A former Greensburg, Pennsylvania, dentist and big-game hunter is facing federal charges after authorities say he killed his wife during a safari in Zambia in 2016 and collected a multi-million-dollar insurance payout.
Dr. Lawrence P. Rudolph, a 67-year-old who founded the Three Rivers Dental Group, has been arrested and charged with murder and fraud in connection to the shooting death of his wife, Bianca Finizio Rudolph, 57, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast.
Lawrence Claimed His Wife's Accidentally Shot Herself with a Shotgun
In 2016, the complaint said, the couple travelled to Zambia multiple times, with the last trip scheduled from Sept. 27 to Oct. 11. The complaint said the goal of that trip was for Bianca, who had a Remington .375 rifle and Browning 12-gauge shotgun with her, to kill a leopard. Lawrence Rudolph was present during the hunt but not actively hunting.
According to the criminal complaint, about 5:30 a.m. Oct. 11, 2016, as the Rudolphs were packing to leave their hunting camp in Kafue National Park, Bianca was shot in the chest with the shotgun. The Zambian Police Service investigated and interviewed Lawrence, who said the shooting was accidental, the complaint said.
He told investigators he was in the bathroom and Bianca Rudolph was in the bedroom when he heard a gunshot. He found her lying on the floor, bleeding from the chest. "Lawrence told the Zambian police he suspected the shotgun had been left loaded from the hunt the previous day and that the discharge occurred while she was trying to pack the shotgun into its case," the complaint said.
Police also interviewed the couple's "professional hunting guide," who said that he was "completing paperwork" when Bianca was shot. When he arrived at the couple's cabin, he told police, he saw Rudolph shouting for help while his wife was on the floor. A Zambian game scout, who had been escorting the Rudolphs during their hunt, told police a similar story.
Ultimately, the Zambian Police Service concluded that the evidence in the incident suggested that the gun was loaded from a previous hunt and that "the Normal Safety Precautions at the time of packing the firearm were not taken into consideration, causing the firearm to accidentally fire," the affidavit states.
Lawrence Raised Suspicions After He Immediately Called the U.S. Embassy to Cremate Bianca, Leave Zambia
Shortly after the incident, investigators state that Rudolph called the U.S Embassy to report that his wife had died "of an accidental gunshot round" before quickly turning the conversation "to the issue of cremating Bianca's body and leaving the country."
The cremation request was granted just two days after the fatal incidentâa decision that prompted the embassy consular chief to tell the FBI he "had a bad feeling about the situation, which he thought was moving too quickly." As a result, he traveled to (the Zambian funeral home) with two others from the embassy to take photographs of the body and preserve any potential evidence,"
The consular chief took several pictures of the gunshot wound and used a scale to measure it. He said it was not a contact wound as there were no burns around it, the FBI said. He estimated the distance between the muzzle of the shotgun when it fired and Bianca Rudolph's chest at 6Â½ to 8 feet, the complaint said.
After the consular chief returned to his office, the complaint said, he got a call from Lawrence Rudolph, who was "livid" that pictures were taken of the wound.
Lawrence Collected $4.8 Million in Bianca's Insurance Payouts
As investigators began to review Rudolph's life, they noticed that there were several life and accidental death policies for Bianca at the time of her death, including some originally purchased in 1987 and "updated and adjusted into 2016." Investigators note there were nine policies in Bianca's name, altogether totaling $4,877,744.93.
During interviews with insurance companies, the unnamed professional hunting guide had to retell his story of the events, including speculating how Bianca may have been able to shoot herself with the full-length sporting barrel gun. The affidavit states, "each of the insurance companies... ultimately concluded that the relevant policy should be paid."
Lawrence was Having an Affair at the Time of His Wife's Death
After Lawrence collected almost $5 million from his wife's insurance policies, the FBI was brought in to investigate her death after a person
identified only as Bianca Rudolph's friend contacted the FBI attache in Pretoria, South Africa, suspecting foul play. The friend said Lawrence allegedly had affairs in the past and was involved in one at the time of the shooting, the complaint said.
Other witnesses corroborated Rudolph's alleged affair, including a former Three Rivers Dental employee who said they were acquainted with a girlfriend, who was a manager at the dental practice. The former employee told investigators the girlfriend said she had been in a relationship with Rudolph for "approximately 15 to 20 years."
The affidavit notes that the girlfriend had told the former employee that she had given Rudolph "an ultimatum of one year to sell his dental offices and leave Bianca," though investigators did not say when that threat was made. By 2017, they said, the girlfriend had moved in with Rudolph.
Investigators also said they found financial records that showed Rudolph and his girlfriend frequently traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexicoâincluding one trip a month after Bianca's death.
Hunting Guide's Wife Says Lawrence Bribed Officials to Cover Up Bianca's Death
As part of their five-year investigation, FBI agents interviewed the wife of one of the hunting guides on the Zambia trip who said Larry bribed officials to rush cremating Bianca and cover-up her death. According to a cell phone search warrant obtained by The Daily Beast, the hunting guide ultimately received $30,000 from Rudolph in January 2017âand $23,000 more two months later.
Investigation Reveals It Would Be 'Impossible' for Bianca to Shoot Herself with the Shotgun
During the FBI investigation, a "reach test" was conducted in order to determine whether or not it would have been physically possible for Bianca to accidentally shoot herself with the shotgun and found it was impossible. A Colorado Medical Examiner reached a similar conclusion after seeing photos of Bianca's body.
"In my opinion, it would be physically impossible to accidentally fire this shotgun in its carrying case and produce the entrance defect noted on the body of Ms. Rudolph," the examiner said according to he affidavit. "The tip of the carrying case was most likely at least two feet from Ms. Randolph when the weapon was discharged regardless if it was on cylinder or full choke settings."
"Further, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Ms. Rudolph to reach the trigger of this weapon even if it was placed in the case with the muzzle pressed against her chest,' the medical examiner ruled," the examiner noted.
Lawrence Denies the Allegations
Lawrence was arrested in Cabo San Lucas in December. He denies the allegations and claims it is a witch hunt by the FBI. He is currently being held in custody in Denver, Colorado.
"This is an outrageous prosecution against Dr. Larry Rudolph, a man who loved his wife of 34 years and did not kill her," Lawrence's counsel - David Oscar Markus, Margot Moss, and Lauren Doyle said in a statement.
"Back in 2016, his wife had a terrible accident during a hunting trip in Zambia. The investigators on the scene concluded it was an accident. Several insurance companies also investigated and agreed. Now, more than five years later, the government is seeking to manufacture a case against this well-respected and law abiding dentist. Dr. Rudolph looks forward to his trial where he will demonstrate his innocence."