NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- One of Nevada’s most notorious convicted murderers, dubbed a “black widow killer,” said after being released from prison Friday that she did not kill her millionaire husband 25 years ago in Las Vegas, and plans to use proceeds from her story to offer money for tips about who did.
Margaret Rudin, 76, a socialite antiques shop owner who vanished before she was indicted and 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.
“I want to be exonerated,” Rudin told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an interview with her lawyer, Greg Mullanax. She said she wants a passport, to vote and “to be able to do all the things that I was able to do before Ron was murdered.”
“I did not do it,” she said.
A tip generated by a “most wanted” TV show led to Rudin’s 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. Mullanax read a statement calling it “a happy day for Margaret Rudin and her family ... tempered by the fact that Margaret Rudin is innocent and she did not murder her husband.”
Mullanax did not immediately respond later to messages from The Associated Press.
He represents Rudin in a federal court case seeking an order for a new trial to clear Rudin of the conviction that will otherwise keep her on parole for the rest of her life.
Rudin, who became a great-grandmother while in prison, said she plans to move to the Chicago area to live with her daughter, granddaughter and grandchildren. She said she wants to move after that to Nashville, Tennessee.
“I’m going to write books,” she said, about her trial and what she endured each year she spent in prison.
She said she blamed Las Vegas police for her arrest, prosecution and conviction, and said her Christian faith helped her overcome doubt and anger in prison.
“Most of the time it was, ‘I’m going to get out of this. I’m going to get through this. I’m going to be proven innocent,’” she said.
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.
Amador did not immediately respond Thursday or Friday to messages.
Amador had said he was defending Rudin for free, but Rudin has 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.
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 AP. “She forgave me long, long ago. I haven't forgiven me."