'I'm not bitter:' 'Black Widow' speaks after judge clears her name in infamous Las Vegas murder

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Margaret Rudin, dubbed “The Black Widow,” whose murder conviction a judge overturned last month, said she plans to write a book and move out of the country with her family and boyfriend.

Rudin, 79, spoke with Nexstar’s KLAS one day after the Nevada Attorney General’s Office ran out of time to appeal a federal judge’s order overturning a jury’s 2001 decision.

“Why do you want to talk about all this?” KLAS reporter David Charns asked Rudin on Friday.

“Because I’m 79!” she said.

Rudin said the justice system took 20 of those 79 years: two decades spent in prison for a murder U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II said she did not commit.

“It’s not about the truth,” Rudin said Friday. “It’s about who has the better attorney.”

In 2001, a Las Vegas jury found Rudin guilty of the death of her husband, Ron Rudin, a real estate investor. Ron Rudin’s charred body was found near Lake Mohave in 1995.

The murder

The Rudins married in 1987 after meeting in church. It was the fifth marriage for both. Ron Rudin was worth an estimated $8-$11 million. Several people, including Margaret, were listed as beneficiaries of his trust.

Ron Rudin had purchased 165 acres of land in Lee Canyon and was working to sell off and divide and land during the time of his death. Ron Rudin was also a gun dealer and property manager.

“Ron was working on zoning issues with the Lee Canyon property during the year before his death and indicated to a friend who knew his business dealings at Lee Canyon that he was borrowing money from investors in Chicago,” Boulware wrote in his ruling.

Ron Rudin disappeared in December 1994 as Margaret was preparing to open an antique store in a strip mall her husband owned.

KLAS asked Rudin what she remembered about December 1994, when her husband disappeared.

“He had always cheated, and every time he would say, ‘I’m not going to do it again, I’m not going to do it again,’” she said. Rudin described her husband as a paranoid man who had cameras at their now-demolished home. He owned hundreds of guns, she said.

Margaret Rudin and Ron Rudin’s central valley home as it appeared in the mid-1990s. The house has since been demolished. (KLAS)

Rudin called Las Vegas Metro police to report her husband missing, but was told nothing could be done for 48 hours. Police searched the Rudin home a few days later, “finding no signs of a struggling and nothing unusual,” Boulware wrote in his ruling.

On Dec. 22, 1994, police found Ron’s car covered with a layer of dust parked at the Crazy Horse Too, a gentlemen’s club off the Las Vegas Strip.

In January 1995, Ron Rudin’s burnt remains were discovered near Nelson’s Landing, about 50 miles south of Las Vegas. Investigators determined Ron Rudin had been shot in the head several times.

The investigation

Prosecutors theorized Margaret Rudin shot her husband while he was asleep in bed. Police found human blood in the room, but an expert testified the amount was “less than a drop of blood from an eye dropper.”

An expert for the defense also testified “there was no evidence of a cleanup” and there would be much more evidence had Ron Rudin been killed in the bedroom.

Ron Rudin’s car as it appeared in December 1994. It was located outside of a gentlemen’s club. (KLAS)

Ron Rudin’s third wife, Peggy Rudin, died in the same bedroom via a gunshot in 1978, the judge and Margaret Rudin said.

“A crime scene analyst testified that it was possible that some of the luminescence found on the ceiling following Ron’s murder could have resulted from Peggy Rudin’s suicide, but this was not the case with the luminescence on the south wall due to Peggy Rudin’s location when she died,” the ruling said.

In 1996, a diver in Lake Mead found a gun with bullets matching the one recovered from Ron Rudin’s autopsy.

A grand jury indicted Margaret Rudin in 1997. She left Nevada and was arrested in November 1999 in Massachusetts.

“Rudin said ‘she fled the state of Nevada’ upon finding out about the indictment,” Boulware said.

The trial

In a 10-week trial, Rudin earned the “Black Widow” name as prosecutors painted her as a wife out to get her husband’s money. Speaking with KLAS on Friday, Rudin said her relationship with her husband was good around the time of his disappearance, as he was helping her open her store.

When asked about the nickname, she replied, “I don’t think anybody would dare call me that to my face.”

Margaret Rudin appears in a hearing in 2001. (KLAS)

In his ruling, Boulware writes there was no evidence linking Rudin to the murder weapon, Ron Rudin’s abandoned car, or the suspected crime scene.

“They didn’t have enough evidence that it could have affected if, ‘Yes, she could have done it, or yes somebody could have done it,’” Rudin said Friday.

Boulware also found Rudin’s defense attorney, Michael Amador, who has since died, did not do enough to defend her, writing he was more interested in fame than a ruling in his client’s favor. Boulware writes Amador had secured “book and movie contracts regarding the Rudin case” and “was affiliated with [a website… that covered the entire trial.”

Rudin (center) and Amador (left) listen to the jury’s verdict in 2001. (KLAS)

Amador also did not prepare for trial and instead went on a month-long vacation, Boulware said. Amador also gave a rambling opening statement and was accused of sleeping in court and using drugs.

“He was expecting that he was going to rise to fame and make a lot of money off my case,” Rudin said.

Two attempts to call a mistrial were denied.

“Rudin has made a compelling showing that Amador’s performance as her trial counsel was objectively unreasonable,” Boulware said.

The appeal

The Nevada Supreme Court voted in 2003 to uphold Rudin’s conviction, though several justices noted Amador’s failures. In 2008, a district court judge granted Rudin a new trial, but the high court overruled her. Attempts to appeal those rulings failed due to statutes of limitation.

In January 2020, a parole board granted Rudin’s release.

Margaret Rudin appeared before the Nevada parole board in September 2019. (KLAS)

When asked what those 20 years in prison were like, Rudin replied, “If you have to go to prison, make sure you’re middle-aged or beyond because the girls do treat you much nicer. I was a lot of the girls’ mother.”

In a 68-page ruling filed in May, Boulware vacated Rudin’s 2001 conviction. He also listed other potential suspects, many who could have been out for Ron Rudin’s wealth.

Rudin said she plans to move out of Las Vegas and hopes to write books about the trial and her time in prison. She hopes to help other women in the prison system, and she said she is dating a new man. She is living by the adage, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Margaret Rudin, 79, spoke with KLAS after a judge vacated her conviction. (KLAS)

“It didn’t make me bitter. It didn’t,” she said about her time in prison. “There were times like I didn’t think I would live through it, but I don’t think I’m cynical. I’m not bitter.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said, “After a thorough review of the case, our office has decided not to pursue an appeal.” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson previously told KLAS his office would not seek a new trial.



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