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A woman once dubbed the “Black Widow of Las Vegas” has had her 2001 murder conviction overturned.
Margaret Rudin, 78, was sentenced to two life sentences with the possibility of parole for the 1994 murder of her millionaire husband, Ron Rudin, according to ABC Las Vegas affiliate KTNV. Rudin was released from prison in January 2020 after serving 20 years of her sentence at the Florence McClure Correctional Center in Las Vegas, per NBC affiliate KSNV.
On Sunday, district court judges in Nevada ruled that Rudin’s first-degree murder conviction be vacated on the grounds of ineffective counsel. The decision also frees Rudin from any parole obligations, according to CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV.
Rudin’s attorney, M. Greg Mullanax, told KLAS that the attorney who’d represented Rudin during her 2001 trial, the late Michael Amador, was “objectively unreasonable.”
“For example, not interviewing witnesses, not knowing all the facts,” said Mullanax. “He gave a rambling opening statement that really didn’t pertain to her cause. He talked a lot about himself.”
Judges with the Nevada Supreme Court agreed, as noted in the 68-page ruling.
“Rudin also made a compelling showing that there is a reasonable probability that, but for Amador’s unprofessional errors, her trial would have been different,” a judge wrote.
The judge added that “it was obvious that the defense was not prepared to try the case” and that there was a “clear conflict of interest” between Amador and Rudin.
According to KTNV, the court ruled that Amador acted out of his own self-interests and “lied to the court because he had book and movie contracts regarding the Rudin case."
Prosecutors at the time of her arrest said that Rudin shot her husband in the head as he slept in their Las Vegas home, then burned his body and left him in the desert near Lake Mohave.
At the time of the murder, Ron Rudin — whose estimated net worth was somewhere between $8 million and $11 million — was helping his wife open an antique store, according to KLAS-TV.
In 1996, the murder weapon was found in Lake Mead, wrapped in grocery bags and equipped with a silencer.
Margaret Rudin was indicted in 1997 but then reportedly disguised herself and went on the run before assuming several identities, per KTNV. Two years later, she was captured in Massachusetts and extradited to face murder charges in Nevada.
Rudin garnered the “Black Widow” moniker after investigators painted her as a woman who killed for money.
Rudin has long maintained her innocence, going as far as to offer a reward for whoever is responsible for her husband’s murder, should she generate income from a potential book deal, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She accused Las Vegas authorities of “testi-lying."
“It’s not easy to say that there were moments when I doubted, or there were moments I was angry, which I was at the time,” Margaret Rudin said following her prison release. “But most of the time, it was, ‘I’m going to get out of this. I’m going to get through this. I’m going to be proven innocent,’ and I never gave up that faith.”
Prosecutors with the Clark County District Attorney’s Office now have 30 days to file a motion to appeal the court’s ruling or opt for a new trial, according to KTNV. Should the state decide to recharge Rudin, jury selection would have to begin within the next four months.
“Margaret has served her complete sentence in prison, and the further prosecution of Margaret Rudin accomplishes nothing,” said Mullanax, per KSNV. “Margaret will be 79 years old in a couple of weeks and would like to live her remaining years in peace.”
Rudin was last known to be living with family members in Illinois, according to KTNV.
Requests to the district attorney’s office and Rudin’s attorney were not immediately returned to Oxygen.com.