Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt: Black Widows

Not a Mere Coincidence

As the second detective told it, sometime in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 1999, an elderly man drew his last breath in an alley near West Hollywood. Someone had run him over with a car and left the scene without stopping. The victim was homeless and carried no identification, so it seemed like just another tragic accident for a John Doe in the City of Angels.

Paul Vados
Paul Vados

Eventually the man was identified as Paul Vados, 73, but no leads were forthcoming on his death. The two detectives quickly compared notes and were astounded to discover that the same two women had claimed both bodies. Nor could the detectives find any proof that the women were, indeed, related to the decedents.

"It was somewhat unusual that two elderly ladies unrelated to the victim were coming in and making requests for police reports, attempting to gain custody of the body and claiming there was no one else in the world who cared about this poor soul," LAPD Detective Dennis Kilcoyne later told the Los Angeles Times.

The women Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, of Hollywood and Helen Golay, 75, of Santa Monica were longtime friends. Further investigation revealed that the women had taken out more than a dozen life insurance policies on the two men and, after they had died, had filed claims worth more than $4 million. So far, the insurance companies had paid out $2.2 million. A few companies suspected the women of murder and balked at paying. The women promptly began legal proceedings to collect.

Rutterschmidt and Golay may have had a motive for killing the men, but finding proof of murder was something else.

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