17-Sep-22 – Convicted of first-degree murder but claiming innocence until the end, Dr. Donnie Rudd died on Thursday at the age of 80.
Rudd was serving essentially a life sentence, 75-to-150 years at Pinckneyville Correctional Center in Pinckneyville, Illinois, for the murder in 1973 of his wife, Noreen Kumeta-Rudd.
A spokesperson for Illinois Department of Corrections confirmed the death.
Rudd was waiting to hear if the United States Supreme Court was going to hear his case. He had petitioned the court in one last attempt to overturn his conviction in 2018.
Rudd had claimed innocence since the cold case investigation started in 2012. He was convicted on July 2, 2018, after a five-day trial. The Appellate Court of Illinois denied his appeal in 2020. The Illinois Supreme Court declined in January 2021 to even hear the case.
Late at night, driving on what is now Route 68 near Bateman Road in Cook County, Rudd says an oncoming car in his lane ran him off the road, causing Noreen to be ejected from his car. He says she hit her head on a rock. Her death was ruled accidental but in 2016, after a four-year investigation by the Arlington Heights Police Department, exhumation of Noreen’s body, and an autopsy, a grand jury indicted Rudd, concluding there was evidence the young woman died from multiple blows to the head.
The motive, said prosecutors, was a $100,000 life insurance policy of which Rudd was the beneficiary. When questioned by police in 2013, Rudd denied knowing he was the beneficiary but said such a policy was “customary back then” and common among employees at Quaker Oats, where he worked as a patent attorney, from 1965 to 1974, and Noreen worked as a librarian.
Speaking for about 30 minutes at his sentencing hearing on September 13, 2018, in Rolling Meadows, Rudd told Circuit Court Judge Marc Martin he did not kill Noreen. He said he used $800 from the insurance proceeds to buy a “beat-up car” for his daughter and gave the rest to Noreen’s mother.
Rudd had multiple health issues, including colon cancer.
Checkered law career was followed by stem cell research
At one time, Rudd’s law firm in Schaumburg, Rudd & Associates, which he managed for 15 years, had more than 2,000 clients, mostly homeowner associations.
In 1983, with state representative Ellis Levin, Rudd helped write amendments that overhauled the Illinois Condominium Property Act. Rudd lived in a condominium at the time. He had read about changes Levin was proposing to the Illinois Condominium Property Act. He wrote to Levin, saying the changes were “the stupidest thing I had ever heard of” and offered alternatives. Levin not only took his suggestions and made changes, but he asked Rudd if there were any other problems with condominiums that could be fixed through legislation.
Rudd’s law firm combed through hundreds of lawsuits and other issues they had encountered over the years. Levin used Rudd’s suggestions to redraft 87 amendments, of which 85 percent were voted into law by Illinois legislators.
Rudd warned of condo boards that abused their power. “No one in his right mind would sit on a condo board,” he said in 2008. “So, you get the ‘second-tier’ people. Power goes to their heads. You need checks and balances. [Boards] can get out of control very quickly.”
He said the only duty of an association board is to increase the property values of units in the association. Said Rudd, “Every so often you have to ask if that is what is happening or is someone showing someone else they have power?”
In 1994, after four complaints were filed against him with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, Rudd voluntarily changed the status of his Illinois law license to “inactive.”
With degrees in bioscience, bioengineering, and chemical engineering, Rudd then became an expert on stem cells. He had more than 40 patents, mostly related to cell regeneration, repair of human tissue, and curing diseases to vital organs. He wrote 15 books and more than 160 professional publications.
He was Chief Scientist, Director of Intellectual Property, and Corporate Secretary for a stem cell research company called Regenetech, Inc., until it was sold in 2009. Regenetech, according to Rudd at the time, was developing adult stem cell and tissue regeneration technology. The goal was to regenerate tissue for the heart and vascular system, pancreas, prostate, liver, skin, lungs, and blood.