PARADISE VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – According to federal court documents, prosecutors believe an Arizona man may have murdered his wife while the two were on a hunting trip in Zambia in 2016. Federal agents believe the man had a plan to pay out nearly $5 million in life insurance money.
According to FBI officials, Lawrence Rudolph is accused of killing his wife Bianca to collect the money after her death. Rudolph was arrested in Colorado. Agents say Bianca was shot in the chest and died in 2016 while the two were on a hunting trip in Zambia, and Zambian police decided it was an accidental shot at the time.
According to court documents, a coroner has concluded that there was no way Bianca could have accidentally fired the shotgun while she was stowing it in her case. The coroner said in the filing, “It would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Ms. Rudolph to achieve the trigger on that gun…”
Officials say Lawrence was a dentist in Pennsylvania and had his own practice. Lawrence and his wife Bianca moved to Arizona in 2012, but Lawrence traveled back and forth between the two states on business. Both were avid hunters and went on hunting trips to Africa and other countries.
Agents say the Rudolphs were packing to leave their campsite in Kafue National Park in Zambia on October 11, 2016 when Bianca was shot in the chest.
Lawrence told Zambian police he was in the bathroom when he heard a gunshot coming from their bedroom. When he came out of the bathroom he said Bianca was bleeding and he tried to save her. According to court documents, Lawrence told police the shotgun had been loaded from the previous day and it went off when Bianca was trying to put the gun in her case.
The next day, Lawrence went to a funeral home in Zambia and wanted Bianca’s body cremated. A US embassy chief told FBI officials he had “a bad feeling about the situation, which he felt was moving too quickly,” according to court documents. The director then went to the funeral home to take photos of Bianca’s body as evidence. According to court documents, he told FBI investigators that the distance between the muzzle of the shotgun and Bianca’s chest was about 8 to 8 feet. Bianca’s body was cremated in Zambia.
FBI investigators said Lawrence collected nearly $5 million from life insurance a few months later. Court documents state that a friend of Bianca contacted the FBI and said that Lawrence was having an affair when Bianca died. The friend also told officers Lawrence had been verbally abused in the past.
Agents say a former employee of Lawrence’s practice told FBI officials she knew a woman who claimed to be Lawrence’s girlfriend. The friend said she had been in a relationship with Lawrence for 15 to 20 years. Court documents say the girlfriend gave Lawrence an ultimatum to sell his offices and leave Bianca in a year. Rudolph’s attorney has denied the allegations.