By KEN RITTER
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — One of Nevada’s most notorious convicted murderers, dubbed a “black widow killer,” was released from prison Friday, 25 years after her millionaire husband’s burned remains were found outside Las Vegas.
Margaret Rudin, 76, a socialite antiques shop owner who spent two years as a fugitive ahead of her 2001 trial, left a women’s prison after winning parole from her 20-years-to-life sentence for the killing of real estate mogul Ron Rudin.
A tip generated by a “most wanted” TV show led to her arrest in 1999 in Revere, Massachusetts, where she lived for a year with a retired firefighter she met among a group of American retirees in Mexico.
Leaving prison, Rudin got into a sports utility vehicle and did not speak with reporters. Her lawyer, Greg Mullanax, read a statement calling it “a happy day for Margaret Rudin and her family.”
“But the joy of being released from prison is tempered by the fact that Margaret Rudin is innocent and she did not murder her husband, Ron Rudin,” the attorney said.
Mullanax is asking a federal judge to order a new trial to clear Rudin of the conviction that will otherwise keep her on parole for the rest of her life.
Her murder trial made headlines in an era of sensational televised trials following the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson in the killings of his wife and her friend in Los Angeles and the first trial in the 1998 death of Las Vegas casino heir Ted Binion.
Rudin’s case was tried before the same Nevada judge who presided when former stripper Sandy Murphy and her lover, Rick Tabish, were convicted in 2000 and acquitted in 2004 of murdering the 55-year-old Binion, who prosecutors said was drugged and suffocated in a plot to steal his fortune of buried silver.
In Rudin’s case, intrigue and plot twists began after her husband, a 64-year-old prominent Las Vegas real estate developer, disappeared in December 1994.
Fishermen stumbled across his skull and some charred bones a month later near the shoreline of a Colorado River reservoir about 45 miles (72 kilometers) outside Las Vegas.
Prosecutors said he had been shot in the head as he slept and that his body was hauled in a trunk to the desert and burned. A distinctive jeweled bracelet with the name “Ron” was found at the scene.
Ron and Margaret Rudin had been married seven years — the fifth marriage for each. Police said he was shot several times with a .22-caliber gun with a silencer that Ron Rudin had reported missing a year after they wed.
Beneficiaries revealed that Ron Rudin amended his trust in 1991 with a directive to investigate his death if it was by violent means and cutting anyone responsible out of his will.
Margaret Rudin tried to obtain a $6 million share of her husband’s $11 million fortune, but settled with trustees of his estate for about $500,000 after they sued her in 1996 to try to prove she played a role in his death.
She became a fugitive after police said a diver found the murder weapon in 1996 at the bottom of Lake Mead. She vanished weeks before she was indicted in 1997 on murder, accessory to murder and unlawful use of a listening device charges. Prosecutors said she had tapped her husband’s phones when she suspected he was having an affair.
Authorities said Rudin changed her name and her appearance, and slipped through the hands of Phoenix police in September 1998 before her arrest in November 1999 in Massachusetts.
Her trial featured Rudin’s sister testifying against her but was most remembered for the struggles of defense attorney Michael Amador, who provided such a rambling opening argument for jurors that Rudin asked for a mistrial.
Veteran Judge Joseph Bonaventure rejected a mistrial, but effectively replaced Amador by appointing two respected defense lawyers to assist him. The judge also provided defense investigators to complete unfinished preparation.
Amador did not immediately respond Thursday or Friday to messages.
Amador had said he was defending Rudin for free, but Rudin said Amador improperly tried to secure media rights to her story and Amador’s secretary testified that she saw movie rights and book deal contracts.
Two Nevada Supreme Court justices noted that Amador invited TV crews to interview Rudin at his office when she arrived to prepare for trial.
Several lawyers argued on appeals that the trial was so flawed that Rudin deserved a retrial. A state court judge in 2008 agreed, but the Nevada Supreme Court overruled that decision. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015 ordered a new look at Rudin’s conviction.
Last year, the Nevada Department of Corrections agreed not to oppose Rudin’s parole to settle her federal court civil rights complaints of mistreatment, misconduct and sexism in prison programs for aging inmates.
Mullanax said Rudin, who became a great-grandmother while in prison, plans to move to the Chicago area to live near family members.
A juror-turned-supporter and friend, Coreen Kovacs, who was the last holdout before voting to convict Rudin, accompanied Mullanax on Friday. Kovacs said she’s convinced Margaret Rudin didn’t kill Ron Rudin, but added she didn’t know who did.
“I have been waiting for this date as long as she has,” Kovacs told The Associated Press. “She forgave me long, long ago. I haven’t forgiven me.”
This version corrects the first name of the juror, Coreen, not Corrine.
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