In the spring of 2005, Sandra Salman got a call from her brother, Kenneth McDavid. It was the first time in 10 years that she had heard from him.

He was OK, McDavid said in a message left on his younger sister's answering machine. He was working as a telemarketer at a production company. He just called to see how she was doing.

Later that year, Salman would learn from Los Angeles police detectives that her brother had died in June.

The family wasn't notified until five months after McDavid's death because his remains were claimed by two elderly women, Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt, who said they were McDavid's cousin and fiancee.

Salman, 49, testified Tuesday in the trial against Golay and Rutterschmidt, who prosecutors say killed two homeless men and made their deaths appear to be hit-and-run accidents.

The defendants collectively held 13 life insurance policies on McDavid's life and received $2.2 million after his death.

Salman said she had never seen either of the women who had claimed her brother's remains. She searched her family tree for any possible connection to the women but found none.

Salman told The Times outside court that her family never realized that McDavid -- the third of five siblings -- had been living on the streets. They had fallen out of touch after she started her own family, she said.

Salman said her brother probably didn't want to be a burden. "How do you tell your little sister, 'Can you help me, I'm homeless?' " she said. "My whole family now wishes he would've said something."

She described her brother as a music lover who spent a lot of time at the college radio station while attending Cal State Sacramento and who worked at various disc jockey jobs in San Francisco.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to bar defense attorneys from bringing up lawsuits the family may file in the future to claim life insurance benefits. Salman has hired attorney Gloria Allred, who is also representing the daughter of the other victim, Paul Vados.

Attorneys for both defendants argued that Salman may have a financial interest in the conviction of the women, because the life insurance benefits, which are being held by the federal government, may be awarded to the family.

"Her conviction leads to the benefit of millions of dollars," said Rutterschmidt's attorney, Public Defender Michael Sklar.

The motion was denied.

victoria.kim@latimes.com