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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'Black Widows' sentenced to life terms

LOS ANGELES - Two 70-something women were sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for taking out insurance polices on two homeless men, then arranging to have them killed in hit-and-run accidents in Los Angeles alleys.

Helen Golay of Santa Monica, 77, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, of Hollywood, were convicted in April of murder and conspiracy. Jurors also found that the murders were committed for financial gain and that there were multiple murders, but prosecutors opted against seeking the death penalty.

Golay and Rutterschmidt were convicted in the deaths of 73-year-old Paul Vados, who was run over by a car in an alley in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue in Hollywood on Nov. 8, 1999, and Kenneth McDavid, 50, who lost his life in similar circumstances in an alley in the 1200 block of Westwood Boulevard in Westwood on June 21, 2005. Prosecutors said the two women collectively received $2.8 million from life insurance policies they had taken out on Vados and McDavid. The women housed them for two years to exceed the period under which the life insurance companies could contest the policies. Golay claimed to be the fiancee of both victims, while Rutterschmidt claimed to be a cousin.

"They didn't need it, but they wanted it," Deputy District Attorney Truc Do said earlier of the womens' efforts to get money. "(The) motive absolutely was greed." Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace, who along with Do prosecuted the case, told reporters when Rutterschmidt was convicted of killing Vados on April 21 that it was "clear that money was the driving force behind both of these women."

"They spent a lot of their time worrying about money, trying to get money," Grace said. "... We were able to use, you know, motive, as a big foundation of the case, and that was important." Grace, who spoke with jurors after the latest verdict, said the panelists "felt that Olga Rutterschmidt was just as big a part of the whole scheme as Helen Golay."

"In fact, they felt that in some ways she was smarter than Helen Golay," the prosecutor said, noting that Golay fronted all of the money to house the men for two years and that Rutterschmidt "didn't put up any money" but collected nearly $1 million. Four days before convicting Rutterschmidt in connection with Vados' death, jurors said they were "hopelessly deadlocked," even after hearing re- arguments from attorneys for both sides. However, a jurors left the panel late that day because of a business trip. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David S. Wesley brought in an alternate juror and ordered the panel to begin its deliberations anew. The reconstituted panel deliberated for less than an hour before announcing that a verdict had been reached on the counts involving Vados' death. Rutterschmidt earlier had been convicted of murder and conspiracy charges in connection with McDavid's death.

Los Angeles police Detective Rosemary Sanchez, who investigated the case, said the crucial piece of evidence was the discovery that Golay called the Automobile Club of Southern California, asking for service for a disabled 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon about 1,000 feet from McDavid's body the night he was run over.

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