- Dateline Safari Story Recap and Commentary
- Aired December 2, 2022, on NBC with Lester Holt and Andrea Canning
A hunting safari in Zambia ends in a nightmare when a shot rings out from inside the campbround.NBC
Big game hunting, or I hate this
So we open in Kafue National Park in Zambia, Africa. The shot is beautiful and sweeping and sets you in the crime location.
Then we meet our victim Bianca Rudolph and her husband Larry Rudolph. Bianca and Larry were both big game hunters and shared a passion for the sport and traveling. They loved it so much that they built a cabin in Zambia to be close to the areas where hunting is allowed.
That cabin is the scene of the crime in this case. Or was it a crime? It could have been an accident, but we’re watching Dateline, so I think we all know Bianca was murdered. Probably by her husband, but the episode just started, so it’s a bit too soon to say.
The people who lived in Zambia and worked at the park said that Larry and Bianca seemed to have a good marriage. They were affectionate and always laughing. Larry was a dentist and made enough money to fund their travels.
And in the fall of 2016, the Rudolphs headed to Zambia for a hunting trip. Bianca was after a leopard. Larry wasn’t there to hunt-only to help his wife.
Okay, so right off the top, I need to say that I kind of hate most of the people in this episode because they’re big game hunters. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me, especially if you are hunting for sport and not food. And just a heads up that most of the photos of the couple have dead animals in them. It’s gross to me.
Unfortunately for Bianca (but fortunately for the leopard), she never bagged the game she wanted, and in October 2016, the couple was planning to head back to the U.S. for a relative’s wedding.
But then one night, a shot rang out through the dark campsite. It came from Larry and Bianca’s cabin.
The Rudolph family
Bianca was lying in a pool of blood on the floor of the cabin with a shotgun in its case beside her. The case looked as if it had been shot through. Maybe it was an accident (just kidding lol).
And now it’s time for the victim backstory. Larry and Bianca had been married for 34 years and had two adult children. Their daughter Anabianca followed in her dad’s footsteps and became a dentist, while their son Julian became a lawyer.
Larry had started his own dental practice in Pittsburg early in their marriage, and it was very successful. It was a sedation dentistry office, which honestly all dental offices should be. My insurance won’t pay for sedation, and the dentist gives me the worst anxiety, but I digress.
The business was booming. Enough so that the Rudolphs bought a second home in Arizona. Home is a bit of an understatement tbh. It was a mansion. The Rudolphs were doing very well financially.
Then we get interviews with people who are high up in some hunting organizations, but I found myself so annoyed by the taxidermy lions that I couldn’t really pay attention to what they said. But basically, Larry became the president of the Safari Club International. He then left that group (and we will find out why later) to join another group called Weatherby. He eventually became president of that group too.
The morning after Bianca’s death, her body was taken to the capitol of Zambia for an autopsy. They ruled the cause of death to be a shotgun blast to the chest. They also ruled it an accident.
Larry didn’t tell their kids that Bianca was dead until he was back in the States. I found that weird. But the daughter Anabianca felt like something was wrong.
Larry gave the bad news to his son Julian, who flew to Pittsburg to tell his sister in person. And two weeks later, Bianca’s family held a Catholic memorial for her. Not really a funeral because Larry had Bianca cremated in Africa. Put a pin in that.
Meanwhile, Larry was busy handling his wife’s estate, which included several life insurance policies. And there it is. There’s almost always a life insurance policy that could be a motive for the victim’s murder.
Okay, then we meet probably my favorite person in this episode, which isn’t hard considering they’re all big game hunters. Her name is Anna Grimley and she was an office manager at one of Larry’s offices. And she knows some secrets.
Larry and Lori sitting in a tree
This is where the juicy part of the episode really begins. We hear from a former employee who said that they were told not to talk about Bianca’s death. But that wasn’t the only thing they weren’t supposed to talk about.
When Larry was in town, he would often ride to and from the office with an employee named Lori Milliron. No one really knew what her job title was, and maybe they didn’t know that boss’s mistress was an option. Even Anabianca had noticed their relationship, but I think she didn’t want to believe it.
Back to Anna Grimley and the tea she’s about to spill. One day Anna needed help putting a dresser together (we’ve all been there, right?), and Lori Milliron offered to help her. While at Anna’s house, Lori told her that she and Larry were together. Not smart, Lori.
And then we find out that Larry was a known womanizer in the hunting world. Remember how he left Safari Club International for another hunting group? Yeah, that’s because he was kicked out for infidelity.
Larry sued SCI, and the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount. But not before Bianca was deposed and asked about her knowledge of Larry and Lori’s relationship. So if Bianca didn’t suspect before, she definitely did now.
Larry had a temper according to employees, and they were scared of him. He would punch walls and throw dental instruments at the slightest provocation. Anna only worked there a year before she couldn’t take it anymore and she quit.
Anna noticed that Larry encouraged cash as a form of payment. He would even offer discounts to people paying with cash. So the business was bringing in a lot of physical currency. The cash was put into a big safe.
Lori told Anna that she and Larry were going to use the cash to start a new life-one without Bianca. Bianca reported this to the FBI. And the FBI said she wasn’t the first person to call about Bianca’s death.
She also told the FBI that Lori had given Larry an ultimatum. According to Anna, Lori said, “He has a year to get rid of Bianca.” Did that mean a year to leave her? Or a year to kill her?
The FBI goes to Zambia
Based on the information they had, the FBI launched a full investigation in 2019. They traveled to Zambia and talked to witnesses who didn’t seem to buy Larry’s story.
Only months after Bianca’s memorial service, Lori had moved into the Arizona mansion. She and Larry lived it up spending lots of money on trips and cars. They were frequent diners at a fancy steakhouse in Arizona called Steak 44. This will be important later.
After that initial autopsy, Larry wanted Bianca cremated immediately, which is weird because Bianca was Catholic and that’s not a normal funeral tradition for Catholics. He was so adamant about it that he called the U.S. Consulate for help.
The Consulate thought that Larry wanting the cremation to be done so fast was suspicious. Someone at the Consulate actually sped over to the coroner’s to take pictures of Bianca’s body before she could be cremated. They took pictures of the large wound in her chest.
Larry claimed that Bianca had been packing the shotgun in the case when it just went off. That’s what his official written statement said. But African officials performed a drop test and determined the gun wouldn’t have gone off that way. And it’s difficult to shoot yourself in the chest at a 90-degree angle with a shotgun.
But the police still ruled it an accidental death. An employee at the campsite said that he saw Bianca cleaning the shotgun the night before, so there’s no way it was loaded.
And this is my favorite part. Larry said he had been in the bath when the gun went off. Everyone at the campsite thought he was showering. But in the 15 seconds it took people to find Bianca after the sound of the gunshot, Larry had somehow put all his clothes on. Belt and all. Sure, Larry.
Add to all of that the fact that Bianca was an experienced gun owner and hunter. She would not have shot herself accidentally.
A pattern of insurance fraud
For some reason, Zambian authorities gave Larry the shotgun back after they ruled the death an accident. So that piece of evidence is gone now.
Larry cashed in on $4.8 million in life insurance payouts. So the insurance companies hired private investigators to investigate whether the claims were on the up and up.
After getting all of that money, Larry and Lori lived it up big-time with fancy cars, expensive meals, and pricy vacations. They even started construction on a new home in Arizona because I guess they had outgrown the old mansion.
This wasn’t the first time that Larry had some shady dealings with insurance companies. He once claimed that a crocodile had bitten the tip of his thumb off. Just the tip of his thump. A crocodile. Again, sure, Larry.
But Larry received $30,000.00 a month from his disability insurance for this claim. So basically he had his lucrative business and disability coming in every month. Why would he even need more money from Bianca’s life insurance?
Despite their suspicions, the FBI didn’t have enough to charge Larry.
For the love of god, go to the FBI
This part made me want to pull my hair out. We meet Brian Lovelace who was a bartender at Steak 44 in 2020.
One night, Larry and Lori were sitting at the bar when the music stopped for a second. Brian could sense the conversation between the couple was tense. And then Larry said, “I killed my f*cking wife for you.”
Brian was confused by this because he thought Lori was Larry’s wife. Brian told his wife, and the incident was being discussed in the restaurant group chat.
It seems like Brian’s coworkers wanted him to go to the police, but Brian said he didn’t have enough information. But then another bartender sent a link to a story about Bianca’s death to that group chat.
But Brian still didn’t go to the FBI and I’m very aggravated with him even though he’s handsome and charming.
In December 2021, five years after Bianca’s death, Larry was arrested in Mexico.
He was indicted for murder, and Lori was subpoenaed to testify at Larry’s grand jury hearing. She said she didn’t know anything about the death.
After the arrest, one of Brian’s coworkers that they called Nancy Drew went to the FBI to tell them what Brian heard. So Brian never did report the conversation. Brian. Come one.
Anyway, Lori was arrested for lying during her grand jury testimony and ordered not to have any contact with Larry while she was out on bond. This was just a tactic to get her to flip on Larry.
Was an accident even possible?
Lori’s attorney denied that she had lied or had any information about Bianca’s death of course.
The FBI knew they needed more concrete evidence if they wanted to get Larry convicted, so they hired a company called Anthrotech to determine if an accident was even a possibility.
They had 30 women pack a shotgun in a case. None of them pointed the barrel at themselves and only one of them could reach the trigger with the barrel on their chests.
Even host Andrea Canning tried to do it and she couldn’t.
Larry and Lori were tried together in July 2022. Because it was a federal court case, cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom, which is very sad for Dateline.
Larry’s children stayed on his side the whole time.
Larry insisted on taking the stand in his own defense, which is such a narcissistic thing to do. He testified for two whole days. What a stupid thing to do.
Oh, and the defense said that Brian didn’t hear the full context of that convo he overheard. They said Larry said, “They think I killed my f*cking wife for you.”
Remember how Larry had said he was in the shower when the gun went off? Well, on the stand, he said that he was in the bathroom but not the shower, so his being fully clothed isn’t a problem. Mmmhmm.
Larry was convicted on all counts, including premeditated murder and mail fraud. He will be sentenced in 2023.
Lori was offered a plea deal, which she rejected. She was also found guilty of accessory after the fact, obstruction of justice, and perjury for lying to the grand jury.
Lori is also awaiting her sentence, but she thought she could just keep living her normal life while out on bond. But that didn’t happen. She was fired from the dental practice and cut off from all of Larry’s money. And remember that no contact order? Well, Lori spoke to Larry on the prison phone several times after that order was put in place.
Did you know that prison phone calls are recorded? Apparently, Lori didn’t know, or she didn’t care. But she was arrested for breaking that order and she’s being held without bond or bail until her sentencing.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Larry is guilty. An accident makes absolutely no sense.
Overall, I thought this was a good episode. I honestly expected Larry to be the victim when the episode started, so I was surprised when it was Bianca that was killed. Oh, and there’s no 911 call in this episode. There’s a first time for everything.
What do you think of the case? Did Larry and Lori get what they deserved? What sentence do you think they should receive? Let me know in the comments below! I’ll see you next week.
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