75-to-150 years in prison for former Chicago attorney convicted of 1973 murder
Loop North News

Donnie Rudd

(Above) Aerial view of Dundee Road near its intersection with Bateman Road in Barrington Hills, Illinois. Exactly 45 years ago, a 19-year-old woman died here, either in a traffic accident or, say prosecutors, from being struck repeatedly in the head by her husband, a noted Chicago attorney.

14-Sep-18 – Seventy-five to 150 years in an Illinois prison is the fate of Dr. Donnie Rudd, the former condominium law attorney convicted on July 2 of killing his wife 45 years ago, unless an appeal of his first-degree murder conviction, filed on Thursday, is successful.

During an often emotional eight-hour sentencing hearing in Rolling Meadows, Circuit Court Judge Marc Martin listened as prosecutors told of a second murder they suspect Rudd committed, sisters of Noreen Rudd shared how losing her has affected them, and Donnie himself spoke in court for the first time, denying he is a murderer.

Donnie Rudd

With a motion for a new trial denied, the court spent much of the day hearing about a 1991 homicide in which Rudd (left) has never been ruled out as a suspect.

On April 4, 1991, a 59-year-old woman, Lauretta Tabak-Bodtke, who had been a law client of Rudd’s, was found by her husband, shot in the face multiple times with a .22 caliber gun in the kitchen of their upscale townhouse in Arlington Heights. No one has ever been charged. Hundreds of people were interviewed, including Rudd, who asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to talk to police. Although admittedly at the home of Tabak-Bodtke on the day she died, Rudd has denied involvement in the murder.

Rudd’s attorney, Timothy Grace, told Judge Martin the testimony amounted to a “mini-trial” and Martin himself described some of the testimony as “triple hearsay.”

Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Maria McCarthy (right) was relentless with accounts of other tales from Rudd’s checkered past, including complaints against him with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission that led to Rudd in 1994 requesting his name be removed from a list of attorneys licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Marc Martin

It was the end to a noteworthy law career. At one time, Rudd’s law firm in Schaumburg, Rudd & Associates, had more than 2,000 clients, mostly homeowner associations.

The hearing date was one day before the 45-year anniversary of the death of Noreen Rudd. The 19-year-old librarian at Quaker Oats died on a remote, unlit highway northwest of Chicago on September 14, 1973. Initially ruled a traffic accident, decades later investigators say Noreen was killed intentionally by Donnie as part of an insurance scam. Evidence was presented during a five-day trial that Donnie struck Noreen in the head multiple times. His motive, said prosecutors, were insurance policies that paid him more than $100,000.

Sisters tell of anguish following Noreen’s death

Noreen’s two sisters, Donna Haggerton and Karen Mezera, spoke about how the loss of Noreen has affected them.

“He took away the joy and happiness we had as a family,” said Donna about Rudd. “He took away one of the greatest blessings I had ever received.”

Mezera recounted the phone call from her mother, saying Noreen had died in an accident. “The pain and sorrow of losing Noreen was beyond comprehension.”

She told Judge Martin she feels rage against Donnie for “preying on our vulnerable young sister.”

“I will forever wonder,” said Mezera, “did Noreen know it was coming? Did she experience fear, pain? Did she know she was going to die?”

Under 1973 guidelines, Rudd faced at least 14 years in prison but with the possibility of parole. Assistant State’s Attorney David Coleman asked Martin to give Rudd a prison sentence of 100 to 300 years, the longer-than-lifespan sentence intended to minimize the chance of parole and to “send a message.”

Timothy Grace

Grace responded by saying the 76-year-old Rudd has stage two colon cancer and so any time in prison is a life sentence.

“How we judge our society is how we judge our prisoners,” said Grace (left). “We have to show him mercy.”

At 5:00 p.m., Rudd, wearing beige prison clothing, pushed his wheelchair before Judge Martin and spoke in court for the first time since his indictment for murder in January 2016.

“I did not kill her,” he told Martin. He explained that due to an earlier accident, he could not lift any heavy object, let alone an object to strike Noreen in the head. He said he did not know of the insurance policies before his wife’s death, and says he gave all of the proceeds to Noreen’s mother.

Some of the money, he says, was used to buy his daughter a “beat-up car” for $800 so he did not have to drive her around.

He also said police evidence that could have exonerated him has disappeared.

“I am not a saint,” he admitted, acknowledging some blame for the ARDC complaints, but said it was not fair to Noreen’s family to let them think she had been murdered.

Speaking for about 30 minutes, Rudd denied allegations and went through a list of issues with the case, sounding more like a lawyer arguing before a judge than a defendant pleading for leniency.

Before issuing the sentence, Martin (right) said he was not swayed by testimony about the 1991 murder investigation, and that he gave Rudd “the benefit of the doubt” about other charges against him, unrelated to the murder for which Rudd was convicted, but said the offense was “cold, cunning, calculated, and motivated by greed.”

Marc Martin

As an attorney and former school board president, Rudd lived “a diabolical secret life,” said Martin.

After the hearing, Grace said the 75-to-150 years was “a stiff sentence but within sentencing guidelines.”

Rudd would be eligible for parole in eleven years. Though he has terminal cancer, McCarthy noted that Rudd’s twin brother has lived with cancer for eleven years.

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

Published 14-Sep-18 1:46 PM

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