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Greed, betrayal are themes in testimony at women's hit-and-run trial

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Life insurance agent Jody Resmick received a baffling call from an irate customer.

"I want to report a fraud. I'm the fiancee; she's not the fiancee," said the woman, identifying herself only as Olga, Resmick recalled recently outside court.

Speaking in a heavy accent, Olga began "ranting and ranting like a lunatic" that Helen Golay had committed fraud by listing herself as the beneficiary on a policy for a down-and-out man who had been killed in a hit-and-run accident.

The strange exchange was part of a history of mutual distrust and betrayal that prosecutors have highlighted during the trial of Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt, the so-called Black Widows who have been accused of taking destitute men off the street, insuring their lives for millions, then having them run over and killed in staged hit-and-run accidents.

The call eventually led police to DNA evidence that prosecutors, who plan to rest their three-week presentation Monday, say was the crucial link in the case.

Golay, 77, and Rutterschmidt, 75, have pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder in the deaths of Kenneth McDavid, 50, and Paul Vados, 73, and two counts of conspiracy.

When the women first met -- 20 years ago at a Santa Monica health spa, according to earlier testimony -- Rutterschmidt appeared taken with Golay, according to Douglas Crapeau, a neighbor and friend of Rutterschmidt who testified for the prosecution.

Crapeau said Rutterschmidt was an atheist, but the women were seen at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, where Vados and McDavid were regulars at free Sunday meals for the homeless.

The women moved Vados into an apartment, then started applying for life insurance policies on him. Golay and Rutterschmidt jointly took out four policies, each as 50% beneficiaries. Golay also took out three more policies on her own.

Vados was killed Nov. 8, 1999. After his death, Rutterschmidt called Mutual of Omaha, saying she wanted to be paid before Golay received her half. The company said no.

The two women pocketed nearly $600,000 in insurance benefits on Vados.

In late 2002, the two women began applying for insurance on McDavid, a transient from Northern California, prosecutors said. Rutterschmidt and Golay moved him into a Hollywood apartment, and from motel to motel.

On June 5, 2005, Golay called Mutual of New York and asked to have Rutterschmidt removed as co-beneficiary on the account. That company also said no.

About two weeks later, on June 21, McDavid was found dead in a Westwood back alley. Prosecutors presented grainy surveillance camera recordings showing a silver station wagon turn into the alley, stop for several minutes, then reverse and drive off. About the same time, someone using Golay's automobile club membership called for a tow truck from the gas station at the end of the alley for the same type of vehicle.

After McDavid's death, Golay and Rutterschmidt collected $2.2 million in benefits. His death, however, raised suspicions at an insurance company. Los Angeles traffic officers compared notes and opened an investigation.

The call to Resmick led to the recovery of the silver Mercury Sable station wagon. Criminalists testified that they found McDavid's DNA on the undercarriage of the vehicle.

Even after their arrest in 2006, Golay and Rutterschmidt continued to quarrel over money. The women were left in a white-walled room with a video camera running.

"Why did you make the extra insurances?" Rutterschmidt angrily asked Golay on the videotape.

Prosecutors plan to rest their case Monday by playing the full recording, which they believe to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence showing the women's guilt.

"These defendants remained greedy until the very end," Deputy Dist. Atty. Truc Do told the jury.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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