Earlier this month a 40-year old Chicago murder mystery was finally put to rest when a lawyer, who in 1973 was accused of staging a car crash to cover up the death of his wife, was convicted of first degree murder.
The convicted lawyer, Donnie Rudd, is not new to scandal. In 1974, a year after his wife’s suspicious death, it was alleged by one of his clients that he had misrepresented the status of her lawsuit in order to steal money from her. In 1991, the same client involved in this complaint—Loretta Tabak-Bodtke—threatened to report Rudd to the attorney ethics regulators. However, her complaint was not seen through as she was later found dead from shot wounds. Three years later, Rudd would be disbarred by consent from the legal practice in relation this case.
Despite the somewhat obvious link, Rudd has not been tried for this crime. However, it was the notes written on Todd in relation to the death Tabak-Bodtke’s death that caused a reinvestigation into Rudd’s 1973 wife’s death.
After the investigation, Rudd’s re-trial took place. Jurors spent only three hours in deliberation before they came to an agreement and decided to convict the now 76-year-old man for the murder of his 19-year-old wife Noreen 45 years ago.
The facts of Rudd’s conviction are very interesting. It was alleged that at the time that Rudd and Noreen met, Rudd was living with a completely different woman named Dianne Hart. Rudd had been in a relationship with Dianne Hart for a number of years before he randomly announced that he would be leaving her and marrying Noreen Rudd instead.
The day after this declaration, he left Hart, and was married to Rudd. It was only a month later that Noreen Rudd was found dead at the scene of a car accident on a secluded suburban road in Barrington Hills.
At the time, the medical defense argued that Noreen Rudd’s death was caused by internal injuries that were caused by the car crash and their findings were supported by an emergency room doctor.
This defense won out over the opinion of three pathologists who each stated that Rudd killed his wife and then staged her car crash to cover it up. These three pathologists believed that Noreen Rudd died from blunt force head trauma which was consistent with having being thrown from the car by Rudd.
After Noreen’s death, Rudd was given $120,000 from her life insurance policy. He then returned to his life with Dianne Hart and her two children. Interestingly, Dianne Hart’s two children would later write, and self-publish, a memoir about their life growing up with Rudd. The book was entitled Living with the Devil, reported the Chicago Tribune in 2016, and displayed Rudd as a manipulative mastermind.
While Rudd is now convicted of the death of his first wife, Noreen Rudd, it is yet to be assessed whether he will also be put in trial for the death of his one-time client, Loretta Tobak-Bodtke.