Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt: Black Widows

The Investigation

Detectives were certain that the women committed both murders. They began to follow Rutterschmidt and Golay as they went about their daily lives. Then one day investigators observed another victim apparently being groomed for murder. Detectives watched as Rutterschmidt pulled her car up to a curb and begin talking to an elderly man who was out for a walk. The pair had apparently met before, and the man got into her car.

Helen Golay
Helen Golay

They drove to a bank and went inside. Detectives followed and watched as Rutterschmidt and the man approached a teller's window. On the way out, Rutterschmidt threw some papers into a trashcan that were retrieved by detectives. They were return reply envelopes to a life insurance company and a bank. Later that day Rutterschmidt was followed to a copy shop where she logged onto the Internet and attempted to open a credit card account under someone else's name.

It now seemed to detectives that Rutterschmidt and Golay intended to murder the old man in the same manner as Vados and McDavid. No doubt about it the women were dangerous and needed to be in jail, police decided. The murder investigation wasn't finished, but detectives did have enough for mail fraud charges in connection with the life insurance policies.

United States Postal Service Inspectors plaque
United States Postal Service Inspectors plaque

On May 19, 2006, Rutterschmidt and Golay were charged with eight counts of mail fraud. It was sensational news two old ladies who could have been at home knitting booties or reading mystery novels were instead themselves plotting the deaths of unsuspecting men. It wasn't long before the media was referring to the pair as the "hit and run grannies" or the "black widows." But unlike their counterparts in the movie Arsenic and Old Lace, these two were not suffering from dementia they were ruthless killers, police said.

Detectives searched their homes and found more than eight rubber stamps bearing the signatures of various men, including McDavid. It seemed that the men would sign off on one life insurance policy, and the women then used the signatures to obtain stamps that would allow them to apply for additional policies without the men's knowledge.

But the best clue of all came from Golay herself. It seems that someone identifying herself as Helen Golay called a towing service a block from where McDavid had been struck and killed. The call came in an hour before his body was found. The car in question, a 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon, had front-end damage and was towed to a street near Rutterschmidt's home.

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