A dentist was found guilty by a federal jury on Monday of fatally shooting his wife in the heart on a big game hunting trip to Zambia in 2016 and then collecting nearly $4.9 million in insurance benefits.
The jury found the dentist, Lawrence Rudolph, guilty on one count of murder of a US national in a foreign country and one count of mail fraud after deliberating for a day and a half at the conclusion of a three-week trial in a federal courtroom 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 Larry, pleaded not guilty to her death in January.
“We are thankful for the jury’s diligence looking at all the evidence in this case,” Cole Finegan, the US attorney for the district of Colorado, said in a statement. “Bianca Rudolph served justice.”
Dr. Rudolph’s lawyers will appeal the decision, David Oscar Markus, a criminal trial lawyer based in Miami, said. Two of Dr. Rudolph’s adult children signed affidavits saying they believed in his innocence of him.
“We are extremely disappointed,” his lawyers said in a statement. “We believe in Larry and his children by him.”
Dr. Rudolph, who is set to be sentenced on Feb. 1, 2023, could face a maximum penalty 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 went to Zambia, traveling to the 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 antelopes and leopards, the last of which Ms. Rudolph hoped to hunt on the trip.
A hunting guide and game scout said they rushed to the cabin on the morning of Oct. 11, 2016, after they heard a gunshot, according to federal court documents. They saw Ms. Rudolph bleeding from her left side of her chest. Dr. Rudolph said his wife had accidentally discharged the shotgun as 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 been involved in a relationship with Lori Milliron during the marriage and at the time of his wife’s death, and that he had 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 Ms. Milliron.
“I absolutely did not shoot my wife,” Dr. Rudolph said at the trial on Wednesday, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. “I did not murder my wife for insurance. I did not murder my wife to be with Lori Milliron or anyone else.”
Ms. Milliron was found guilty of being an accessory to murder, obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury before the grand jury. She is the manager of his dentistry practice in Greensburg, Pa., 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. Her lawyer de ella did not respond to requests for comment.
“We can only hope this verdict brings Bianca’s family some amount of peace,” Mr. Finegan, the US attorney, said.
Dr. Rudolph told investigators that a Browning 12-gauge shotgun went off by accident as Ms. Rudolph was packing it. He sought to have her body cremated not long after her death, which made US consular officials suspicious. At the time, he cited the inconvenience of moving the body internationally, but investigators noted that Dr. Rudolph had arranged for several large animals he hunted to be transported internationally in the past.
A friend of Ms. Rudolph also told FBI officials that it was unlikely she would have wanted to be cremated because of her religious views.
The Zambia Police Service determined the “firearm was loaded from the previous hunting activities, and the normal safety precautions at the time of packing the firearm were not taken into consideration, causing the firearm to accidentally fire,” according to a summary cited in federal court documents.
But when the FBI and US consular officials tried to reconstruct the shooting, they determined it was unlikely she had accidentally pulled the trigger. They said that she had been shot from six and a half to eight feet away.