Prosecutors say that Lawrence “Larry” Rudolph murdered Bianca Rudolph at a remote cabin in Zambia and later exclaimed to his longtime lover “I killed my f***ing wife for you.”
A court in Colorado heard that Mr Rudolph blurted out the alleged confession to his girlfriend Lori Milliron at a steakhouse in Phoenix, Arizona after he learned in 2020 that the FBI was investigating his late wife’s death.
“He killed his wife for her,” Assistant US Attorney Bishop Grewell said in the Denver courtroom as he pointed at Ms Milliron.
Mr Rudolph, 67, is charged with murder and mail fraud and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty if found guilty. Ms Milliron is charged with lying to a grand jury and being an accessory after the fact.
Mr Rudolph has always denied being responsible for his wife’s 2016 death and told authorities in Zambia that he was in the bathroom when his wife shot herself as she packed away a shotgun as the couple prepared to return to the US.
The trial is taking place in Colorado because that is where the insurance payments were made.
“They’ve chosen speculation over science. They’ve chosen fiction over fact,” said Mr Rudolph’s lawyer, David Markus, during his opening statement.
The attorney said that the shooting took place at 5am as staff were coming in and out of the cabin to serve the couple breakfast.
He told the jury that lodge workers found Mr Rudolph in shock and distress after the shooting and argued that his wife had accidentally dropped the weapon causing it to discharge.
Authorities in Zambia ruled it an accident after a two-day investigation and insurance investigators also later reached the same conclusion, he added.
The jury was told by Mr Markus that his alleged admission of guilt in Phoenix had been heard incorrectly by a witness and that he had actually said, “They’re saying I killed my f***ing wife for you.”
Mr Rudolph met his wife at the University of Pittsburgh and the couple married in 1982.
The couple, who had two children, visited Kafue National Park in 2016 so Bianca could try and achieve her goal of shooting a leopard.
The Associated Press contributed to this report