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No bail for former attorney charged with wife’s 1973 murder in Barrington

A 73-year-old man has been charged with beating his young wife to death before staging it to look like a car crash 42 years ago in northwest suburban Barrington.

Donnie Rudd, 73, was arrested last week in Sugarland, Texas, for the cold case murder of Noreen Rudd on Sept. 14, 1973, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

He met the 19-year-old woman that year while they were working together at the Quaker Oat Company in Barrington, where Donnie Rudd was a patent attorney. He had a live-in girlfriend, and her boyfriend had recently been killed in a car accident, but they were married by late summer, prosecutors said.

Just 27 days after their marriage, emergency crews responded to a car crash near Route 62 and Bateman Road in Barrington, where Donnie Rudd was in the front passenger seat of his Pinto Wagon in a grassy area southwest of the intersection, with Noreen Rudd’s head on his lap with her feet lying across the driver’s side, prosecutors said. 

While officers tried to revive her, they noticed a large hole in her head. She was taken to Sherman Hospital in Elgin, where she later died.

Police determined his car had gone in a straight line before hitting a barbed wire fence and sustaining minor damage. At the scene, Rudd claimed they had been driven off the road by a hit man hired by a local politician to kill him, and that his wife hit her head on a rock when her door swung open and ejected her from the car. He showed officers a large rock that had hair and blood on it, prosecutors said.

An autopsy was never performed on the woman, but a coroner’s inquest ruled her death an accident.

Rudd soon returned to his former girlfriend and married her eight months later. He also cashed in two life insurance policies worth $120,000, prosecutors said.

The case was closed until 2012, when Rudd was questioned as a suspect in the unsolved 1991 murder of Arlington Heights resident Lauretta Tabek-Bodke, who was fatally shot inside her kitchen. While discussing the 1973 case, he first said Noreen Rudd died inside the vehicle, but later claimed he didn’t know whether or not she left the car, prosecutors said. 

Her body was exhumed and an autopsy reclassified her death a homicide by blunt force trauma, with fractures and lacerations across her head and skull.

Judge Joseph Cataldo ordered Rudd held without bail on Monday. He is due back in court in Rolling Meadows on Christmas Eve.