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45 Years Later, Jury Finds Car Accident Was Murder

Donnie Rudd faces a minimum of 14 years for 1973 slaying
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2018 9:45 AM CDT
Updated Jul 7, 2018 6:30 AM CDT
Donnie Rudd.   (Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

(Newser) – A weeklong trial and three hours of jury deliberations have ended a family's "45-year nightmare." Donnie Rudd, a 76-year-old former lawyer, was found guilty Monday of killing his teenage bride, Noreen Kumeta, a month after their 1973 wedding in Illinois' Cook County. Prosecutors argued Rudd staged the highway murder to look like a car accident before collecting $120,000 from life insurance policies and returning to live with another woman whom he later married. One of Rudd's stepdaughters from that marriage, who described his deception in a book called Living With the Devil, testified Rudd had left her mother just a day before his wedding. "I'm not asking you to like a guy who cheats on his girlfriend, but that doesn't mean he committed murder," his lawyer, Tim Grace, tells the Chicago Tribune.

Vowing that an appeal will be successful (if Rudd survives his cancer treatment), Grace adds, "It's outrageous to convict anyone on the testimony of someone trying to make a buck on a book." But jurors also heard from three pathologists—one who autopsied Kumeta in 2013, finding she died of injuries inconsistent with being thrown from a car, as her husband claimed she was, and two who concurred. The autopsy came about through an investigation into the 1991 shooting death of one of Rudd's legal clients. Loretta Tabak-Bodtke, who'd threatened to report Rudd to the state's attorney disciplinary board after a squabble over money, was reportedly killed on the same day Rudd's car was seen at her home. He remains a suspect in that killing but hasn't been charged, per WLS. He faces a minimum of 14 years in the Kumeta case. (Read more murder stories.)

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