’s attorneys David Oscar Markus, Margot Moss, and Lauren Doyle told Law&Crime that they plan to appeal the verdict.
“We are obviously extremely disappointed. We believe in Larry and his children,” they said in an emailed statement. “There are lots of really strong appellate issues, which we will be pursuing after we have had a chance to regroup.”
Bianca was fatally shot in the heart with a Browning 12-gauge shotgun in the early morning hours of Oct. 11, 2016, the final day of the couple’s two-week hunting trip in Zambia, according to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court in Colorado. Lawrence told Zambia Police he was in the bathroom of the couple’s cabin and Bianca was in the bedroom when he heard a gunshot and found his wife on the ground bleeding from the chest.
The Zambian Police Service concluded that Bianca’s death was an accident — the result of her failing to take proper safety precautions when packing up the gun “causing the firearm to accidentally fire.” But a series of red flags — including an alleged public admission to murder — led to Rudolph’s indictment.
According to the sworn affidavit, Lawrence called the U.S. Embassy to notify authorities about Bianca’s death just hours after the shooting. The consular chief he spoke with told investigators that Lawrence “quickly turned the conversation to the issue of cremating Bianca’s body and leaving the country.” The consular chief, a former U.S. Marine, told the FBI he had a “bad feeling about the situation” and went to the funeral home to photograph Bianca’s body and preserve any potential evidence. Based on her injuries, the consular chief said it appeared the gun was fired several feet away from Bianca.
Using the photographs, the FBI conducted a series of tests with the help of an expert forensic medical examiner and similarly determined that Bianca’s wounds “were created by a shot from a distance of between two and three-and-one-half feet.”
“At that distance, there is reason to believe that Bianca Rudolph was not killed by an accidental discharge,” the FBI concluded.
The Rudolphs’ personal hunting guide told the FBI that she personally witnessed Lawrence pay cash in exchange for officials expediting Bianca’s cremation, which she said “seemed rushed.”
“Although familiar with bribes being paid in other contexts as the normal way business is conducted, she thought that these payments were odd under the circumstances,” the affidavit stated.
The guide also told authorities that she saw Rudolph unload Bianca’s shotgun the day before her death.
During opening arguments, federal prosecutors said the dentist admitted to the murder during an argument with his girlfriend, Lori Milliron, at an Arizona steakhouse in 2020 after learning that his wife’s death was being investigated by the FBI. NBC Philadelphia described Milliron as “Rudolph’s girlfriend and the manager of his Pittsburgh-area dental franchise.”
“I killed my fucking wife for you!” Larry Rudolph allegedly told his lover, according to a witness cited by the government, various national media outlets like NBC News and the Associated Press reported.
“He killed his wife for HER,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bishop Grewell told jurors in a Denver courtroom while gesturing toward Milliron.
The defense countered with claims that the bystander who heard the alleged exclamation made a mistake.
“They’re saying, ‘I killed my fucking wife for you,’” Larry Rudolph allegedly told Milliron at the Phoenix restaurant in question, defense attorney David Markus countered. “If that is what this case depends on, I can’t believe we’re going to be here for three weeks.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Rudolph began claiming the benefits from seven different life insurance policies that named him as Bianca’s beneficiary and quickly moved in with Milliron. He used the proceeds from Bianca’s death to purchase a new house in Phoenix and two expensive cars. The dentist also claimed that he stored Bianca’s shotgun in his garage for over a year before taking it apart, placing the pieces in two cardboard boxes, and paying a trash collector to take it away.
Rudolph, who has a net worth reportedly in the area of some $15 million due to a successful chain of dental franchises he started in 2006, was criminally charged in December 2021. Milliron was charged and convicted on one count of being an accessory to murder after the fact, one count of obstructing a grand jury, and two counts of perjury. She was acquitted on two other counts of perjury.
“We are thankful for the jury’s diligence looking at all the evidence in this case. Bianca Rudolph deserved justice. This case was an exceptional example of the entire U.S. Attorney’s Office pulling together with our law enforcement partners to uncover the truth and seek justice for a victim who had no other voice,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Cole Finegan said in a statement. “We can only hope this verdict brings Bianca’s family some amount of peace.”
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[image via CBS News screengrab/ Larry Rudolph’s Facebook]
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