Jury selection begins in trial of Pennsylvania dentist accused of murdering wife during big game hunting trip

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Jury selection is underway in the trial of Lawrence Rudolph, a Pennsylvania dentist and big game enthusiast accused of killing his wife during a scenic African getaway and then collecting nearly $5 million in insurance proceeds.

Rudolph, a former head of an international safari club and founder of Three Rivers Dental in Pittsburgh, is facing charges of mail fraud and foreign murder in connection with the slaying of his wife, Bianca Finizio Rudolph. The pair traveled in late September 2016 to Zambia, where they planned to enjoy safaris and hunting trips together.

Both were big game hunters and Bianca had dreams of bagging a leopard during their trip. Instead, she was fatally shot in the chest with a Browning shotgun the morning of Oct. 11, 2016, as she prepared to leave her hunting camp in Kafue National Park. Rudolph told authorities he was in the shower at the time, but that he heard the blast and found his wife already bleeding and on the ground.

According to the criminal complaint, filed in Colorado federal court last year, Rudolph said “the discharge occurred while she was trying to pack the shotgun into its case.” He has long maintained her death was accidental and went on to have her remains quickly cremated in Zambia before returning to the United States, where he filed for claims through seven different insurance companies totaling nearly $5 million in payouts,

The trial is in Colorado is in because several insurers tied to the payout are based there.

While local authorities dubbed her death accidental, a friend of Bianca’s reached out to the FBI, notifying them that Rudolph had been having an affair at the time of his wife’s death. The friend further claimed Bianca would have never wanted to have been cremated due to her strong religious beliefs. It was enough to trigger an investigation.

The federal murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison or death. Mail fraud carries a maximum 20 years. Fines and other conditions could be imposed as well.