A Pennsylvania dentist shot his wife while on a hunting trip in Africa so he could raise nearly $5 million in life insurance and start a new life with his longtime mistress, authorities say .
Lawrence Rudolph, 67, was charged last month with mail fraud in connection with the alleged murder of his wife Bianca Rudolph on October 11, 2016 while on safari in Zambia, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Bianca Rudolph died from a single shotgun blast to the heart while the couple were staying on the hunting grounds in Kafue National Park, authorities said.
“Lawrence Rudolph murdered his wife,” FBI Special Agent Donald Peterson wrote in an affidavit, “as part of a scheme to defraud life insurance companies and obtain money and property of them by means of a false and fraudulent pretense, representation and promise that the death was an accident.”
A friend of the woman called the FBI on Oct. 27, 2016, and told officers the death was suspicious because Lawrence allegedly had a longtime extramarital affair with the director of her practice, Three Rivers Dental in Pittsburgh, according to the complaint. . .
The suspect and his girlfriend vacationed in Cabo San Lucas in 2010, twice in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and July 2016 and “Bianca did not travel on any of those trips,” according to business records and travel documents obtained by the FBI. .
“Larry will never divorce because he doesn’t want to lose his money, and she will never divorce because of her Catholicism,” the friend told officers, according to the complaint.
Both Lawrence and Bianca Rudolph were expert hunters and “Bianca Rudolph’s purpose on this trip was to kill a leopard,” Peterson wrote of that last safari of 2016. And although she didn’t kill any leopard, she “killed many other animals on this trip,” the federal agent added.
In 2011, Rudolph posted images on Facebook of himself proudly displaying a ram, an elk and a hippo that he had apparently killed.
Lawrence Rudolph told local police his wife accidentally committed suicide while packing a Browning 12-gauge shotgun in its carrying case, officials said.
He immediately decided to have his remains cremated in Zambia, which drew suspicion to the US consular chief in Zambia, federal authorities said. The diplomat went to the funeral home with “two other people from the embassy to take pictures of the body and preserve any potential evidence,” according to Peterson.
The consular chief described the injury “as being ‘straight to the heart'” and without any “gas burn or obvious tissue expansion” that one would expect from a contact injury, Peterson wrote.
FBI investigators also don’t believe the 5-foot-4 woman could have shot herself with the 3.7-foot-long Browning, according to Peterson.
From October 31 to November 7, 2016, Rudolph decided to claim seven different life insurance policies that were all paid out in the first quarter of 2017 for $4,877,744.93, according to records obtained by the FBI.
Lawyers for Rudolph, who split his time between Arizona and Pennsylvania, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
But in a court filing on Tuesday asking for his release on bail, defense attorney David Markus said the case was unfounded. Markus cited insurance payments and Zambian police deeming Bianca Rudolph’s death an accident as evidence of his client’s innocence.
“Refusing to accept this, FBI agents based in Colorado spent five years criss-crossing the country and traveling to Africa to come up with an infamous narrative,” Markus wrote.
The defense also takes issue with the prosecution being based in Colorado, with Rudolph imprisoned in Denver – 865 miles from his home in Phoenix and thousands of miles from his family and associated business in Miami and Pittsburgh. .
Rudolph filed a claim for one of the life insurance policies at an address in Colorado, according to the FBI complaint.
The government does not consider Bianca Rudolph a potential victim in the case, but says the injured party is actually a “foreign insurance conglomerate with an office in Colorado,” according to Markus.
“Ms. Rudolph had no connection to Colorado,” the defense attorney wrote. “The government’s stubborn concern for a multinational insurance company belies its assertion that Mr. Rudolph’s confinement to Colorado does not unfairly impede his defense.”
Rudolph faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.
A warrant for his arrest was issued for the dentist in December and US Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix ordered his detention without bond at a hearing on Tuesday last week.