The Pittsburgh dentist accused of murdering his wife while on safari in Zambia was found guilty of first-degree murder in a foreign country and mail fraud.

Larry Rudolph, 67, put his head down as the verdict was read Monday in federal court.

Bianca Rudolph, 57, died of a gunshot wound to the heart Oct. 11, 2016, as she was packing to catch a plane with her husband.

The jury was tasked with deciding whether Bianca Rudolph was the victim of a horrible accident – or if she was murdered by her husband that early morning in a remote Zambian cabin by a river that he had built especially for her.

It was a tough case because Bianca Rudolph was cremated in Africa. Zambian law enforcement and the insurance company determined that her death was an accident, and Larry Rudolph paid an unknown trash service to dump the rare Browning shotgun that was used to kill her two years after she died.

Underneath the obvious fact of Bianca Rudolph’s untimely death in a foreign country was the distraction of what the defense described as “noise” – the couple’s lavish multimillionaire lifestyle, their open marriage and numerous international game-hunts during which Larry Rudolph bagged a white rhino, a polar bear, several leopards, elephants, lions and other wild animals.

Though federal court bans cameras in the courtroom, the three-week trial has been a magnet for national media. Producers from "Dateline," "2020" and "48 Hours" watched every day of the proceedings from the front row.

Attorney David Markus tipped the courtroom off early on that his client would take the stand. Late last week, Larry Rudolph stood as the final witness in the trial. And he was grilled for nearly four hours by prosecutor Bryan Fields about his behavior following his wife’s death. Fields drilled down on why Larry Rudolph didn’t call his two grown kids to tell them about their mother’s death right away.

“I didn’t want to call my children from 8,000 miles away and tell them their mother had died,” he told the jury. “I wanted to hug them, hold them and grieve with them.”

Fields seized on the statement, pointing out that once Larry Rudolph headed back to the U.S. he didn’t reunite with his children to be close to them. Instead, he flew to Phoenix by himself where, the day after he landed, he contacted the insurance company to inquire about a payout.

Larry Rudolph said he called the insurance company because he had a short window of time to notify his carrier. He eventually collected $4.8 million from the insurance company. He admitted on the stand that he spent most of the money to pay for a $3.5 million home in Phoenix where he would eventually live with his mistress. He also used the money from the insurance company to pay for two expensive cars.

In closing statements, Markus acknowledged that Larry Rudolph was not a likable guy. But he told the jury that the facts were on their side and that “this isn’t about whether you like Larry or not.” Markus reminded the jury that the prosecution’s theories and gossip were not enough to convict a man.

“’I think he probably did it' is a not a guilty verdict under the law,” Markus said.

FBI agents spent months in south-central Africa interviewing witnesses who heard the shot that killed Bianca Rudolph.

The six-man, six-woman jury did not look at Larry Rudolph as they entered the courtroom Monday, only watching the judge as he read their decision. They began deliberating Friday afternoon, had the weekend off and returned Monday morning to resume deliberations.

Larry Rudolph's two adult children, who did not miss a day of trial, were not in the courtroom for the verdict. Bianca Rudolph's brothers, who were also in the gallery for every minute of the trial, were not there to see Rudolph hear his fate.

Larry Rudolph waved to his mistress, Lori Milliron, as he left the courtroom. Milliron was also on trial. She was found guilty of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of accessory after the fact. She was accused of lying to a grand jury in January about her relationship with Larry Rudolph.

The jury heard testimony from Zambians who had been flown in for the trial, including a British-trained coroner, guides from the camp where the couple stayed regularly, blood spatter experts and shooting incident reconstruction analysts.

One of the most critical pieces of evidence in the case was the gunshot wound, which hit Bianca Rudolph directly in her heart and killed her almost instantly. Coroner Daniel Maswahu testified that he could see injuries to her seventh, eighth and ninth ribs, suggesting that the bullet from the Browning shotgun entered her left chest area from a slightly angled position above her body. Other tests determined that the gun was shot from about a meter away. 

This ruled out the possibility of suicide and challenged the defense theory that Bianca Rudolph accidentally dropped the gun as she frantically packed to make it to the airport for the long flight to the U.S. 

Still, Dr. Michael Baden, a renowned forensic pathologist, testified for the defense that the autopsy was so sloppy it was impossible to tell the direction of the shotgun pellets. 

“We can tell the entry but not the angle,” he told the jury. 

He later admitted that he had never done an autopsy in Zambia and had little experience with gunshot wounds. 

Jurors viewed court documents, read salacious emails and looked at gruesome autopsy photos on iPads that were attached to their seats. They also took handwritten notes. 

Larry Rudolph will be sentenced Feb. 1, 2023. 

His attorney gave him a resigned hug as he left the courtroom. Once outside, he addressed the media: "We believe in Larry. We believe in his family. This is a very difficult day for us." 

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(1) comment

PB

Looks like Larry’s been ‘bagged’.

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