Federal prosecutors seek to keep former Greensburg dentist detained in Zambia murder case

Jan. 21—A former Greensburg dentist accused of killing his wife during a safari in Zambia "has a reason to take the money and run," according to federal prosecutors in Colorado hoping to keep him detained until trial.

Prosecutors pointed to $27 million in assets and firearms expertise in describing Lawrence Rudolph, 67, as a flight risk and danger to the community in court papers.

"Rudolph has more incentives to flee now than he has ever had," prosecutors wrote.

Rudolph, a big-game hunter, was arrested last month after authorities said he killed his wife, Bianca Finizio Rudolph, 57, on Oct. 11, 2016, in Zambia. He later collected more than $4 million in life insurance. He is charged with foreign murder and mail fraud. Rudolph was living in Arizona and arrested while on a trip to Mexico, online court records show. The case was filed in Colorado, where one of the insurance companies has an office.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix ordered Rudolph be detained during a Jan. 4 hearing to ensure community safety and his appearance at future proceedings, according to court filings.

Defense attorney David Oscar Markus wants his client to be released, suggesting a $5 million bond, house arrest and surrendering of all firearms and travel documents, among other restrictions. His passport has already been surrendered.

Markus said detention could be detrimental to the health of Rudolph, who has a pacemaker and a congenital heart disease. He downplayed the prosecution's evidence, describing it as weak.

"Dr. Rudolph should not be detained," Markus wrote. "He poses no danger and no serious risk of flight."

Rudolph could have fled at any point during the FBI's lengthy investigation into his wife's death but did not, the attorney said.

He has much more reason to do so now, prosecutors countered.

"... He now faces the prospect of life in prison when a jury asks whether an experienced hunter incredibly shot herself in the heart by accident with a nearly four-foot shotgun," prosecutors wrote. "The illusion that he got away with murder has been shattered by Judge Mix's comments and the grand jury's determination of probable cause."

The Rudolphs, who married in 1982, met when he was in dental school at the University of Pittsburgh and she was an undergraduate student. He went on to operate the Greensburg-based Three Rivers Dental Group. The pair frequently traveled to Africa for hunting trips.

In 2016, the indictment said, the couple traveled to Zambia and Bianca Rudolph, who had a Remington .375 rifle and Browning 12-gauge shotgun with her, hoped to kill a leopard, but was unsuccessful. Lawrence Rudolph was present for 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 Rudolph was shot in the chest with a shotgun.

The Zambian Police Service investigated and interviewed Lawrence Rudolph, 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 has maintained his innocence.

A judge will decide the detention matter at a later date.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .