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posted: 7/5/2018 1:00 AM

Editorial: Rudd verdict a testament to police, family search for justice

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  • From left, Stephanie Tabak, Karen Mezera and Donna Haggerton walk arm-in-arm after a jury found Donnie Rudd guilty of murder for the death of his wife Noreen Kumeta 45 years ago.

      From left, Stephanie Tabak, Karen Mezera and Donna Haggerton walk arm-in-arm after a jury found Donnie Rudd guilty of murder for the death of his wife Noreen Kumeta 45 years ago.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

"Finally the law caught up with him. You can't cheat all your life and think you're going to get away with it."

That's the story of Donnie Rudd, those who have waited decades for justice and the police who didn't give up on a cold case.

Peter Tabak, whose mother was killed in a 1991 unsolved case involving Rudd, said those words in December 2015 when Rudd finally was arrested on charges of the 1973 killing of his wife of less than a month, 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta.

This week Rudd, 76, found out the result -- a conviction in Kumeta's death, a jury believing the prosecution that Rudd, then 31, killed Kumeta for insurance money. Rudd had maintained that she died from injuries suffered in a car crash in Barrington Township.

Lesson learned for those involved? Don't give up if you feel someone has been wronged, no matter how long it takes. Incredibly, it was the case of Loretta Tabak-Bodtke that led to Rudd's conviction in the Kumeta case this week.

Tabak-Bodtke, 59, was found shot to death on the kitchen floor of her Arlington Heights townhouse in 1991. She had hired Rudd, a lawyer since disbarred, to represent her in a lawsuit against her business partner. She won the case but the funds coming to her were never deposited in her account. Police say she threatened to report Rudd. He remains a suspect in her case.

It was a 2012 review of that case by Arlington Heights police that led to Kumeta's case getting reopened. Her body was exhumed in 2013 and a new autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma to the head rather than from injuries sustained in a car accident.

"We feel like our sister can finally rest in peace after 45 years," said Donna Haggerton, sister of Kumeta. "She went to the grave with a terrible secret."

Haggerton credits Stephanie Tabak -- who has long suspected Rudd in the death of her mother -- for her work, along with the Arlington Heights police and Cook County prosecutors for leading to the reopening of Kumeta's case. They all should be proud of the work they did.

"I've been hoping and praying for 27 years to see justice in my mother's case. It gives me satisfaction just to know he's going to prison," Tabak said.

We've commented before on cold cases -- families need closure, need justice, need the truth to win out. The police and prosecution need perseverance and the tools of a new age to get better results. We commend them for sticking with this case -- Arlington Heights rightly won an Illinois Homicide Investigators Association's award for Excellence for their work -- and providing justice for a 19-year-old girl who loved and trusted an older man who a jury agreed took advantage of her and callously killed her for insurance money.

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