Diane Davis, daughter of the murder victim. (Source: CBS 5 News)
MCSO investigating body found in car. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Howard Rudolph (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A murder suspect who disappeared Monday after removing his ankle monitor and missing a court date was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office found the body of Howard Rudolph, 79, of Sun City, inside his vehicle in a parking lot of the Lake Pleasant Village Apartments at 20702 N. Lake Pleasant Road in Peoria.
"He was found dead, slumped over the wheel, with a bullet in his chest," Arpaio said.
Rudolph's stepdaughter, Diane Davis, had told CBS 5 News in an interview on Monday that she feared he might commit suicide.
"I feel like he would get away with it," she explained. "He wouldn't have to face what he's done."
Rudolph failed to show up for a pretrial hearing Monday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Maricopa County sheriff's deputies arrested Rudolph in August 2013 in the shooting death of his wife, 73-year-old Earlene. Rudolph told deputies he shot his wife because she was sick, and he couldn't take it anymore.
Originally, Rudolph was booked for first-degree murder. But he was later indicted on second-degree murder charges.
Rudolph was being held on a $750,000 bond.
In February 2014, his attorney successfully argued for his conditions of release to be modified. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office opposed the release and so did Davis.
"He admitted it in the police report that he did it," said Davis in an exclusive interview with CBS 5 News. "How could they just say, ‘Well, you're innocent until proven guilty, go out' and hope you come back? The judge made it very apparent he's a 79-year-old man. What's he going to do? He's not going to jump. He's not going to leave. And here we are. No one knows where he is."
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge William Brotherton ordered Rudolph to be released under the supervision of Pretrial Services, a division of Adult Probation.
Rudolph was to live with friends in Sun City West, adhere to a strict curfew and wear an electronic ankle monitor. He was also ordered to appear for all court hearings.
On Monday, Davis showed up for a hearing set for 8:45 a.m., only to be given the news by Deputy County Attorney Katie Staab.
"She said, 'Diane, I had a phone call from pretrial. They were very adamant to speak with me, and this is what they told me. They told me that Howard cut the monitor off of his ankle and they found it in a bush and they have no idea where he's at,'" Davis recalled.
A spokesman for Pretrial Services acknowledged that someone from the office had contact with Rudolph on Sunday, and that when he did not show up for the hearing Monday, the judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
"I knew he wasn't going to be there," said Davis. "I mean, from the get go, I knew he would not face what he's done. He's a coward."
Rudolph fled in a 2006 white Lincoln Town car.
Calls and emails to Rudolph's public defender, Christopher Manberg, who fought for him to be released pending trial, have gone unanswered.
Arpaio, an opponent of ankle monitors and house arrest for violent offenders said, had Rudolph been incarcerated in his jail system - this might have been prevented and Davis might've seen justice served for her mother.
He said detectives used information from Rudolph's discarded ankle monitor to track him to the location where his body was eventually found.
Arpaio said data showed Rudolph had been in the area within the past 10 days.
Investigators are now looking into whether Rudolph knew anybody at the apartment complex and if anybody helped him remove his ankle monitor.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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