Opening statements begin in trial of Donnie Rudd, attorney accused of killing wife

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (WLS) -- Opening statements took place Tuesday in the murder trial of a former lawyer accused of killing his wife back in 1973.

Donnie Rudd showed little emotion as he headed to court for the start of his murder trial. He's accused in the cold case slaying of his young wife which happened more than 40 years ago.

Claiming to suffer from cancer and using a wheelchair to get around, the 76-year-old former attorney, school board member, and suburban planning commissioner maintains his innocence despite being charged with first degree murder of 19-year-old Noreen Rudd.

The two met while both were working at the Quaker Oats Company in Barrington.

Prosecutors accused Rudd of beating his young wife to death less than a month after they were married and staging a car accident to cover it up - all for $120,000 in insurance money.

During her opening statements, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy told the jury of mostly women: "The defendant married Noreen because he wanted to kill her and 27 days after he married her, he did just that. Noreen was nothing more than a pawn, a means to an end."

Noreen's death was reclassified as a homicide in 2013 when Arlington Heights police exhumed her body as a part of an investigation into the 1991 cold-case murder of interior designer Loretta Tabak-Bodtke, with whom the Texas transplant had a business dispute.

Rudd -- who was a real estate attorney in Illinois but lost his license in 1994 after being suspected of fraud -- has remained a suspect in the killing of his one-time client who was found shot to death in her suburban apartment.

In court, defense attorney Tim Grace said Noreen's death was a tragic and horrible accident from injuries she sustained when she was ejected from the car after an unknown driver forced the couple off the road.

"There is no evidence at all to suggest she died of blunt force trauma....this is not some conspiracy," defense attorney Tim Grace said.

The trial is expected to last through the end of the week. If convicted, Rudd faces a minimum of 14 years in prison.
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