LOS ANGELES – Olga Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay have come a long way in their 20 years of friendship, authorities say. The pair allegedly has gone from filing dozens of small-time lawsuits to support themselves to engineering major crimes for a big payoff.
On Tuesday, opening statements are scheduled as the pair of 70-somethings stand trial on murder-for-profit charges.
Prosecutors allege Rutterschmidt, 75, and Golay, 77, conspired to insure two indigent men, kill them in faked hit-and-run accidents and fund their own old age with $2.3 million in proceeds from insurance policies.
"It's straight from a movie plot. It's 'Arsenic and Old Lace,"' said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and now a Loyola University Law School professor.
Prosecutors, however, were expected to downplay the defendants' advanced ages in the case.
"In murder, age doesn't count. It's the actions that count," said district attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. "We'll present the evidence on their actions."
Their case began in 2006 in federal court with a grand jury indicting them on nine counts each of mail fraud and related charges for making false insurance claims. But when further evidence developed in the alleged hit-and-run scheme, the case was transferred to Los Angeles County Superior Court and murder charges were filed.
Each woman faces two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder for financial gain in the deaths of Paul Vados, 73, in 1999 and Kenneth McDavid, 51, in 2005. Both women have pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty.
"We have evidence to show she's not guilty," said defense attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who represents Golay. "They have over 100 witnesses but they have no eyewitness, no confession. It's all circumstantial."
Authorities allege the women befriended Vados and McDavid, provided them with apartments and persuaded them to sign life insurance policies. They are accused of drugging the men, running them over in secluded alleys and then collecting about $2.3 million in insurance.