A federal grand jury indicted two elderly women accused of befriending transient men and then collecting on life insurance policies worth $2.3 million after the men died in hit-and-run crashes.
Investigators also revealed that they had seized a station wagon believed to have struck one of the men, and that it was nearly identical to a vehicle described in notes found in Helen Golay’s home.
Golay, 75, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, were indicted Tuesday on nine counts each of mail fraud and related charges for making false insurance claims. Neither has been charged in the hit-and-run deaths. However, authorities said they are investigating whether Golay and Rutterschmidt targeted other men.
Rutterschmidt’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Kim Savo, said her office was conducting an independent investigation and declined further comment.
Golay’s lawyer, Phillip Samovar, did not return messages left at his office Tuesday.
Both women, held without bail since their arrests earlier this month, are scheduled for arraignment Monday.
Investigators believe the women befriended two vulnerable men and then insured the men’s lives while claiming they were relatives, business partners or fiancees.
Station wagon could be key
One of the men, Kenneth McDavid, died in a hit-and-run in June 2005. Federal authorities say a 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon seized last week had been involved in a collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist and that Golay had called for it to be towed near the alley where McDavid was killed. The call was made from a gas station about an hour before McDavid’s body was found.
In an earlier search of Golay’s Santa Monica home, Los Angeles police detectives found a notebook with the station wagon’s make and model and a nearly identical license plate number written inside, according to an affidavit.
Paul Vados, a Hungarian-born man, died in similar circumstances in 1999. Police did not link the two cases until last fall, when a detective overheard a colleague describing a case with eerie similarities.
Court records also show that both women had a penchant for filing civil lawsuits — nearly 40 between them during the past two decades, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Golay, a Santa Monica landlord, filed the bulk of them, naming as defendants tenants, real estate partners, banks, health clubs, restaurants, neighbors and, in 2003, her daughter Kecia Golay and the younger woman’s then-boyfriend, Steve Taracevicz.
One suspect sued daughter
In the suit against her daughter, Helen Golay accused the pair of assault and trespassing and sought more than $275,000. Kecia Golay and Taracevicz denied the allegations and claimed Helen Golay had threatened to kill Taracevicz, scratched his car and hired a security guard to keep him from visiting her daughter.
They said in court papers that Helen Golay had exhibited “30 years of psychopathic behavior.”
Rutterschmidt also filed several lawsuits against defendants including a supermarket chain and a coffee shop, records show.
The Los Angeles Times said neighbors described Rutterschmidt as temperamental. “If she was a sweet old lady, I'd say she was a sweet old lady,” said neighbor Glenn Spinola. “But what can you do?”
The Times said a neighbor described Golay as a friendly person who drove around in a Mercedes SUV with dealer plates and put her Santa Monica home on the market 18 months ago for $1.5 million.
“I can't believe she did anything,” said Cristyne Lawson. “She seems perfectly harmless.”
Police had placed the women under surveillance and decided to arrest them after noticing the pair had met with several older men and had them sign documents.