A Pennsylvania dentist and big game hunter is accused of killing his 34-year-old wife during a hunting trip in Zambia in 2016 as part of a scheme to raise millions in insurance money -life.
Big game hunter Lawrence Rudolph, 67, allegedly shot and killed his wife Bianca Finizio Rudolph during a trip to Zambia in 2016 and then claimed nearly $5 million in insurance benefits, according to a federal criminal complaint. obtained by CBS 2.
Rudolph, who founded and operates Three Rivers Dental in Pittsburgh, reportedly rushed to have his wife’s remains cremated in Africa just days after her death, officials said.
He has now been charged with murder abroad and mail fraud, officials said.
Federal investigators say Rudolph made life insurance claims with seven different life insurance companies for a $4.8 million payout for his wife’s death, which officials ruled was accidental. of Zambian law enforcement.
On October 11, 2016 at 5:30 a.m. local time, Bianca was shot in the chest with a shotgun.
Rudolph told Zambian police he was in their cabin bathroom and Bianca in the bedroom when he heard a gunshot. The dentist claimed he came out of the bathroom and found his wife lying on the floor bleeding from her chest. He told police he believed the shotgun had been left charged from a hunt the day before and had discharged as she tried to holster it.
A professional hunting guide on site reportedly “remembered seeing the shotgun and an enlarged cartridge on the ground. The shotgun was inside a partially zipped gun case.
Rudolph and his wife – both apparently accomplished big game hunters – had frequently traveled to Africa for hunting excursions. On this particular trip, Bianca’s goal was to kill a leopard. She never had her leopard, but killed “many other animals”. Rodolphe was on the trip, but did not hunt.
Officials said later that afternoon around 4:30 p.m. Rudolph phoned the U.S. Embassy to discuss his wife’s funeral options and his desire to have her body cremated while her body was held in custody. a local funeral home. He spoke with the consular chief, who after their conversation “told the FBI that he had a bad feeling about the situation, which he said was moving too quickly.” The chef traveled with two other people from the embassy to the funeral to take photos of Bianca’s body to preserve evidence.
The consular chief, a 20-year veteran of the US Marines, described the injury as “straight to the heart” and said the injury was not caused by a “tight group of pellets”. He found no gas burns typical of a contact injury and estimated that Bianca had been shot from a distance of 6.5 to 8 feet.
Rudolph called the consular chief and was “livid” from photographing his wife’s corpse. They met at the funeral home and discussed notifying family members, officials said. Rudolph allegedly told her he wanted to personally notify her family of the death, saying the children were from a different marriage and were not Bianca’s. At one point, Rudolph suggested that Bianca may have taken her own life, according to the allegations against him.
Bianca filed her first life insurance policy in 1987, investigators say, and updated the policy in 2016 when she died.
Four of the seven companies have hired a private investigation firm to investigate Bianca’s death. All insurance policies determined that Rudolph should receive his payment from the policy.
After his death, a “friend” contacted the FBI in Pretoria, South Africa, and said she wanted the FBI to investigate further. The friend said she “suspected foul play” because Rudolph “had been involved in prior extramarital affairs and was having an affair at the time of Bianca’s death.” She allegedly said that Rudolph was “verbally abusive” and that the two got into a fight over money.
The friend said Rudolph’s children didn’t learn of Bianca’s death until a week after her death, and other friends and family didn’t find out until the funeral. She reportedly said she believed Bianca, a “strict Catholic”, would not have wanted to be cremated, despite Rudolph’s claims it was what she had always planned.
The acquaintance told federal investigators, “Larry will never divorce because he doesn’t want to lose his money, and she will never divorce because of her Catholicism.” Other acquaintances corroborated the suspicions of an affair.
Another friend, the ex-wife of a pro-hunting guide who was present at the time of Bianca’s death and who had known Bianca since 2010, said the gun may have been tagged and jammed multiple times . She also raised concerns about Bianca’s choice of cremation and religious beliefs, according to the report.
Investigators interviewed a former employee of Three Rivers Dental who had worked there from February 2015 until February 2016, when she said Rudolph’s “girlfriend” was the manager. The ex-employee said the alleged girlfriend told her she had been in a relationship with Rudolph for 15 to 20 years. The mistress allegedly told the employee that she had given him “a one-year ultimatum to sell his dental practices and leave Bianca.”
Investigators said that as of January 2017, Rudolph was living with his girlfriend. Records show the couple traveled to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico together in 2010, twice in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, July 2016 and in 2017 right after Bianca’s death.
Financial records showed that on October 23, 2016 – the day of Bianca’s funeral – Rudolph bought a plane ticket for the girlfriend to fly to his home in Arizona, according to the affidavit. The purchase was canceled later that day. However, three days later he purchased another ticket to fly another woman to Las Vegas on October 26, investigators said.
During the FBI investigation, photos of the body taken by Zambia’s consular chief were reviewed by the Colorado medical examiner, who said in a statement: “In my opinion, it would be physically impossible to accidentally shoot with this shotgun in its carrying case and produce the defect entry found on Mrs. Rudolph’s body.
Rudolph’s attorney filed motions on Tuesday to have him released from a Colorado detention center in Arizona, where he owns a home. His lawyers allegedly argued that he and Bianca had signed a prenuptial agreement and that he would not have lost much in the event of a divorce. They further stated that he had no financial motive to kill her, with his dental practices valued at $8 million, according to reports.
“This is an outrageous lawsuit against Dr. Larry Rudolph, a man who loved his wife of 34 years and did not kill her,” Lawrence’s attorney, David Oscar Markus, said in a statement. obtained by people. “In 2016, his wife had a terrible accident while on a hunting trip in Zambia. Investigators on site concluded that it was an accident. Several insurance companies also investigated and agreed.
“Now, more than five years later, the government is seeking to build a case against this highly respected and law-abiding dentist. Dr. Rudolph eagerly awaits his trial, where he will demonstrate his innocence.