For more than 40 years it was thought a car accident killed 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta a month after her 1973 wedding. Now, prosecutors argue the woman buried in her wedding dress was perhaps the first of her husband's murder victims. In a trial playing out in Illinois' Cook County, 76-year-old former lawyer Donnie Rudd stands accused of killing Kumeta on a lonely stretch of road on Sept. 14, 1973, to collect $120,000 from life insurance policies, per the Washington Post. "The defendant married Noreen because he wanted to kill her, and 27 days after he married her he did just that," Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy said Tuesday during opening arguments, with prosecutors noting Rudd had been living with another woman until the day before his marriage to Kumeta and resumed living with her a week after Kumeta's death. They would marry eight months later, per the Daily Herald.
Yet defense lawyers say there's no evidence to suggest Rudd knew he was beneficiary of Kumeta's policies, or that she didn't die in a car accident as Rudd has long claimed, per the Daily Herald. Indeed, Kumeta's death was initially ruled an accident based on Rudd's account of her hitting her head on a rock after being thrown from their car as another driver forced them off the road. But that narrative has since been called into question after a 2015 police interview in which Rudd made no mention of a rock, per the Daily Herald, and a 2013 autopsy on Kumeta's exhumed body indicating murder via blunt force trauma to the head. The developments coincide with an investigation into the 1991 murder of Loretta Tabak-Bodtke, a Rudd client shot to death in her home on the same day Rudd's car was seen there. Rudd remains a suspect in that killing but hasn't been charged. (Read more murder stories.)