A wealthy Pennsylvania dentist has insisted he didn’t kill his wife, testifying Wednesday that her death during an African safari was nothing more than a tragic accident.
“I did not kill my wife. I could not murder my wife. I would not murder my wife,” Lawrence “Larry” Rudolph told the jury, according to the Associated Press.
Bianca Rudolph died in October 2016 during the final day of the couple’s big game hunting trip at the Kafue National Park in Zambia.
Prosecutors believe Rudolph shot his wife to death with a 12-gauge shotgun in an attempt to cash in on more than $4.8 million in life insurance and begin a new life with his long-time mistress, Lori Milliron.
But on the stand Wednesday, Rudolph insisted that his wife had been hurrying to pack an unfamiliar shotgun the morning of October 11, 2016 when the gun accidentally went off and struck her in the chest.
Rudolph said during more than two hours of testimony that he heard the gunshot as he was getting ready in the bathroom of the couple’s small cabin and ran out to find his wife bleeding on the floor.
She had been shot “straight to the heart,” according to an affidavit in the case previously obtained by Law & Crime.
Three days later, her body was cremated. Prosecutors have contended that decision was made in a rush to destroy evidence.
Zambian police later concluded that Bianca had failed to take proper safety precautions while packing the gun, leading to her death, but the FBI began its own investigation after one of Bianca’s close friends called authorities several weeks later to report that she “suspected foul play” and pointed to Rudolph’s long-standing affair with Milliron, a former hygienist who had served as his office manager at his thriving practice.
After a lengthy investigation, Rudolph was charged with murder and fraud and Milliron was charged with lying to a grand jury and being an accessory after the fact.
Prosecutors believe that in addition to the financial motive, Milliron had issued him an ultimatum to end his marriage before the fatal hunting trip.
That theory was supported during the trial’s opening statements by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bishop Grewell’s contention that Rudolph had been overheard in a Phoenix steakhouse in 2020 telling Milliron “I killed my f---ing wife for you!” during a heated argument between the pair after he learned that the FBI was looking into the case.
On the stand Wednesday, Rudolph admitted to arguing with Milliron at the steakhouse, but said the argument started about COVID-19 and the impact the pandemic would have on his successful string of dental practices. He said, despite the business uncertainties, his primary focus had been on the FBI’s investigation and insisted that what he had actually said was, “Now they’re saying I killed my f---ing wife for you.”
He denied ever being given an ultimatum by either Milliron or Bianca and told the jury that he and his wife had agreed to an open marriage in 2000 after facing a series of marital struggles. According to his account, the marriage had been strengthened by the decision and they had both been “reasonably happy” in the years that followed.
His attorney, David Markus, has also refuted the prosecution’s theory of a financial motive in the case, telling the jury that at the time of Bianca’s death he had been worth more than $15 million. He said the insurance money had been set aside in a trust for the couple’s two grown children.
If convicted, Rudolph could be facing life in prison or the death penalty.