Olga Rutterschmidt, age 75 and Helen Golay, age 77 are accused of a diabolical plot which ended in the death of two transient men, one in 1999 and one in 2005.
The case began in 2006 in federal court with a grand jury indicting the two elderly women on nine counts of mail fraud and related charges for making false insurance claims. Further investigating of the case, led to charges of a murder conspiracy.
In a long tangled tale, these two elderly ladies are accused of befriending transient men, offering them homes and insuring them for millions and then cold bloodedly plotting and killing them for the insurance money.
If prosecutors are correct, Rutterschmidt and Golay would have gotten away with the murder of 73-year-old Paul Vados in 1999 as well as collecting a considerable amount of money from his death, via insurance policies, if only they hadn't done it again with 51-year-old Kenneth McDavid in 2005.
Rutterschmidt and Golay have pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder for financial gain.
The trial, in Los Angeles Superior Court, started today.
According to Truc Do, the Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, these two women befriended Vados and McDavid, took out insurance policies on their lives, then drugged them and ran them over to make it look like the two homeless men had been killed in hit-and-run accidents.
The prosecutor in his opening statements said that the two women were videotaped talking about the scheme when they were in FBI custody, and the tape was played for the jury, in which Rutterschmidt told Golay, "It's your fault. You can't have that many insurers. ... You were greedy. That's the problem."
The prosecutor told the jury the women found the men in a homeless shelter at a Hollywood church, set them up in apartments and supported them for two years, using that time to take out multiple life insurance policies on them.
The pair are accused of killing Paul Vados, whose body was found in an alley on the city's west side in 1999, and Kenneth McDavid, whose body was found in an alley a few miles away six years later. Each had been crushed beneath a car. And each had been housed, fed and heavily insured by the women, who together collected almost $3 million from policies they had taken out on the men's lives.
Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels says that, "It sounds like 'Arsenic and Old Lace, but it doesn't have Cary Grant."
The body of Paul Vados was found in an alley on the west side of the city in 1999 after having been crushed by a car. It was considered a hit and run and it raised no red flags because he was 73, had been out of touch with his family and had been living on the street.
Suspicions didn't arise until McDavid's body turned up in 2005, in an alley after having been crushed by a car, just few miles away from where the body of Vados was found six years before.
Samuels said, "If they had just stopped there, they never would have gotten caught. They just did it one too many times."
After McDavid's body was discovered in 2005 after being crushed by a car that was later linked to Rutterschmidt abd Golay, a LAPD officer mentioned the case to a colleague who thought, "God, I had a case like that in '99."
That colleaugue then went and pulled the file for the Vados case and as the prosecutor said, "Sure enough, it's the same women, same method of death."
The joint federal, state and local investigations into these two women then began.
Prosecutors contend that Rutterschmidt approached Vados in 1997, found him an apartment and persuaded him to sign life insurance policies in the amounts of $760,000.
Police believe that because insurance companies look closely at deaths that occur within two years of a new policy, that it explains why Vados wasn't killed until 1999.
Rutterschmidt and Golay filed a missing persons report on Vados 10 days after he went missing, saying Vados was a cousin to one and the fiance of the other.
Eight months later, Golay wrote to Mutual of Omaha, one of the insurance companies that held the life insurance policy for Vados and threatened a law suit if she was paid. Within weeks she was paid $25,000.
Investigators found a letter written in 2000, from Rutterschmidt to Golay that said, "Dear Helen, I have a few very interesting and good life insurance company listings. They pay regardless of illness, or accidental cause. (No hassle, no investigations.)"
Prosecutors also say that around 2002, Golay approached Kenneth McDavid, at an Episcopal church in Hollywood, where she offered him a place to stay as well, if he would sign a $500,000 life insurance policy.
Rutterschmidt has a rubber signature stamp made with McDavid's name and proceeded to sign more policies that ended up totaling $7 million.
His body was found on June 21, 2005 after having been run over.
The same night, Golay phoned AAA for a tow a block away. The car was not her Mercedes SUV but a 1999 Mercury Sable registered to a woman whose ID had been stolen, then used to purchase the car at an Orange County lot. A neighbor happened to photograph it parked behind Golay's apartment not long afterward.
Investigators believe McDavid was drugged, driven to the alley, pushed out of the car and run over.
Police eventually tracked down that car and found McDavid's blood on the underside of the car.
Golay collected the majority of $2.2 million from McDavid's insurance policies, which showed the women were paying the premiums of 15 different insurance policies on McDavid's life.
It also seems that Golay tried to get Rutterschmidt's name removed from one of the policies, at least.
When the investigations were complete, the two women were arrested in May of 2006.
Truc Do said the women ultimately profited of the deaths with $2.8 million and were still trying to collect on policies when they were arrested.
Roger Jon Diamond, defense attorney for Golay insists that the prosecution only has circumstantial evidence and that he can convince a jury to acquit and come back with a not guilty verdict.
Adding insult to injury, a woman that rents Golay's previous apartment, Marlene Blum, says, "Recently a letter came from an insurance company and I held it up to the light -- and there was a check in it for $45,000."
As a quick aside: Police have not found there to be any more victims but they did find more rubber stamps with signatures of other names.