Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt: Black Widows

The Trial

On Oct. 24, 2007, prosecutors decided that they would not seek the death penalty against the duo, citing their ages. It was the last hurdle that remained before going to trial.

Then, finally, a jury was seated and opening statements were heard on March 18, 2008. Journalists packed the Los Angeles courtroom to see the drama that had made news around the world continue to unfold. Part of the fascination was seeing how these women had fared in jail. Gone were the bleached blonde hairdos, bright red lips, manicured nails and short skirts. Instead, two women aged 77 and 75 sat at the counsel table wearing demure black pantsuits, no makeup and long gray hair that was worn straight without the benefit of hot rollers and tons of hairspray.

"They waited for two years, with murder on their minds each of those days," Deputy District Attorney Truc Do told the jury.

The prosecutor took the jury through a PowerPoint presentation showing the insurance paper trail and then a bombshell: a videotaped conversation secretly recorded between the two women while they were in jail. The pair argued over their predicament, with Rutterschmidt complaining that Golay had caused the situation by taking out too many insurance policies.

Despite this, defense attorneys have said they will vindicate their clients. The trial is estimated to last a month. If convicted, the Rutterschmidt and Golay could be sentenced to a lifetime in prison without any hope of parole, seeing a hairstylist, Bloomingdale's fall sale, or plastic surgeon.

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