An American man has been found guilty of murdering his wife with a shotgun while on Safari in Zambia in 2016.
On Monday, a federal jury found that not only did Lawrence Rudolph, 67, murder his wife, Bianca Rudolph, but defrauded multiple insurance companies by claiming life insurance payments to the tune of $4.8 million.
According to CNN, the couple had travelled to Zambia in September 2016 so that Bianca Rudolph could add a leopard to her collection of big-game trophies. Two weeks later, while packing for home, Bianca suffered a fatal shot from a Browning shotgun while in her cabin in Kafue National Park.
Court documents record that Lawrence Rudolph told investigators that he had heard the gun discharge while in the bathroom, leading him to conclude that the shot was accidental and most likely occurred when his wife was putting the shotgun into its case. Rudolph reported the incident to the US Embassy in Lusaka and the death was recorded as accidental by Zambian law enforcement, enabling Rudolph to claim the insurance pay-out.
According to court documents, investigators’ suspicions were raised when they were informed by an embassy official that Rudolph had scheduled his wife’s cremation to take place in Zambia a mere three days after her death.
Embassy officials then went to the funeral home and photographed Bianca Rudolph’s body. According to FBI special agent Donald Peterson, Rudolph was ‘livid’ when he found out about the photos.
The photos, which were later used as evidence by prosecutors, suggested that the shot that killed Bianca had to have been fired from at least two feet away, which, prosecutors argued, would have been unlikely in the event of an accidental discharge.
FBI involvement in the case began when they were contacted by one of Bianca Rudolph’s friends who told them that Lawrence Rudolph had been involved in extramarital affairs and had a girlfriend at the time of his wife’s death.
At the trial, federal prosecutors alleged that Rudolph orchestrated his wife’s death in order to defraud life insurance companies and to allow him to live openly with his girlfriend Lori Milliron.
The jury agreed and Milliron, who was tried alongside Rudolph, was subsequently found guilty of being an accessory after the fact and for obstruction of justice.
While on the stand Rudolph maintained his innocence, telling jurors: ‘I did not kill my wife. I could not murder my wife. I would not murder my wife.’