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19 Mar 2008 07:24
For two septuagenarians, they certainly displayed a sprightly energy as they went about their retirement. Helen Golay (77) and Olga Rutterschmidt (75) befriended two homeless men, found them places to live, fed them—and then murdered them, prosecutors claim.
As their trial opened in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the case was likened to the Frank Capra film Arsenic and Old Lace in which Cary Grant’s two maiden aunts are discovered bumping off lonely old men.
Prosecutors told the jury that the defendants amassed almost $3-million in life insurance from the victims they first championed before killing them for their own financial benefit.
The court heard that Paul Vados became their first victim.
Rutterschmidt befriended Vados, a fellow Hungarian immigrant, in 1997, and helped him find an apartment.
According to the prosecution, the women, after waiting for the next two years to avoid suspicion, ran over Vados with a car in an alley on the west side of LA. Presenting themselves 10 days later as his fiance and cousin, they went on to claim the insurance benefits.
That might have been the end of the story, with no one the wiser. But greed allegedly got the better of them. The prosecution played to the jury a recording of a conversation between the two women at the time of their arrest. Rutterschmidt complains to Golay: “Why did you make all these extra insurances? You were greedy. That is the problem. That’s why I get angry.”
In 2005 a group of LA police officers were sitting around their office discussing a case that had just come in. Kenneth McDavid’s body had been found in an alley with head injuries, apparently hit by a hit-and-run driver. One officer had a dim recollection of a similar incident six years previously—when he looked into the matter, he discovered that the same two women were claiming life insurance on McDavid.
More investigation uncovered further parallels: the same befriending of a homeless man; the same rubber stamps to copy McDavid’s signature; the same two-year wait to claim on multiple insurance policies, amounting in McDavid’s case to $2,2-million.
Detectives also claim a similar pattern of injuries on both corpses—wounds are seen only above the waist, suggesting the victims had been sedated and laid down before being killed.
“The victim was laid down and run over,” Truc Do, prosecuting, told a pretrial hearing last week.
Golay and Rutterschmidt have been in jail awaiting trial since May 2006. Both plead not guilty to charges of murder and conspiracy to murder for financial gain.
Golay’s lawyer, Roger Diamond, told the Washington Post the prosecution’s case was weak. “All they have is circumstantial evidence. They don’t have eyewitnesses, they don’t have a confession, they don’t have any fingerprints.”
What the prosecution does have is a Mercury Sable car that they will attempt to link to the murder of McDavid, telling the jury his blood is on the chassis. Police say they have evidence the two women bought the car in 2004.
They will also produce a letter from Rutterschmidt to Golay dated May 2000 in which she said she had found “a few very interesting and good life insurance company listings. They pay regardless of illness, or accidental cause. (No hassle, no investigations.)”
At the preliminary hearing the court was told Golay first met Rutterschmidt at a health spa in Santa Monica. Over the 20 years of their friendship, they are alleged to have engaged together in a variety of money-making wheezes, including theft of purses in gyms and posing as rich guests at luxury Beverly Hills hotels to attract wealthy men.
Golay had a desire to regain her youth. In 2002 she had plastic surgery, writing to her friend: “I better look good after this hell and live long enough to enjoy this ‘face job’. If only I could get a new 21-year-old body for this brain I’ve been working on for 70 years.”
The trial is expected to last for up to five weeks. - guardian.co.uk Â
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