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Dentist convicted of killing wife on African safari given life sentence and over $15M in penalty

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Posted at 4:07 PM, Aug 21, 2023

DENVER (AP) — A judge has handed down a sentence of life in prison and over $15 million in penalties to a wealthy dentist who killed his wife at the end of an African safari.

Larry Rudolph was sentenced Monday in a Denver federal court for murder in the 2016 death of Bianca Rudolph as well as for mail fraud. He cashed in nearly $5 million in insurance policies for his wife. Prosecutors say he wanted to live a lavish retirement with his longtime girlfriend using the insurance money.

Rudolph has claimed throughout the case that his wife's death in the southern African nation of Zambia was an accident. His lawyers plan to appeal the conviction.

The penalties for Rudolph included a combination of fines and property forfeiture. Rudolph also got a 20-year prison term to be served at the same time as his life sentence.

Besides being convicted of killing Bianca Rudolph, Larry Rudolph was found guilty in federal court last year for mail fraud for cashing in nearly $5 million in insurance policies for his wife.

Rudolph, who wore a brown t-shirt and khaki pants and no handcuffs during the hearing, has claimed throughout the case that his wife's death in the southern African nation in 2016 was an accident. His lawyers plan to appeal the conviction.

With a life sentence required under federal sentencing rules, the hearing focused mostly on the the financial penalties facing Rudolph, with pages after pages of financial transactions discussed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Fields told U.S. District Judge William Martinez that steep financial penalties for Rudolph were necessary to ensure he does not have the ability to seek revenge — whether through frivolous lawsuits or hiring hit men — from behind bars.

"That is his power, that is his control," Fields said of Rudolph's wealth.

But Rudolph's lawyers said a fine of that amount, much higher than typically allowed, would deny Rudolph's two adult children, Julian and AnaBianca Rudolph, money they would inherit from their late mother's estate.

Prosecutors say Rudolph, who owned a Pittsburgh-area dental franchise, shot his wife of 34 years in the heart with a shotgun on her last morning in Zambia, and then put the gun in its soft case to make it look like she had accidentally shot herself while packing. The couple had been hunting game during their trip.

They also claim the setting, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) from the nearest police station, was the perfect place to try to get away with the crime, where he rushed to have his wife cremated and intimidated officials investigating her death.

They allege the goal was to live a lavish retirement with his longtime girlfriend, Lori Milliron, with the help of the insurance money. Milliron was sentenced to 17 years in prison in June after being convicted of being an accessory. She has filed an appeal.

"The murder was the culmination of a lifetime spent seeking domination and control over others through wealth and power," prosecutors said in a court filing outlining their sentencing proposal.

Larry Rudolph could also get more time in prison for mail fraud.

The couple's two adult children have so far opted not to to speak much publicly about the death, although AnaBianca Rudolph testified against Milliron at her sentencing. They sought some of the financial penalties the government wants their father to pay, asking the court to treat them, not the insurance companies, as the victims of the insurance fraud.

Investigators in Zambia and for the insurers concluded Bianca Rudolph's death was an accident. The insurance companies, some based in Colorado, then paid out the life insurance, according to the defense in court documents.

But Larry Rudolph was arrested nearly five years after her death following an FBI investigation that sent agents traveling around the world to collect evidence and interview witnesses.

Prosecutors allege Rudolph built his wealth on fraud. They say he shot off his thumb during a previous visit to Zambia to collect millions in disability insurance money; they also allege he cheated his dental patients, creating the need for root canals by not doing fillings or drilling holes in their teeth while they were asleep.