'Cold and calculated' attorney accused of killing wife in 1973 held on $4 million bail

  • Donnie Rudd is being held on $4 million bail in the Cook County jail. He's accused of killing his wife in 1973 and is a suspect in the death of an Arlington Heights woman in 1991.

    Donnie Rudd is being held on $4 million bail in the Cook County jail. He's accused of killing his wife in 1973 and is a suspect in the death of an Arlington Heights woman in 1991. Photo courtesy of Fort Bend County

  • Stephanie Tabak, left, and her brother, Peter Tabak, attended Donnie Rudd's bond hearing Thursday in Cook County circuit court in Rolling Meadows.

      Stephanie Tabak, left, and her brother, Peter Tabak, attended Donnie Rudd's bond hearing Thursday in Cook County circuit court in Rolling Meadows. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/24/2015 7:39 PM

Bail has been set at $4 million for a former Northwest suburban attorney charged with the 1973 murder of his wife.

Donnie Rudd, 73, of Sugar Land, Texas, attended Thursday's bond hearing in the Rolling Meadows branch of Cook County circuit court, after being released from Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights after treatment for cellulitis earlier this week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Judge Joseph Cataldo agreed to have Rudd held in a Cook County Jail medical unit after defense attorney Timothy Grace said his client is contending simultaneously with colon cancer and cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection. Rudd used two crutches and had air-cushioned medical boots on both feet when he entered Cataldo's courtroom.

Cataldo rejected Grace's request for a $500,000 bail, saying Rudd is accused of being "cold and calculated" in the slaying of his 19-year-old wife, Noreen Kumeta Rudd, and is a suspect in the 1991 killing of Arlington Heights interior designer Loretta Tabak-Bodtke.

Grace raised questions in court about the murder case against Rudd, which he said will depend on hearsay evidence and information from people no longer alive.

"I think a $4 million bond, with all due respect to his honor, is very, very aggressive," Grace said after the hearing. "I just don't think that's commensurate with what evidence the state has and commensurate with the charges as they be."

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Tabak-Bodtke's children, Peter and Stephanie Tabak, and Noreen Rudd's sister, Karen Mezera, sat in the courtroom gallery's first row, getting a good look at Rudd. After court, the Tabaks expressed satisfaction with the $4 million bond.

"This is the best Christmas present that me and my sister, my family, have gotten for decades since the loss of my mother," said Peter Tabak, 52, who lives near Springfield, "watching this man go down to Cook County Jail and suffer now because he's made two families suffer for so long with no justice, no retribution. And, finally, his day is going to come."

Less than a month after her August 1973 wedding to Rudd, 19-year-old Noreen Kumeta Rudd was dead, found lying across her husband's lap in their car after what seemed to be an accident near Dundee and Bateman roads in Barrington Township, according to Cook County prosecutors.

At the time, authorities ruled the bride's death an accident. However, prosecutors earlier this week called the 42-year-old case a homicide and pegged Rudd, a former Hoffman Estates patent attorney they contend staged the crash to cover up his wife's murder and collect on life insurance policies worth $120,000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After Noreen Kumeta Rudd's body was exhumed in 2013, a Kane County coroner's office doctor ruled her death was a homicide from blunt force trauma. Rudd was extradited last week from his Texas home to face the Illinois murder charge.

Considered one of the foremost authorities on Illinois condominium laws, Rudd was nevertheless disbarred in 1994 in Illinois for engaging in unlawful, dishonest and fraudulent conduct.

Rudd has long been suspect, although never charged, in the unsolved 1991 killing of Tabak-Bodtke, who was shot four times in the head by someone police believe she knew.

Arlington Heights police said it was a 2012 review of the Tabak-Bodtke cold case that led authorities to reinvestigate Noreen Kumeta Rudd's death.

Tabak-Bodtke, 59, was found by her husband on the kitchen floor of their Arlington Heights townhouse on April 4, 1991, McCarthy said. She had hired Rudd to represent her in a lawsuit against her former business partner, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy.

Prosecutors said Rudd told Tabak-Bodtke he had settled her case for several hundred thousand dollars. But after he failed to deposit the funds in her account, Tabak-Bodtke threatened to report him to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, where several other clients had lodged similar complaints against Rudd, McCarthy said.

McCarthy presented details about the Tabak-Bodtke case at Rudd's hearing Thursday over the defense attorney's unsuccessful objection. She said neighbors saw Rudd's white compact car with the vanity license plates "MR CONDO" at Tabak-Bodtke's home the day she was killed.

"This defendant is diabolical," McCarthy said. "He is a sociopath."

Grace criticized prosecutors for attempting to blend two "half cases" against Rudd into one. He said prosecutors won't reveal whether a Cook County grand jury declined to indict Rudd after receiving the Tabak-Bodtke case in the '90s.

"I know my client testified at the grand jury," Grace said. "He didn't run, didn't assert the 5th Amendment. He testified and they didn't charge him."

Grace said Rudd moved to Texas not to escape wrongdoing in Illinois, but because of family ties. He said Rudd, who has had several wives and fathered nine children, most recently worked as a chief scientist directing research and development for a company involved in stem cell research.

"I believe his last wife and him got divorced back in 2009," Grace said. "He's been suffering through a lot of medical issues, so I think that's what he's been concentrating on."

If convicted, Rudd faces a minimum of 14 years in prison under 1973 sentencing guidelines.

Stephanie Tabak, 56, of Arlington Heights, said her family is grateful village police are on her mother's cold case. She said she kept in touch with Arlington Heights authorities over the years.

"They did an absolutely wonderful job investigating Noreen's case," she said. "They haven't given up."

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