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FBI: Paradise Valley man accused of killing wife on ‘16 Africa hunting trip

Lawrence Rudolph was detained in Colorado.
Lawrence Rudolph was detained in Colorado.(WRDW)
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 8:16 AM MST
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PARADISE VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- According to federal court documents, prosecutors believe a man from Arizona 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 cash out nearly $5 million in life insurance money.

FBI officials say Lawrence Rudolph is accused of killing his wife, Bianca, to collect the money after her death. Rudolph has been detained in Colorado. Agents say in 2016, Bianca was shot in the chest and died while the two were on a hunting trip in Zambia, and Zambian police ruled it an accidental shooting at the time.

According to court documents, a medical examiner has concluded it would have been impossible for Bianca to fire the shotgun by accident while she was putting it away in its case. The medical examiner said in the documents, “it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Ms. Rudolph to reach the trigger of this weapon...”

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 would travel between the two states for business. Both were avid hunters and would take hunting trips to Africa and other countries.

Agents say on Oct. 11, 2016, the Rudolphs were packing to leave their campsite in Kafue National Park in Zambia when Bianca was shot in the chest.

Lawrence told Zambian police he was in the bathroom when he heard a gunshot come from their bedroom. When he came out of the bathroom, he said Bianca was bleeding, and he attempted to save her. According to court documents, Lawrence told police the shotgun was loaded from the previous day, and it went off when Bianca tried to pack the gun in its case.

The next day, Lawrence went to a funeral home in Zambia and wanted Bianca’s body to be cremated. A chief with the U.S. Embassy told FBI officials he “had a bad feeling about the situation, which he thought was moving too quickly,” according to court documents. The chief then went to the funeral home to take pictures of Bianca’s body for evidence. According to court documents, he then told FBI investigators the distance between the shotgun’s muzzle and Bianca’s chest was about 6.5 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 say a friend of Bianca’s then contacted the FBI, saying Lawrence was having an affair when Bianca died. The friend also told officials Lawrence had been verbally abusive in the past.

Agents say a former employee of Lawrence’s practice told FBI officials she knew of a woman who claimed to be Lawrence’s girlfriend. The girlfriend said she had been in a relationship with Lawrence for 15-20 years. Court documents say the girlfriend had given Lawrence an ultimatum to sell his offices and leave Bianca in one year.

Rudolph’s attorney has denied the claims.

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