How police concluded 42-year-old Barrington Twp. case was murder
Less than a month after her August 1973 wedding to patent attorney Donnie Rudd, 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta Rudd was dead, found lying across her husband's lap in their car after what seemed to be a crash near Dundee and Bateman roads in Barrington Township.
At the time, authorities called the bride's death an accident. Cook County prosecutors on Monday called the 42-year-old case a homicide and pointed a finger at Rudd, a former Hoffman Estates attorney they say staged the crash to cover up his wife's murder and collect on life insurance policies worth $120,000.
Extradited last week from his home in Sugar Land, Texas, Rudd, 73, did not appear at his bond hearing Monday. He was at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights diagnosed with cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection in his legs, said his attorney, Timothy Grace.
Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo ordered Rudd held without bond until a hearing Thursday, Christmas Eve, in Rolling Meadows.
If convicted, Rudd faces a minimum of 14 years in prison, according to 1973 sentencing guidelines.
Grace said his client was "surprised" at the charges, which came after the case was reopened in 2012.
"He's professed his innocence from Day One until 2013 when he spoke to authorities," said Grace, adding "a perception of smoke doesn't mean there's fire." Rudd, then 31, told police another vehicle forced their car off the road and it struck a barbed wire fence on Sept. 14, 1973, Cook County assistant state's attorney Maria McCarthy said in court Monday. Rudd claimed Noreen, who worked with him at Quaker Oats in Barrington, had been thrown from the car. Pointing to a rock that appeared to have blood and hair on it, he suggested that was the object on which she struck her head, McCarthy said.
No autopsy was done. A funeral home employee who helped prepare Noreen's body for burial observed severe trauma to her head, McCarthy said.
After authorities exhumed Noreen's body in 2013, Dr. Hilary McElligott of the Kane County coroner's office performed an autopsy. She ruled the death a homicide and named blunt force trauma as the cause, McCarthy said. Medical examiners from Cook County and St. Louis, Missouri, concurred with McElligott's finding, McCarthy said.
Rudd, who was disbarred in 1994 in Illinois for engaging in unlawful, dishonest and fraudulent conduct, is also a suspect in the 1991 unsolved murder of Arlington Heights interior designer Loretta Tabak-Bodtke, McCarthy said. Rudd has not been charged in that case, but Arlington Heights police said he remains a suspect.
Arlington Heights police said a 2012 review of that cold case led authorities to reinvestigate Noreen Kumeta Rudd's death.
Tabak-Bodtke, 59, was found by her husband, shot to death on the kitchen floor of their townhouse on April 4, 1991, McCarthy said. Tabak-Bodtke had hired Rudd to represent her in a lawsuit against her business partner, McCarthy said.
Prosecutors said Rudd told Tabak-Bodtke he had settled her case for several hundred thousand dollars. But after he failed to deposit those funds in her account, Tabak-Bodtke threatened to report him to Illinois' Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, where several other clients had lodged similar complaints against Rudd, McCarthy said.
During a post-hearing news conference Monday, Noreen Rudd's sister and Tabak-Bodtke's children stood with their arms linked while authorities described what they believe happened to the two women.
Although Rudd hasn't been charged with their mother's murder, siblings Stephanie and Peter Tabak hope he'll be held accountable for actions that Peter Tabak said "led to tragedy for a lot of families."
"Finally the law caught up with him," he said. "You can't cheat all your life and think you're going to get away with it."