(CNN) — An American dentist has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife of 30 years while the couple was on a safari in Zambia, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado said in a news release.
A jury last year found Lawrence Rudolph guilty of murdering his wife, Bianca, while they were on a hunting trip in the southern African country. Rudolph shot his wife through the heart with a 12-gauge shotgun on the last day of their hunt, scheming to make the murder look like an accident, Monday’s release said.
Rudolph then filed over $4 million in fraudulent life insurance claims after returning to the US, the release said.
“The defendant in this case thought he could murder his wife overseas and get away with it. He was wrong and will now be held accountable for his actions thanks to the relentless pursuit of justice by the dedicated men and women of the FBI, DOJ, and the family of Bianca Rudolph, who never lost faith in the judicial system,” said Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Michalek.
Rudolph maintained his innocence during his trial, saying he believed his wife accidentally fired the gun.
“I did not kill my wife. I could not murder my wife. I would not murder my wife,” Rudolph told jurors when he took the stand in his own defense.
Rudolph’s attorneys plan to file an appeal in the case, they said in a statement Tuesday. “Larry is innocent. He did not murder his wife. We are looking forward to the appeal in this matter, in which we have a number of very promising issues,” the statement from lawyers David Oscar Markus, Margot Moss, and Lauren Doyle said.
Rudolph has also been ordered to pay back $4,877,744 in restitution as well as a fine of $2 million. He will serve a concurrent sentence of 20 years for defrauding insurance companies, according to the release.
The Phoenix couple shared a passion for big-game hunting and had traveled to Zambia in September 2016 so Bianca Rudolph could add a leopard to her collection of animal trophies.
As Bianca Rudolph was packing the following month for the couple’s return home, she suffered a fatal blast from a 12-gauge shotgun in their hunting cabin at Kafue National Park.
Rudolph told investigators he heard the shot at dawn while he was in the bathroom and believed the shotgun went off accidentally as his wife was putting it in its case, court documents said. He told investigators he found her bleeding on the floor.
But federal prosecutors at Rudolph’s trial in Denver, where the insurance companies are based, described it as a premeditated crime. Rudolph killed his wife for insurance money and to be with his girlfriend, Lori Milliron, prosecutors argued.
The jury also found Milliron guilty of being an accessory after the fact to murder, obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury based on her testimony before a grand jury, according to the Department of Justice. She was sentenced in June to 17 years in prison, court records show.
Milliron and Rudolph lived together from 2017 until his arrest last year, her attorney, John Dill, told CNN. “We are disappointed in the jury’s verdict, but that is our system,” Dill said. “Lori Milliron is innocent and we will continue to fight to exonerate her.”
Markus had argued that Rudolph had no financial motive to kill his wife. In court documents, he noted Rudolph owns a dental practice near Pittsburgh valued at $10 million.
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