LOS ANGELES – Two women in their 70s were charged Monday with having homeless men killed in hit-and-run car crashes to collect more than $2 million in life insurance.
The charges make the women eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors will wait until the case moves closer to trial before deciding whether to seek executions, Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels said in a statement.
The women are accused of arranging hit-and-run killings in alleys using drivers whose identities are unknown. Paul Vados, 73, was killed in November 1999 and Kenneth McDavid, 51, was killed in June 2005.
The women were arrested in May and initially charged with federal mail fraud. They are awaiting an October trial on those charges, but in light of the murder allegations authorities are considering dropping the fraud counts for now, said U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek. He added that those charges could be refiled later.
The women befriended the transients, paid for them to stay in apartments and obtained their signatures before taking out three dozen life insurance policies on them, authorities say.
They had them killed and then collected while falsely claiming to be relatives, according to the complaint.
Some insurers found the circumstances suspicious and refused to pay.
An investigation began last year when police looking into McDavid's death found similarities to the Vados case, authorities said. Blood was found in a car Golay reportedly had towed from near where McDavid was killed.
"I plan on handling the case and winning because there was no murder and there is no evidence of murder," Golay's attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, said Monday.
Rutterschmidt had not immediately obtained an attorney for the state charges, officials said.
The investigation was continuing.
"Investigators are still looking into the possibility that other victims may also have fallen prey to these women," said Kevin Maiberger, a Los Angeles police spokesman.
The women cannot be arraigned on the murder charges until they are transferred from federal to state custody.