LOS ANGELES – 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 on Tuesday 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 they killed needed only food, water and shelter and thought the women were going to help them.
"Instead, these unfortunate men were sacrificed on your altar of greed," Wesley said.
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 run over by cars in dark alleys. Police linked the cases when a detective investigating one overheard a colleague describe a similar case.
Defense attorneys had 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 die more quickly.
The jury that convicted the women in April 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."