An attorney for a septuagenarian woman charged with murder in the staged hit-and-run killings of two homeless men told jurors Monday that his client was framed by her daughter, who was motivated by "intense hatred toward her mother."
Roger Jon Diamond, who had delayed his opening statement until the prosecution completed its case in the double murder trial, told the jury that Kenneth McDavid's death was clearly a homicide. But he said Kecia Golay, 44, was at the wheel of the Mercury Sable station wagon that killed him, not her mother, Helen Golay, 77.
Prosecutors said a tow record places Helen Golay at the homicide scene.
"That is the question: Who did this dastardly act, not how was it done," Diamond told jurors.
"Helen Golay is a little old lady who could not have done what is charged she allegedly did in this case. . . . Kecia Golay was in a physical condition capable of putting a body in an alley and running it over."
But a Los Angeles judge quickly dismissed at least half a dozen witnesses Diamond had planned to call on behalf of Helen Golay, leaving the defense little recourse but to try to convince jurors of their theory based largely on the prosecution's evidence.
"The good news is that I'll be able to argue this point; in a way it is because I was so successful in my cross-examination of prosecution witnesses," Diamond said outside court.
Deputy Public Defender Michael Sklar, who represents co-defendant Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, said he plans to call no witnesses but will argue that the prosecution failed to make its case.
Helen Golay and Rutterschmidt are accused of housing two destitute men, McDavid, 50, and Paul Vados, 73, and then having them run down and killed so the women could collect $2.8 million on life insurance policies. The case could go to the jury by week's end.
Diamond presented his interpretation of the case after the prosecution rested with a 30-minute videotape of Golay and Rutterschmidt talking at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in 2006.
"Why did you make the extra insurances?" Rutterschmidt asked Golay on the videotape, made shortly after their arrests. "Too many. . . . You can't do that! . . .
"You were greedy. That is the problem."
Kecia Golay hated Helen because she did not approve of Kecia's boyfriend, Steve Taracevicz of Santa Monica, Diamond told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Wesley in an evidence hearing.
The two women had a history of legal feuding. Helen Golay sued her daughter and the boyfriend in 2003, accusing the younger woman of assaulting her and trespassing on her property.
Kecia Golay and her boyfriend responded in court papers that Helen had threatened to kill Taracevicz. They also said Helen had exhibited "30 years of psychopathic behavior."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Truc Do, the lead prosecutor in the case, questioned why, if Kecia hated her mother, she would help her collect millions of dollars by committing murder.
Kecia Golay could not be reached for comment. Police Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, the lead investigator, said he had spoken with her in person Sunday and informed her of Diamond's argument. She appeared a little surprised but was "standoffish," Kilcoyne said.
"She said this was an ongoing nightmare," he said.
Diamond said evidence already presented by the prosecution showed that Kecia was behind the wheel of the 1999 station wagon that ran down McDavid. When someone called for the car to be towed the night of McDavid's death, it was Kecia using her mother's auto club membership, Diamond said.
To bolster his theory, Diamond said that Kecia attended the same fitness club as the woman whose stolen driver's license was used to purchase the car. Diamond said a call to the dealership that sold the vehicle came from a cellphone in Kecia Golay's name.
Prosecutors contend that Helen Golay's cellphone was registered to her daughter.
Also Monday, the judge denied Sklar's motion to dismiss the charges against Rutterschmidt. Sklar had argued that the prosecution failed to show she had a part in either victim's death.
Each woman faces two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times