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How a Denver jury determined an "accident" on an African safari was murder

Death on Safari
Death on Safari 41:47

This story was originally published on April 15, 2022. It was updated on September 7, 2022.

Larry Rudolph, who ran a multimillion dollar dental empire in Pittsburgh, and his wife Bianca, both skilled big game hunters, traveled to a favorite location — Kafue National Park in Zambia in 2016. No one would have imagined Bianca would never make it home, or that the journey would end years later before a jury in a Denver federal court where they heard allegations of a cover-up, fraud, and an affair Dr. Rudolph had with his office manager, Lori Milliron.

Bianca and Larry Rudolph
Bianca and Larry Rudolph Larry Rudolph/Facebook

CBS News correspondent Debora Patta, on assignment for "48 Hours," explores this complex investigation in an encore presentation of "Death on Safari" airing Saturday, September 10, 2022  at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

Rudolph claims Bianca accidentally shot herself when the rifle she was loading into a case discharged. At the time, Zambian police ruled her death as an accident.

On August 1, 2022, jurors found Rudolph guilty of murdering his wife. He was convicted on one count of the murder of a U.S. national in a foreign country and one count of mail fraud, for cashing in more than $4.8 million in life insurance claims.

The jury also found his longtime lover Lori Milliron guilty on charges of being an accessory after the fact to the murder, obstruction of justice, and two counts of perjury before the grand jury.

A shotgun blast and a scream causes panic 03:07

According to police in Zambia, on the final day of their safari, October 11, Rudolph claimed Bianca was packing a gun in the bedroom of their cabin when he heard a shotgun blast from the bathroom. He said he found his wife bleeding, lying face up on the floor with a shotgun wound to the heart. Spencer Kakoma, a game scout on that safari, also heard the shot and says he ran to the cabin within 15 seconds.

Kakoma said he witnessed Bianca clearing the gun of live ammunition the night before. He says Rudolph first claimed Bianca died by suicide, shooting herself intentionally while he was in the bathroom. Later, Rudolph had a different version of events, no longer claiming it was a suicide, but instead saying Bianca accidentally shot herself while packing up the gun.    

Things weren't adding up for Kakoma. He says Rudolph was fully dressed when he rushed over to the cabin after hearing the gunshot. But local police say Rudolph told them he was wrapped in a towel.

Local authorities went to the scene and photographed the body, which was later moved to a funeral home to await cremation. A U.S. Embassy official decided to travel to the funeral home to investigate. Unbeknownst to Rudolph, the official, a former Marine with decades of weapons experience, inspected Bianca's body, measuring the shotgun wound and taking photos.

That is where the story might have ended if it wasn't for a friend of Bianca's. According to an FBI criminal complaint, when the friend learned Bianca was cremated, it raised suspicions because she believed "cremation to have been against Bianca's wishes because Bianca was a strict Catholic."

The FBI complaint says Bianca's friend told an FBI agent Rudolph had been having an extra marital affair and "had been verbally abusive in the past and that the two had fights about money."

But in a document filed by Rudolph's attorneys, they claim Bianca's will "expressly directed cremation." They also say Bianca knew about her husband's affair, indicating it would not have been a motive for murder.

The friend also told the FBI agent, "Larry is never going to divorce her because he doesn't want to lose his money and she's never going to divorce him because of her Catholicism."

"She opened up a Pandora's box as to why Lawrence Rudolph would want to kill his wife," says Mary Fulginiti, a former federal prosecutor and CBS News consultant.

Within a month of returning to the United States, the FBI says Rudolph started filing claims on his wife's life insurance policies, worth almost $5 million.

Rudolph was arrested in December 2021, more than five years after Bianca's death. At his trial Larry Rudolph denied shooting his wife for the insurance or to be with Lori Milliron    

Rudolph's attorneys declined to talk to "48 Hours" before the trial, but they provided the following statement:

"Dr. Rudolph is innocent. The Zambian authorities who were there and investigated said so. The insurance companies who paid the claim after they investigated said so. Strangely, five years later, the feds brought charges without any real evidence — no eye-witnesses, no forensics, no anything — except for some speculation sprinkled into a chasm of conjecture."

Rudolph, who remains in custody, could face a maximum penalty of life in prison for the murder charge. The mail fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Milliron remains free with an ankle monitor until the two are sentenced in February 2023.

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