Bianca Rudolph died after pursuing leopards in Zambia
A big game hunting dentist allegedly killed his wife with a shotgun while on safari in Afrika to collect $4.8m in life insurance policies.
Federal prosecutors in Colorado claim that Dr Lawrence Rudolph, 67, murdered his wife, Bianca, på en 2016 trip to Zambia to hunt leopards.
Rettsdokumenter, unsealed last week in USAs tingrett i Denver, state that the couple had been packing up to leave a hunt camp in Kafue National Park when Bianca Rudolph was shot in the chest with a shotgun.
Dr Rudolph told investigators that he had been in the bathroom when he heard the gun go off and then found his wife lying injured on the floor.
He claimed that the gun had been left loaded from their hunt and went off as his wife packed it into a case.
An affidavit by FBI Agent Donald Peterson of the Denver office states that Dr Rudolph “murdered his wife, Bianca Rudolph, with premeditation, while the two were on a hunting trip in Zambia on October 11, 2016, in such a manner that he could falsely claim the death was the result of an accident.”
The affidavit also states that Dr Rudolph had been having a years-long affair with a woman who worked with him in his Pennsylvania dental office, and who had demanded he sell his business and leave his wife.
The court papers state that after his wife’s death, Dr Rudolph contacted Zambia’s US Embassy to report the incident, and discussed having her body cremated and leaving the country quickly.
The embassy’s consular chief, a Marine Corps veteran, then took photos of the gunshot wound and told investigators that the fatal shot came from between 6.5ft and 8ft away from the victim.
Dr Rudolph was “livid” at the consular chief’s actions, the documents state, and the consular chief told the FBI he “had a bad feeling about the situation, which he thought was moving too quickly.”
The consular official also told the FBI that Dr Rudolph said that his 5ft5 wife may have committed suicide.
Zambian police inspected the weapon and determined that the gun was loaded from the previous day and that Bianca had not packed it safely and it had fired accidentally.
Several weeks after her death, a friend of Bianca Rudolph’s contacted the FBI’s legal attache in South Africa, and asked the bureau to investigate Bianca’s death because she suspected Dr Rudolph killed her.
The affidavit states that Dr Rudolph had been having an affair with his office manager for between 15 og 20 år, and that she had given him one year to leave his wife.
The FBI says that the pair moved in together in January 2017 and paid $3.5m in cash for their home in Phoenix, Arizona.
Prosecutors say that following the death, Dr Rudolph claimed nine life insurance policies worth $4.8m.
An arrest warrant was issued for Dr Rudolph on 22 December and he was taken into custody after being arrested on a trip to Mexico.
“This is an outrageous prosecution against Dr Larry Rudolph, a man who loved his wife of 34 years and did not kill her,” said Dr Rudolph’s attorney, David Markus.
“Dr Rudolph looks forward to his trial, where he will demonstrate his innocence.”
Dr Rudolph is charged with foreign murder and mail fraud with a jury trial set for 28 februar.