Los Angeles Trial Opens for Elderly Women in Murder-for-Profit Case

March 20, 2008

Two elderly women accused of killing two transient men with a car so they could collect nearly $3 million in insurance money were videotaped talking about the scheme while in FBI custody, the prosecutor said in opening statements.

“It’s your fault,” Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, told co-defendant Helen Golay, 77, in the tape played for the jury. “You can’t have that many insurers. … You were greedy. That’s the problem.”

Truc Do, Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, said the women befriended the two men and took out insurance policies on their lives, then drugged them and ran them over to make it look as if the two homeless men had been killed in hit-and-run accidents.

Rutterschmidt and Golay each have pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder for financial gain in the deaths of 73-year-old Paul Vados in 1999 and 51-year-old Kenneth McDavid in 2005.

Defense attorneys deferred their opening statements until the prosecution side of the case concludes.

“We have evidence to show she’s not guilty,” Golay’s attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, said in an interview. “They have over 100 witnesses but they have no eyewitness, no confession. It’s all circumstantial.”

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, all the while taking out multiple life insurance policies on them.

Do said the women ultimately profited off the deaths with $2.8 million and were still trying to collect on policies when they were arrested.

The jury also was shown pictures of the victims’ bodies, receipts for rent, a car that has been linked to one of the killings and a rubber stamp with one victim’s signature that was allegedly used to sign insurance policies.

The case began in 2006 in federal court with a grand jury indicting the women on nine counts each of mail fraud and related charges for making false insurance claims. But when further evidence developed in the suspected hit-and-run scheme, the case was transferred to Los Angeles County Superior Court, and murder charges were filed.

The prosecutor said the women spent about $64,000 for insurance policy premiums and to support the men. They took out a total of $5.7 million in insurance policies, she said.

“After putting all that money into Mr. McDavid, his life was theirs,” Do said.

She showed jurors a photo of the palm-shaded Hollywood building where Golay and Rutterschmidt rented a studio apartment for McDavid at $875 a month and the rental checks they signed.

Do said that the women took him food and closely monitored his life but that the plot almost soured when McDavid invited four or five other homeless people to move in with him. When the women discovered it, she said, they brought police to evict the others and hired armed security guards to sit outside the apartment. The guards were expected to testify.

Do said each man was kept by the women for two years, the length of time that would make their insurance policies uncontestable, then killed them. She said they were confident of getting away with the McDavid murder because they had killed Vados five years earlier.

On June 21, 2005, she said, Golay “and possibly others” ran over McDavid in an alley. Golay then called for a tow because the car had problems, Do said.

The tow truck driver is to testify that it was taken to Golay’s home. Later, it was abandoned in Hollywood and investigators found McDavid’s DNA on its undercarriage.

Do said Golay went to the coroner’s office, claimed McDavid’s body as a relative and had it cremated.

The first two witnesses were men who found McDavid’s body and called police. There are no eyewitnesses to the death.

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