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More guilty verdicts in murder-for-profit crime

An elderly woman was convicted Monday of two more counts in scheme to kill homeless men to cash in on insurance payouts.
Hit and Run verdicts
Olga Rutterschmidt speaks with her attorney in a Los Angeles courtroom last week.Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay were accused of recruiting men from among Hollywood's homeless and giving them lodging and food while taking out insurance policies on them.Pool / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

An elderly woman was convicted Monday of two more counts in a scheme to kill homeless men to cash in on insurance payouts.

Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder for financial gain in the death of Paul Vados, 73. Last week, she was convicted of murder and conspiracy in the death of Kenneth McDavid, 50.

The jury returned to deliberations Monday after bringing in an alternate to replace a juror who had to leave on a trip. Co-defendant Helen Golay, 77, was convicted of both murders and conspiracy last week.

Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace said afterward that the prosecution was able to show that the women were fueled by greed.

“It’s clear that money was a driving force behind these women,” Grace said. “We were able to use that motive as a big foundation for our case.” Added Deputy District Attorney Truc Do: “They didn’t need it, but they wanted it.”

Jurors had said that they were deadlocked on the last two counts against Rutterschmidt, but were ordered to start deliberations over on those counts because of the new member. The verdicts came after about an hour of talks.

Superior Court Judge David Wesley said the jurors indicated they did not wish to speak to reporters.

Prosecutors said the two women collected $2.8 million before their scheme was uncovered during the investigation into the death of McDavid in 2005. It seemed at first to be a hit-and-run accident, but then an investigator overheard another detective discussing the 1999 death of Vados in very similar circumstances.

The women were accused of recruiting the men from among Hollywood’s homeless and giving them lodging and food while taking out numerous insurance policies on them. Prosecutors said they then drugged them and ran them over in secluded alleys.

Golay will be sentenced June 24, while Rutterschmidt’s sentencing was set for July 15. The convictions carry life prison terms without possibility of parole for both women. Prosecutors chose to not seek the death penalty.

Rutterschmidt’s defense attorney, Michael Sklar, said he will begin working on a motion for a new trial, but had no other comment.

Both he and Golay’s attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, had conceded the women were involved in insurance fraud but denied they had formed a murder conspiracy.

The jury saw a secretly recorded videotape of the two 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."