Elderly women get life in L.A. insurance killings

July 15, 2008 4:47:32 PM PDT
Two elderly women were sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday for murdering two indigent men to collect insurance policies taken out on their lives. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley sentenced 77-year-old Helen Golay and 75-year-old Olga Rutterschmidt to two consecutive life terms each.

In April, the women were convicted of a scheme in which they befriended homeless men, took out insurance policies on them and then killed them in murders staged to look like hit-and-run auto accidents. Prosecutors say the women collected $2.8 million before the scheme was uncovered..

The judge denounced the women, saying the men needed only food, water and shelter..

"They needed a helping hand. They thought they were getting this from you," Wesley said. "Instead these unfortunate men were sacrificed on your altar of greed.".

The judge said that although there is no possibility of parole, a probation report had been was done on the women, in which a "probation officer indicates they have no conscience and are a serious threat to the community.".

Both women were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder for financial gain in the 1999 death of Paul Vados, 73, and the 2005 death of Kenneth McDavid, 50..

Both men were struck by cars in dark alleys. Police linked the cases when a detective investigating one overheard a colleague describe a similar case..

Relatives of the victims spoke briefly, saying they had lost touch with the two men and then learned they had been murdered. "He didn't deserve that. No one does," said Stella Vados, daughter of Paul Vados..

"This is tantamount to the death penalty," said Gloria Allred, who represented Stella Vado and a relative of McDavid's. "They will die in prison. I think that's a just sentence." .

Defense attorneys conceded the women were involved in insurance fraud but denied they had formed a murder conspiracy. Golay's attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, said during the trial that the women's idea was to insure old, sick, homeless people who would soon die..

The jury that convicted the women saw a secretly recorded videotape of the defendants in a lockup after their arrests..

Rutterschmidt berated Golay, saying her actions in taking out 23 insurance policies raised a red flag when the men died..

"It's your fault," Rutterschmidt told Golay. "You can't have that many insurances. ... You were greedy. That's the problem." The judge rejected a defense motion for a new trial which argued that the women's conversation was illegally videotaped..


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