Prosecution witness says Rudd's wife's death was no accident

A former Cook County chief medical examiner testified Friday that Donnie Rudd's second wife was killed by blows to her head, disputing a defense expert's account that she died from "internal decapitation" as a result of a car crash.

Testifying as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution in Rudd's murder trial, forensic pathologist Stephen Cina disagreed with the defense's expert, Las Vegas radiologist Robert Hurwitz. Hurwitz said Rudd's wife, 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta, died as a result of a single-vehicle crash along Bateman and Dundee roads in Barrington Township on Sept. 14, 1973.

According to Hurwitz, internal decapitation occurs when tendons holding the spine to the base of the skull separate. Cina first challenged Hurwitz's definition, telling jurors that ligaments, not tendons, attach the spine to the skull. Kumeta's ligaments did not appear damaged, he said.

"The ligament that holds the head onto the neck looks perfect," said Cina, who disputed Hurwitz's finding after reviewing a 2013 autopsy report as well as photos and X-rays of Kumeta's remains, which he said revealed fractures, lacerations and bleeding.

Cina's findings concurred with those of two other forensic pathologists who testified earlier that Kumeta died from blows to her head.

"Something hit her on both sides of her head, more than once on the left side," said Cina, who called Kumeta's death a homicide "caused by something broad, heavy and swung with a great deal of force."

Those type of injuries would not result from a low-speed car accident or ejection from a car, he said. He added that he saw no report of bruises, scrapes or other injuries that would accompany such an accident.

Prosecutors say Rudd, a former attorney, murdered his bride of less than one month to collect on $120,000 in life insurance payouts and staged an accident to cover up the crime.

Rudd's attorneys claim her death was a tragic accident. He has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities initially classified Kumeta's death an accident after Rudd told responding officers she was thrown from their car after another vehicle forced them off the road and down an embankment. Kumeta was pronounced dead on arrival at Sherman Hospital in Elgin, where an emergency room physician listed spinal fracture as the cause of death.

Prosecutors attacked Hurwitz's credentials, pointing out that he is not a trained pathologist and never performed an autopsy. Hurwitz responded that he has performed "virtual autopsies," using MRI machines and CT scans on human remains from the Clark County coroner's office in Nevada.

He testified he came to his conclusion after reading an emergency room report and viewing X-rays and photographs of Kumeta's body, which was exhumed in 2013 in connection with an Arlington Heights police investigation in the unsolved 1991 murder of interior designer Loretta Tabak-Bodtke, one of Rudd's clients. Rudd remains a suspect in that case but has not been charged.

The trial resumes Monday in Rolling Meadows.

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