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Sisters of teen bride killed by husband in '73 testify at sentencing hearing

George Houde, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- Donnie Rudd walked a free man for nearly 45 years after his wife's mysterious death.

But now that justice has caught up with him in the form of a first-degree murder conviction, Rudd is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars, whatever the outcome of his sentencing hearing, now underway in Cook County court.

Two sisters of Noreen Kumeta Rudd, the Carpentersville woman who was 19 when she died in what was first thought to be a car crash exactly 45 years ago Friday, gave statements in court Thursday. It's possible Rudd, who did not testify in his own defense, will speak.

"Noreen deserved a happy life," said Noreen's sister Karen Mezera. "I cannot tell you how shocked I was at the betrayal of Donnie Rudd. ... The length and level of deceit was inconceivable.

"Donnie Rudd will get earthly justice today for so brutally and viciously taking the life of our beautiful sister," she said.

For nearly half a century, Rudd's version of his wife Noreen's demise -- that his teenage bride died when their car was run off the road and crashed in a field in Barrington Hills in 1973 -- stuck.

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It stuck even though the couple had been married less than a month and Rudd, then a lawyer and school board member, had been living with another woman until just before the wedding. It stuck even though Rudd had money woes and stood to inherit a large sum from her life insurance.

And it stuck even though, in the ensuing years, Rudd would also be suspected in the slaying of Arlington Heights resident Loretta Tabak-Bodtke. He has not been charged in that death but is under investigation, police have said.

That probe was what prompted authorities eventually to take a fresh look at Noreen Rudd's death, leading to Donnie Rudd's arrest in Texas. He had relocated there from the Chicago area after he was disbarred amid investigations by the Illinois attorney disciplinary agency of misconduct complaints. Among the unhappy clients who had at least threatened to alert the agency about Rudd was Tabak-Bodtke.

Rudd was finally charged in 2015 with murder in his second wife's death. After nearly a year in jail he posted $400,000 in cash and was free on bail. He was taken back into custody after a jury convicted him earlier this summer.

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