The Granny Grifters: Helen Golay Olga Rutterschmidt not typical serial killers

“You’re going to go to jail, honey. They’re going to lock you up.” The two females sat together in the interrogation room of the Los Angeles police department. As they had refused to speak to detectives, the investigators decided to place them together, alone, secretly recorded.

The second woman advised the other to stay quiet. “They could be taping us!” She hissed. 

But her friend refused to listen. “You did all these ... insurances extra. That’s what raised the suspicion. You can’t do that. Stupidity!” And with those words, she helped seal their fate after a nine-month investigation. Both women had amassed a total of $674,571.89 in insurance fraud. What made the case so unbelievable: Olga Rutterschmidt was close to seventy years old at the time of the murders. Her partner who shushed her, Helen Golay, was a few years older.

Olga Rutterschmidt was born in Hungary in 1933. She learned at an early age how to survive by wits and deceit with a war-torn country and class system her mentor. Eventually, she would marry, and the couple emigrated to the United States in 1957 to own a small business. They would divorce, and Olga moved to a Hollywood apartment in the 1970s. She was known as the eccentric tenant, who complained loudly about anything and everything. Olga filed personal injury claims every few years and collected the money. 

Helen Golay & Olga Rutterschmidt

Texan Helen Golay was born in 1931 and bounced from relative to relative until landing in the foster care system. When she was old enough, she packed her bags and headed for Los Angeles. Helen invested in real estate, purchasing apartments to rent out. But it was a bad market for landlords, and Helen began losing money, so she schemed up ways to make money by charging fines for minor discrepancies and taking boarders to court. 

When Helen met Olga at a local gym, hell broke loose for future defenseless victims.

Helen and Olga began doing volunteer work at Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church, assisting homeless people. They were known as sweet and gregarious “grandmas,” always having kind words and helping hands. The kind old women even volunteered free apartments for men who needed extra care. 

In 1997, Olga and Helen took in seventy-one-year-old homeless man Paul Vados. Olga was the caregiver, with her soft, sweet Hungarian accent and natural charm. Helen rented out the apartments for the homeless men. Helen kept meticulous record books, including eight different life insurance policies on Paul, listing the women as the beneficiaries. In 1999, Paul was discovered lying dead in a Hollywood, California alley, covered with tire tracks and drag marks, crushed and sopping wet as it had rained heavily the night he died. Paul was tiny, missing most of his teeth, the result of the mean streets and alcoholism. Two women claimed his body: septuagenarians  Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt. They reported as “next of kin.”

On June 21, 2005, fifty-year-old homeless man Kenneth McDavid was found dead in a backstreet, another victim of a hit-and-run. Sedatives had flowed through Kenneth’s bloodstream. Soon after, two women appeared at the LAPD police station, inquiring about his death. They were his fiancée, Helen Golay, and his business partner, Olga Rutterschmidt. Olga and Helen, from November 2002 to March 2003, had cared for Kenneth. Saddened and distraught over his horrific death, the women also asked about Kenneth’s insurance policies. The women had thirteen policies on Kenneth, $3,700,000.00 worth. Each policy listed these women as either Kenneth’s fiancée, business partner, or cousin. The money was eventually collected when Helen wrote a threatening letter to the insurance agency. They buried their  “beloved” Kenneth McDavid in an unmarked potter’s field. 

They schemed together, but they also worked alone. There were times Olga would take out a policy when Helen was unaware. Helen had her side businesses. Helen amassed various properties, including land in Playa del Rey. The possession of this property was sketchy: When a developer named Artie Aaron died, somehow Helen was willed the deeds to a few of Artie’s properties. Artie’s families were unaware of these transactions until after his death. While Helen loved the status and fancy goods of wealth, Olga lived in Section 8 housing, stole her neighbor’s mail, and continued with disability claims. One case had Olga suing a La Brea Avenue coffee shop manager, claiming her food caused a fight between herself and another customer. Olga claimed the customer used a stun gun on Olga; Olga claimed physical injuries and emotional trauma.

Jimmy Covington, 48, had no place to live and little to live on. Olga Rutterschmidt treated Jimmy to a fast food meal when she asked him to move into Helen’s apartments. She told him Helen would help him obtain benefits while Olga would cook and care for him. It sounded great, and Jimmy moved in, but then the women began making demands. They asked him to sign documents they would not explain; they wanted his social security number and birthdate. Jimmy discovered later at trial: Olga Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay had completed at least one life insurance policy application for Jimmy Covington as beneficiaries without his knowledge. 


By now, investigators saw the pattern, and despite guffaws and jokes about trailing “little old ladies,” a detective set up a surveillance team to follow the senior citizen duo 24/7. For days, Olga and Helen went about their business. The surveillance seemed useless. And then.

They spotted Olga in the company of Mr. Josef Gabor, a frail, older man. Josef was a loner, with an apartment above the Hungarian Reformed Church. Surveillance cameras snapped as she talked to Josef, papers in her hand, pointing to the documents. Then she drove Josef to a bank. It was the beginning of the scam. When opening a checking account, the unsuspecting men would be offered a free thousand-dollar policy. Soon the policy would increase. In time it would grow more. While there was not enough evidence for the murder, there was enough for mail fraud. And no one wanted to allow the women time to fleece another soul. It was May 2006. Investigators arrested the two women separately, with Helen protesting loudly. 

Detectives had discovered a covert security surveillance camera had videotaped the vehicle causing  Kenneth McDavid’s murder, but the video was of poor quality. The video “cleaned up” revealed a silver 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon pulling into the alley on June 21, 2005. The car cut its lights, made a series of pulling in and out, then departed. By interviewing neighbors, detectives learned Helen Golay drove a Mercury Sable station wagon- one neighbor provided a photo with the car in the background. (Helen did own the car – she had purchased it using a stolen driver’s license.) The VIN was traced. The vehicle was found dumped, was towed, and sold at auction, and the new owners were an unsuspecting family. Once in the forensics lab, crime scene techs found Kenneth McDavid’s blood and DNA in the station wagon’s undercarriage. 


Despite the investigator’s best tactics, Olga and Helen would not say a word when taken individually into the interrogation room. So the two women were left alone, together, in the room, unknowingly being recorded as the investigators watched. The video helped determine their future. “You did all these g**da*n insurances extras!” Olga cursed at Helen. Helen kept warning Olga to hush. Helen seemed to think they still had a chance. Olga appears as if she has accepted their fate. 

The women pleaded "not guilty" to the murders and nine counts of fraud. Both women received consecutive life terms in California’s Chowchilla prison without the possibility of parole. Helen was 77, Olga was 75. The courts have denied their numerous appeals. At this writing, Helen is 90; Olga is 88. According to several people, they are still attempting scams. 



References

 

Brownfield, P. (October 23, 2015). “What Can I Tell You?” Los Angeles Magazine. https://www.lamag.com/longform/what-can-i-tell-you/

Smith, T. (2016). Killer Granny: The True Story of Serial Killer Helen Golay. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

California v. Olga Rutterschmidt & Helen Golay. (September 18, 2009). 2 CRIM.B209568: LASC BA306576. File # S176213.

Goldenberg, Suzanne (2008-04-18). "Elderly women face jail over insurance killings". The Guardian.

Golden Years - Wicked Attraction. (July 16, 2009). Mann, S. (Director) Armodio, J. (Writer). Investigation Discovery. Season 2, Episode 2.

Hong, Peter Y. "Women Plead Not Guilty in Deaths of Transients; Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt are Accused of Killing Men for Insurance Money]." Los Angeles Times, Sep 14, 2006. ProQuest Global Newsstream.

King, J. (2009) Signed in Blood. St. Martin’s True Crime: NY

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