LOS ANGELES – Police are investigating the traffic death of a third man linked to a pair of elderly women accused of taking out insurance policies on two transients who later died in hit-and-run crashes.
The latest suspicions arose when investigators found that Helen Golay, 75, and her daughter moved a 97-year-old man from Massachusetts into a Santa Monica apartment. They acquired his home for $1, borrowed money off of it and then sold the home for $200,000, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The man, Fred Downie, was later struck and killed by a driver in what police still believe was an accident, Lt. Paul Vernon, a Police Department spokesman, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Vernon said police do not think the driver who hit Downie in 2000 had any connection to Golay or Olga Rutterschmidt, 73. But he said the relationship with Downie mirrored others that led to the scams with which the women have been charged.
Authorities say Golay and Rutterschmidt befriended vulnerable men, persuaded them to sign them on to their life insurance policies and then collected some $2.3 million after they were killed. Police are investigating whether the women also played a role in their deaths. Paul Vados died in 1999, and Kenneth McDavid was killed last year.
Golay and Rutterschmidt pleaded not guilty to federal mail fraud and related charges on Monday. They have not been charged in any of the deaths.
Golay's lawyer, Roger Jon Diamond, dismissed the latest suspicions as nonsense.
"Life is filled with coincidences," Diamond said. "It is a titillating issue for some lawyers. But it is not a criminal case, there was no wrongdoing, she's not a suspect. She fully cooperated. That should be the end of the matter."
Vernon said police are continuing to investigate connections between the two women and close to a dozen other men — a number that has doubled in the past week.