Margaret Rudin is a “Black Widow” No More.
The regular interval of human remains emerging from Lake Mead last summer got me thinking about Margaret Rudin. If you’re not from Las Vegas, or you’re not a fan of shows like Deadly Women, America’s Most Wanted or 20/20, you probably don’t know her name. Referred to in the media as the “Black Widow of Las Vegas”, Margaret achieved notoriety in the late 90s when she was tried and convicted of killing her husband, millionaire Ron Rudin.
Ronald Rudin, a man referred to as a real estate “magnate” (a term I find rather pretentious, but that’s neither here nor there), was Margaret’s fifth husband. Margaret was his fifth wife. They met at church; Margaret said that he was fun to be around, and others described him as being easy on the eyes. They met in 1987 and married soon after. During their marriage, Ron was hard at work developing the land he owned around Lee Canyon and spending so much time away from his wife gave rise to what Margaret referred to as his “paranoia”, which included accusations of infidelity. Whether or not the suspicions of infidelity were true is irrelevant now — the damage to their relationship was already done.
(Side note — he was said to be having an affair with an IRS agent around this same time. Shocking, I know.)
Ron went missing after being seen walking to Margaret’s antique shop in December 1994. They found his car parked outside of the now-shuttered strip club the Crazy Horse. Months later, a skull was found out at Lake Mohave alongside charred, dismembered remains that were later proved to be Ron. In 1996, a diver out at Lake Mead found a handgun with a silencer attached to it wrapped in grocery bags. The police later determined that the gun had been the one used to shoot Ronald in the head, and it was a gun that Ronald had reported missing after his and Margaret’s wedding. Margaret immediately became the prime suspect in the murder investigation, and she went on the run. She evaded police with a parade of different “disguises” — if you can call coloring your hair a “disguise” — before finally being caught in Massachusetts in 1999.
The case was presented, at least in the media, as an open-and-shut matter right from the start. Despite the case against her being what could only be considered circumstantial at best, she was the cops’ and the media’s prime suspect.
During the trial she was painted as a money-hungry spouse by the attorneys and the media, who attached the “Black Widow” persona to her name. I remember when this trial was happening in real time, I heard the term “black widow” and I immediately thought of Debbie Jellinsky from the Addams Family Values. She was another pretty blonde with a parade of husbands, and a love for hair dye and other “disguises”. The difference was — Debbie had a nasty habit of killing her husbands. Aside from Ron, all of Margaret’s former husbands were alive and she had never been suspected of killing anyone else.
Also, there was direct evidence against Debbie.
Ron’s will specifically outlined that should any of his beneficiaries be under suspicion of having a role in his death, they would inherit nothing from his estate. As a result — and after another lengthy court battle — Margaret was only awarded a fraction of the 12 million dollar estate that Ron had initially left her.
Margaret was convicted in 2001 after a 1997 grand jury indictment and an extradition from Massachusetts in 1999. She spent the next decade fighting to get a new trial, despite findings of lower courts that her attorneys at the time were unprepared to properly handle her case. Those who covered the case at the time, and even Rudin herself, wondered if the lead attorney Michael Amador was under the influence due to some of his courtroom behavior. And despite her the obvious ineffective assistance of counsel from the outset of the proceedings, Rudin’s appeals and requests for a new trial were denied. But eventually, she prevailed. The opinion issued in May 2022 that overturned her conviction indicated that Amador, now deceased, had made a regular habit of lying to the court regarding the matter because of impending book and movie deals about what became one of the city’s most sensational murders. The opinion also clarified that the decision was not making a determination about Rudin’s guilt, only the murder conviction.
The conviction had been tainted almost from the beginning. Rudin herself was even quoted as asking the judge for a mistrial during the proceedings. Eventually, she was convicted and was facing two life sentences. Despite her legal battles, she was released from prison in 2020 after serving 20 years, and now with her conviction being tossed out, she’s free to live out the rest of her life in private with her family, far away from the city that at one time held so much promise for her and for Ron.
I just wonder who else will be found sleeping with the fishes.
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