DENVER (AP) — A wealthy dentist accused of shooting and killing his wife in their cabin at the end of an African safari trip testified Wednesday that an unfamiliar shotgun they brought with them to hunt a leopard accidentally went off, wounding her as she hurried to pack early in the morning.
“I did not kill my wife. I could not murder my wife. I would not murder my wife,” Lawrence “Larry” Rudolph told jurors Wednesday.
His voice cracked at times as he testified for over two hours about his open marriage to Bianca Rudolph and her death in October 2016 in Zambia. He said he was in the bathroom when he heard the shot and came out and found his wife on the floor, bleeding.
Rudolph, 67, is charged with murder and mail fraud in what prosecutors describe as a premeditated crime. He faces a maximum term of life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of murder in the trial, which is being held in federal court in Denver because the insurance companies that paid him nearly $5 million for his wife’s death were based in Colorado.
Prosecutors allege Rudolph killed his wife of 34 years to be with his girlfriend, Lori Milliron, who is charged with lying to a grand jury and being an accessory after the fact. She is being tried alongside Rudolph. In opening statements, the prosecution told jurors that Rudolph was overheard blurting out “I killed my f—g wife for you!” during an argument with Milliron at a Phoenix steakhouse in 2020 after he learned that the FBI was investigating his wife’s death.
Rudolph denied confessing to his wife’s killing. He said he and Milliron were having an argument about their finances and how the COVID-19 pandemic, then at its start, would affect the Pennsylvania dental franchise that had made him a small fortune. But he was irritated because he said his top concern was the FBI’s probe.
Rudolph said what he actually said was “Now they’re saying I killed my f—g wife for you.”
After being close to divorce twice, Rudolph said he and his wife, who had two children, agreed to stay married in 2000 but pursue sexual relationships with other people. He said the tension in their marriage eased after that, describing themselves as “reasonably happy” in their arrangement. Rudolph said neither Milliron nor his wife issued him any ultimatums about ending his relationship with the other.
Rudolph’s lawyer, David Markus, has argued that Rudolph had no financial motive for murder. Rudolph was worth more than $15 million when his wife died and the insurance payout went into a trust for their children.
Zambian authorities determined two days after the Oct. 11, 2016, shooting that it was accidental, according to the defense. Investigators for the insurers who later paid $4.8 million reached the same conclusion.
Prosecutors counter that evidence shows Bianca Rudolph’s wounds came from a shot fired from 2 to 3.5 feet (1 meter) away.