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Image: Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt
Pool via AFP - Getty Images file
Helen Golay, 77, left, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, were accused of taking out life insurance policies on homeless men and then killing them.
NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Keith Morrison Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 3/6/2009 10:14:46 PM ET 2009-03-07T03:14:46

Here in the vast and wealthy collection of cities by the sea, Los Angeles, are districts of public failure, neglected streets, forgotten alleys peopled by the disappointed and the lost.  A whole sad army of the homeless. But there are angels, too, in the city. Not enough, perhaps.

But once, at least, were two elderly women who opened their lives - and their substantial wallets - to help rescue a lucky few. To give them hope. Two little old ladies, Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt.

Pastor Chuck Suhayda: I first met Olga and Helen, it was either in March or April of 2006.

They were partners in what seemed like their own personal war against poverty. The pastor met them when they showed up at his program for the homeless here at Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

Pastor Chuck Suhayda: They had come sort of late into the program so we had already finished serving the meals. They did seem like somebody's grandmother and the kind of folks you might respect.

Already these women, like good grandmothers, had devoted time and treasure to a homeless man named Ken McDavid. 

Helen actually arranged for an apartment for Kenneth, paid his rent, some of his bills.

And why not?  She could afford it. Helen owned multiple properties in Santa Monica, home to some of the nation's most expensive real estate.

Her friend Olga, a Hungarian immigrant, lived a few miles east in Hollywood, and several notches down the income ladder. But she had her time to offer, and that she did. After all, every life is priceless, including Kenneth McDavid's.   

Keith Morrison: So Kenneth, where did he fit in the family?

Sandra Salman: He was in the middle. 

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There were five of them, said his sister Sandra.  And once they were so close.

Sandra Salman: Kenneth, he was very, very good at school.  He was the one that I would go to if I needed help.

Keith Morrison: The smart one.

Sandra Salman: He was the smart one.

But something happened after high school.  He avoided college, worked in radio for a while, but couldn't hold a job. Undiagnosed schizophrenia is what Sandra thinks it was. By the mid-90s things were completely off-kilter, and Kenneth just disappeared.

Keith Morrison: Didn't know if he was okay?

Sandra Salman: No.

Keith Morrison: Alive or dead?

Sandra Salman: He never called, no.

Keith Morrison: What was that like for the rest of you?

Sandra Salman: It was very difficult. 

Helen and Olga had no idea, by all accounts, that Kenneth had a family any more than the family knew that two elderly ladies had rescued him. So when the worst happened, what were they to do? Kenneth McDavid was killed by a car in an alley. It was Helen who went to the coroner’s office to collect his body, who arranged the cremation.

McDavid must have valued their help so much as he named them on a life insurance policy, his way perhaps of giving back in death as they had done so much for him.

End of story? Well, no.  In fact this is where the whole crazy story begins.

Ed Webster is a private investigator with 35 years of experience.  

Ed Webster: For 20 years, I was the Director of Investigations for MONY Life Insurance Company in New York.

Mutual Insurance Of New York is the full name, a.k.a. MONY.

Ed was in L.A. on another case.  And as long as he was there, the company asked, would he run a routine check on the McDavid policy?

Ed Webster: In fact, there was nothin' at first blush to render that situation particularly suspicious.  It was kind of routine, what I was asked to do.

Which was simply verify the facts: hit and run. No witnesses. The facts? Kenneth McDavid was found sprawled in that back alley around 1 a.m. on June 22, 2005. Though he had no wallet,  the police knew right away  it was Kenneth McDavid as there was this odd ID card along with a bank debit card in his pocket. Near him lay a bicycle with its front tire off as if the victim had been in mid-repair when he was hit by a passing car. His glasses, apparently knocked off, were lying nearby.

The LAPD opened a case file, of course. But hit-and-run accidents are difficult to solve if there are no witness.  And in a city famous for its traffic, investigators are busy. Sometimes cases go unsolved. Just like this one. So Ed Webster could have signed off on the police version of events and flown home.

But Ed doesn't do that sort of thing. He was asked to investigate, so that's what he'd do. He went to the alley to look around.

Keith Morrison: So you found somebody in a store over here? Did he see it happen?

EdWebster: Discovered the body in the alley--

Keith Morrison: Oh.

EdWebster: --and called 911. He got close enough to see that the man wasn't drunk--

On the face of it, this hit-and-run, there really wasn't anything nefarious. Kenneth McDavid could have been crouching, fixing his bicycle, if, as it seemed, it was his bicycle, when a car raced through this alley, failed to see him in the dark, and struck him dead.  But there was one little thing that bothered Ed.  The tire the man was supposedly fixing wasn't flat.

Ed Webster: Perhaps it was being set to look like he was changing a flat tire.

Had somebody staged the accident?

Probably not.  And Ed Webster isn't one to jump to conclusions. Not ever.

Ed Webster:  I just collect it all.  And then I sit there and I look at it all.  And see if it conforms to what normally would be expected in the situation.

Still, when he looked at the autopsy report, he was puzzled.  McDavid's injuries didn't make sense.

EdWebster: The bulk of the man's injuries, the fatal injuries, were from the waist up.  It wasn't like a normal hit-and-run, where a guy would be taken down by a moving vehicle. Normally the car knocks an upright person down, and the injuries are below the waist.

Then there was the toxicology report.  McDavid had some alcohol in him, but it was mixed with some sort of sleeping compound and prescription drugs.

And, the more he thought about it, that funny ID card didn't make sense, either.

EdWebster: You know, either a guy has got no ID, or he's got full ID.  

Keith Morrison:  Almost like an unofficial dog tag or something.

Ed Webster: Yeah, but somebody wanted the finders of this body to know who he was.

Ed read through McDavid's application for life insurance. It didn't say he was homeless, but that he had a business and some income.

EdWebster: Over the the course of the next few days, I guess, I found with certainty that he did not live where he was represented to live.  He didn't work where he was represented to work.  He didn't earn what he was represented to earn. In this circumstance, nothing seemed to fit exactly as it should have. 

What's that old expression?  Tip of the iceberg?  Ed Webster was standing on it.  No idea how deep this thing went.

Ed Webster's trip to L.A. should have been routine: Check out that insurance policy for his employers at Mutual Of New York, visit his niece, fly back home. But first Ed wanted to talk to the two women — the beneficiaries — Helen and Olga.  Maybe they could help make sense of it all.

And maybe they could also explain why Ken had not one but two policies with MONY, totaling a million dollars. So he phoned them.  But maybe they were too busy to talk.

Keith Morrison: But weren't they entitled to quite a large sum of money?

Ed Webster: Yes.  Yeah.

Keith Morrison: And yet they didn't wanna talk to you in such a way that would allow them to receive the money.

Ed Webster: No, they wouldn't talk to me. 

Now that seemed strange.  Not right at all. Which is why Ed Webster found himself down at the LAPD.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: My first contact was detectives with our traffic division.

Detective Dennis Kilcoyne is with LAPD'S Elite Robbery Homicide Unit.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: They described that they had an insurance investigator from back East.  And he was out here in regards to a hit-and-run, fatal accident of a pedestrian.

Kilcoyne heard about the million dollars, the ID, the alleged flat tire, and the two women and promised Webster an investigation.  But the veteran homicide detective found it hard to believe that two charitable old ladies could be up to anything very sinister.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: It's just, you know, you deal with gang members and convicts and this and that.  And you got two little old ladies here--

Keith Morrison: Sure.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: I'm not really sure what we have anything, if anything.  I mean, maybe we just have a couple of good Samaritans that are lookin' out for people.

But insurance investigator Ed Webster was already very suspicious of these two good Samaritans.

And Olga, impatient for her money, had filed a complaint with the California Department of Insurance for lack of payment.

So, for Ed Webster, the pressure was on for to close his case. He couldn't wait for police to build theirs.

Ed Webster: My primary obligation was still to the company. There was no particular reason to believe that the police investigation would come to fruition before the company was required to make a claim decision. And there's a lot of money involved.

On the original insurance application, Olga and Helen are identified as Kenneth McDavid's investment partners. But... 

Ed Webster: I had pretty well exhausted any possibility that their business relationship existed.  And I was comfortable in saying that that just never existed.

He'd also confirmed they're not related to McDavid.

And so, based on Ed's report, MONY insurance made its decision to cancel both policies and refund the premiums the women had paid,  $1,800. So someone at MONY headquarters called the ladies and told them there was a check to be delivered in person by Ed Webster. Of course they didn't know it was not their million dollars.

Helen Golay: How long is this gonna take?

Helen Golay agreed to meet Webster at her favorite diner.

Helen Golay:  I have no comments. I have no questions. Just-- just-- settlement.

She had no idea that the woman who accompanied Webster was from the LAPD and wearing a hidden camera.

(On hidden camera) Video: Face-to-face with Helen Golay

Ed Webster: This is your signature here?

Helen Golay: Top of here? Yeah. Here. Yeah.

Ed Webster: That's where you signed it?

Helen Golay: Yes. Uh-huh.

Ed Webster: Were you present when Kenneth McDavid signed all three?

Helen Golay: Was I?

Ed Webster: Yes.

Helen Golay: I think so.

Ed Webster:   This is your signature on here?

HelenGolay: Top of here?

Ed Webster: That's where you signed it?

HelenGolay: Yes. Uh huh.

Ed Webster: Were you present when Kenneth McDavid signed all three?

HelenGolay: Was I?

Ed Webster: Yes.

HelenGolay: I think so.

Ed handed Helen a letter in which MONY informed her it would not pay a claim, but was refunding the premium.

Ed Webster: I'd like you to read the letter and then I'd be interested in your comments and your remarks.

HelenGolay: I have-- don't have none. I'm only concerned on the bottom line and my understanding today is the presentation of paying the proceeds and nothing else.

Then she looked at the letter.

HelenGolay: If you're not going to pay me the full amount, this has been a total waste of my time. I am very unhappy, caused me a lot of grief and heartache and problems.

Ed and the detective then drove across town to Hollywood, where Olga Rutterschmitt was also waiting for her payment.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Please give me-- hand the letter here.

Ed Webster: There you are.

Video: Helen gets mad

Olga Rutterschmidt: Thank you.

Olga Rutterschmidt: This is MONY's check. What is this? What is this $1800? What is this?

Ed Webster: It's a refund for the premiums that you paid.

Olga Rutterschmidt: No, we don't accept this. What is this?

LAPD Detective: Read it. Read the policy there. The letter.

Olga Rutterschmidt: I don't care. Thank you.

LAPD Detective: Wait, one more question--

Olga Rutterschmidt: I'll call the police if you don't leave me alone. G-- D-----.

LAPD Detective: OK, go ahead. Quit slamming. You're gonna break the door.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Get away from my door.

LAPD Detective: Hey listen--

Olga Rutterschmidt: F*** you.

LAPD Detective: Ooh-- let me talk to you about your-- umm.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Get away from my door or I'll call the police on you.

LAPD Detective: Wait, one more question.

Olga Rutterschmidt:  I call the police if you don't leave me alone.

Ed Webster had just saved his employer a million bucks.

Detective Kilcoyne, meanwhile, took one look at that video and realized he was not dealing with sweet sentimental grandmothers.

But that's about all it told him.  It was proof of little more than poor meeting etiquette.

Which is why Kilcoyne went to his superiors with what he knew sounded like a bizarre request: an undercover surveillance team for two little old ladies.

Keith Morrison: This isn't cheap.

Det. DennisKilcoyne, LAPD: No, it's not cheap.  And I wanna put them onto mid-70 range women.  And as you can imagine...

Keith Morrison: Are you crazy?

Det. DennisKilcoyne, LAPD: Oh, yeah, yeah. 

But those detectives were assigned, warrants were issued.  And the surveillance began.

Here's what they learned:

DennisKilcoyne, LAPD: Helen isresides over in Santa Monica. She's a creature of habit.  She gets up.  She dresses impeccably.  Her hair's this big ol' bouffant hairdo.  She comes out of her residence.  She goes to this coffee shop, and she'll be on the cell phone sitting at the booth at the coffee shop.   And she's moving money around.  Always business.  Now, Olga lives in an apartment, an old apartment complex up behind the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  And she's a little bit different than Helen.  Helen is a businesswoman. Olga is a little flighty. And she drives like a maniac. She would go out to the beach and she would walk five, ten miles, almost like she's training for marathons or something.  But--

Keith Morrison: And she's in her 70s.

Det. DennisKilcoyne, LAPD: She's in her 70s. 

Before long the detective encountered the not so sweet side of these little old ladies. Take Olga at a local Kinkos.  

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Olga is a talker.  She engages our detective in conversation and she starts talking to him that she's applying for credit under fictitious names.  And she doesn't use the computer at her home so she won't get caught. 

But all of that was small potatoes compared to the rest of the information Kilcoyne's crew dug up. There were more policies in the name of Kenneth McDavid.

Keith Morrison: So you discovered how many policies associated with this guy?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: 18 policies.

Keith Morrison: For how much money?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Well, he was well over $5 million.

Kenneth McDavid was worth a lot dead to Helen and Olga. The two sweet charitable old ladies were starting to look very different. Still, what was it we said a little earlier?  The tip of the iceberg?

At LAPD west traffic division, the story of the old ladies and the homeless guy with life insurance had become lunchroom chatter.  Loud enough to carry round the room, said Detective Dennis Kilcoyne.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: There's one detective over in the corner that he's-- he gets an overhear on all this.  And he's, you know, and he's thinking that there's something-- something back in his past at work that is ringing a bell here. 

So much like another unsolved case way back in 1999 - another hit and run, another homeless victim.  73-year-old Paul Vados, dead in an alley.  Just coincidence? 

Keith Morrison: So this is where it happened, huh?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Right up here. Right up in front of this power pole here.

And Vados's injuries, just like Kenneth McDavid's, made it appear the man was already lying down when he was hit.

Keith Morrison: Isn't it possible that a homeless guy would be just sleeping on the back alley like that, laid out the way he was?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Or passed out, or something of that nature. I don't think it would be a good spot to pick to sleep, but it, you know, possibly, uh, intoxicated to the point that he passed out. And that, that's why it remained unsolved for uh so many years.

But then Kilcoyne discovered something that made the hair standup on his neck: Vados was covered by eight life insurance policies.  Eight! Worth, in total, nearly a million dollars. He looked up the beneficiaries.  Who collected all that insurance money?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Sure enough, it was Helen and Olga six years earlier. 

Now that was a revelation.  This was no coincidence. But, could it have been true?  Is it possible that these two elderly ladies were capable of fattening up not one but two homeless men and routinely killing them for insurance money? Kilcoyne scoured the record. Were there just these two or were there more?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: And we stumble along with-- information about a man by the name of Fred Downie.

And who was Fred Downie?  Another man in Helen Golay's care killed by a car.  Though this time, the horrified driver stopped and tried to help.

Fred was 97.  He had wandered into traffic. And it was odd: With him that day were funeral instructions.

Det. Kilcoyne: Fred Downy was a-- a lonely old man that-- from Massachusetts.  '90s.

Fred Downie was one of those stoic, crusty New Englanders. Ninety-six years on Cape Cod. Worked hard, saved his money. Paid cash for his seaside house.  And trusted no one until Helen Golay's daughter Kecia came along, and offered her friendship.  Though she was young enough to be his great-granddaughter.

Mildred Holman: She was very-- sweet to him.

Keith Morrison: Very familiar?

Mildred Holman: Yeah. Yeah. She was very friendly, very bubbly. That's what he called her you know; Bubbles.

And then one day, Fred told his niece Mildred he's moving to California.

Mildred Holman: "This Helen Golay was gonna take good care of him." That's what he told me several times.

Keith Morrison: Helen Golay?

MildredHolman: Yeah, Helen Golay would take very good care of him.

So he sold his house to Helen and her daughter for virtually nothing - less than a hundred dollars.

Keith Morrison: He turned over all of his financial dealings--

Mildred Holman: Yes.

Keith Morrison: Did that surprise you?

Mildred Holman: Yes, yes it did.

Fred moved in with Helen Golay where, within months, he wrote his niece Helen had him on stuck on a strict diet, that he'd quickly lost 24 pounds. And he wasn't a heavy man

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Neighbors report to us that this poor, frail, little old man occasionally is-- found, you know, fallen down out in the alley behind the place.

Keith Morrison: They're really not looking after him well at all.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: No.  They're-- they're-- they're just housing him.  They-- they have bled him for everything that the man ever earned in 90 some years of living.

Until, old and alone, he stepped off a curb and, quite by accident, a passing motorist struck him down. But Kilcoyne couldn't dwell on Fred Downie right now. He had more pressing worries.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Olga appears to be working up another victim. 

She and Helen turned up at that local church asking about the program for the homeless. Both Vados and McDavid had been regulars here. Was this where the women found them?  Were they looking for a new prospect?

Olga was seen working on documents with yet another man.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: We can't just stand by and-- watch them kill another man. 

But still, the LAPD didn't have enough evidence  for murder. So Detective Kilcoyne went to the Feds for help.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: We meet with the US Attorney's office.  He tells us, well he will file-- mail fraud and wire fraud charges against the women.

Helen and Olga sent all those insurance applications through the U.S. mail - and on those applications were lies about things like income, business associations and family ties. For instance, on nearly all of them, Helen claimed to be Kenneth McDavid's fiance and Olga his cousin in order to qualify as beneficiaries.  But those statements were not true, and those lies made the women a lot of money. Thus, said the U.S. Attorney, mail fraud.

So on May 18 2006, at 7 a.m....

HelenGolay: What's happening?

A sleepy Helen Golay was arrested by the FBI.

FBIAgent: Ms. Golay, my name is Sam Mayrose. I'm with the FBI, you're under arrest for mail fraud.

HelenGolay: Mail fraud? I haven't done any mail fraud. What are you talking about?

FBIAgent: Insurance.

HelenGolay: I haven't done any insurance mail fraud.

FBIAgent: Well, that's what you're under arrest for.

HelenGolay: You have to be kidding.

FBIAgent: No, no kidding.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD:  And she was just-- I just couldn't understand what we were doing to her.

HelenGolay:  From who?

FBIAgent: From the United States.

HelenGolay: What!

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: And I'm thinking in the back of my he-- mind-- ya know-- ya know, I don't completely understand what I'm doing to you right now either, but we're gonna find out 

Helen Golay: I don't understand.

FBI Agent: OK.

Helen Golay: Who has done this to me? Who has done this to me and why?

Same time, across town, at the home of Olga Rutterschmidt.

Olga Rutterschmidt: I have to call my lawyer.

Police officer: OK. OK We'll take care of that.

OlgaRutterschmidt: What is this?

Policeofficer: Olga, just walk.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Walk where?

Policeofficer: Walk to the car.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Barefoot, like this?

Now Helen and Olga  - still in their pajamas -and under arrest.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Arrest?

FBI Agent: Yes, you are under arrest right now.

HelenGolay: This is a bunch of lies. I know you don't care.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Oh my God. That's a lie, this is assumption. Anytime, my God.

They denied it  all-- and then Helen and Olga were taken downtown to the LAPD, where they  wound up in front of a police department hidden camera .

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, LAPD: Alright, ladies. We're gonna be a few minutes. The people that are gonna transport you over to the federal processing system will be here and we'll take care of that in just a few minutes. Alright?

Olga Rutterschmidt: Helen, that's your fault.

And what they said once left alone together? Well, it was, shall we say, illuminating.

Olga Rutterschmidt: We going to go to jail, honey. They're going to lock you up.

A little bitterness seemed to have crept into the curious business partnership of sweet old Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmitt.

Olga Rutterschmidt: You were greedy, that's the problem. That's why I got angry.  We had no problem with our relationship. You pay me and be nice and don't make extra things.

HelenGolay: Listen, you are talking too much.

Olga Rutterschmidt: I know, but your fault that our relationship ended up like this and you ended up like this.

Here in an LAPD interrogation room, Olga failed to comprehend the obvious: their conversation was not the least bit private.

Helen Golay: Do you realize what you're saying?

Olga Rutterschmidt: That's greediness.

Helen Golay: And you better be quiet. You better not know anything.

Olga Rutterschmidt: I do not know anything.  I don't know.

HelenGolay: Are they going to find anything bad on your computer?

Olga Rutterschmidt: No, no hmmm. Well, um, nah. Not too many.  No, no.

Helen was trying to be nonchalant. But Olga, as usual, she just couldn't stop talking.

Olga Rutterschmidt: They will confiscate the money that they paid you and me.

HelenGolay: Who cares?

Olga Rutterschmidt: Who cares? We have nothing left!

HelenGolay: Be quiet. They could be listening.

Olga Rutterschmidt: We have to. That's right. That's right.

So Helen tried to focus the conversation in a way that might help their case.

Video: Helen and Olga captured on tape after arrest

HelenGolay: This is just conversation between you and me. Remember, Kenneth McDavid loved us. Because he loved us and wanted to be part of our family,

Olga Rutterschmidt: I supported him financially very heavily. I gave him lots of money.

HelenGolay: And he wanted us to do business together. And he loved both of us. We were like his family.

Olga Rutterschmidt: Yes.

HelenGolay:  He signed for these policies. And we happen to be punished because of what he wanted. That is not right. Now, remember the bottom line.

Olga Rutterschmidt: I was the cousin. You were the fiancé. Baloney.

KeithMorrison: This one for you is like a gift.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: Oh, it was gold.

But, illuminating as it was, the taped conversation did not constitute proof of murder. So now Detective Kilcoyne struggled to fill in the gaps. Helen and Olga, he learned, had known each other for about twenty years, met at a gym. Over the years they have made money filing lots of slip-and-fall type of lawsuits... A couple of gyms, a grocery, a diner and a lighting store. Fraud?  The police certainly thought so. But not murder. 

But then, a break: Helen and Olga's arrest got some media attention, and a few tips began trickling in.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: We learned of three other men that they had attempted policies on. 

So Detective Kilcoyne told the media about the three homeless men, including one named Jimmy Covington.  And what do you know. 

Jimmy Covington: I was-- goin' to the park. And somebody passed by.  And they recognized me from an article in the-- in the L.A. Times newspaper.

Meet Jimmy Covington.

Jimmy Covington: I said, "But, what did the article say?"  He said, "Well, something about two-- the women who were tryin' to murder you or murder somebody and tryin' to murder you, runnin' over with a car."  And I went, "What?"

But sure enough, Jimmy Covington had a story to tell.  It was back in 2002. He was living on the street in Hollywoo, even sleeping here, behind this fence, where he'd be off the sidewalk, when a nice elderly woman introduced herself with an amazing offer.

Jimmy Covington: She said, "Hi.  How are you?  My name's Olga.  Are you homeless?"

She told him she worked with an agency that could help him. Get some money and a real place to live.

And she said, "I've helped other guys like this before.  And-- I'm all ready to-- show you the few pieces of paper and just basic information if you can fill out.  Just come on in right now.  And I'll show you."

Keith Morrison: Wow!

Jimmy Covington: Yeah, that's what I kinda thought, kinda, "Wow."  And she was gonna get me $2000 with-- within 30 days or less.

All he needed to do was fill out some paperwork with his personal information, and, bingo, he'd have a place to stay and money to spend.

Keith Morrison: What-- let-- when you-- when you say "paperwork," what sorta questions?  Was it a--

Jimmy Covington: What was my name-- what was my Social Security number, what-- how-- what was my-- you know, my medical problems and-- where-- how long I'd been on the str-- homeless and just basic personal information, the first few sheets.

Keith Morrison: First few sheets?

Jimmy Covington: Yeah.

Keith Morrison: But, there're more and more and more of these?

Jimmy Covington: Yes, there was.

A little too much intrusion for Jimmy. 

He was spooked. And disappeared again, back to his street life.  But not before this application for an $800,000 life insurance policy was sent in. Eventually, Kilcoyne found all three of the men: alive.

It would have been soon after Jimmy Covington, figured Detective Kilcoyne, that Helen and Olga met Kenneth McDavid – probably at that Hollywood church food giveaway, where, said the pastor, Ken was a regular.

Pastor Suhayda: Ken was a very quiet guy, and a, but he seemed content. I always thought he seemed content guy.

Keith Morrison: He musta thought, "Manna from heaven.  Somebody's--"

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: Exactly. This church stuff really works.

The greedy world of Helen and Olga kept some secrets still, but not for much longer. In this world there are cameras everywhere, from banks, to crosswalks to back allies in Los Angeles. And though they don't always offer a perfect picture, with a little work, there just might be something to find there.

Helen Golay: This is awful. Yeah, and I won't look very pretty on your camera, either.

It was early on a morning in May when the LAPD and the FBI arrested Helen and Olga. But when they arrived, they were armed also with extensive search warrants. And search is what they did.

Helen Golay: How long are you going to be searching my house?

They found an ink stamp with Kenneth McDavid’s signature. Was this what they used to apply for the insurance policies? They found a Post-it note with what looked like a license plate number.

Could that have come from the same car in this back alley security video from the night Kenneth McDavid died? As the car comes by, you get a pretty good depiction of the make and model and color of the vehicle. A silver station wagon.  A police expert was able to pin it down.  Mercury Sable.

Digging into the DMV computers, Kilcoyne found a silver Mercury Sable that matched that post-it note bought in the name of a woman whose stolen driver's license was one of the other finds in Helen's house.   And then a photograph turned up, which showed that very car parked sometime earlier behind the house of Helen Golay. A tentative connection between Helen Golay and the hit-and-run in the alley.

So with the car and that surveillance video in hand, Det. Kilcoyne asked for help from the California Highway Patrol.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: Okay, here's what we're gonna do tonight. 

The CHP marked where the body was found, where the bike was, the glasses... They added in the location of the cameras.  And what they could see on that fuzzy video tape and put  it all together to figure out exactly what happened in that dark alley to Kenneth McDavid.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: We have the vehicle go by and the taillights are getting smaller and smaller and smaller as it goes away. Then at one point, the taillights and all of the lights on the vehicle uh, go out. From the calculations that they were able to provide, this is exactly where the body was found. They've pushed him out of the car.  They're gettin' him, draggin' him around and to a position-- for their advantage.  Probably length-wise across the alley.

And then, all of a sudden, the lights of the vehicle come back on. The car backs up.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: The back-up light goes off, brake lights come on.  Brake lights go off.  Vehicle moves forward.

And that would be when Kenneth McDavid died.  If this really is the right car. But one more link needed to be made, so they tore it apart.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: We were hoping to maybe get Olga's fingerprints, inside the car or Helen's fingerprints, or something to--

KeithMorrison: Awhile after the fact.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: It's quite awhile.  It's ten months later.  And we're-- we're trying to connect the-- the girls to this car, and-- and it's not working too well. 

Then they hoisted it on a lift, and…

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: The undercarriage of the car is bent and buckled.  And little things that are supposed to be, you know, going that way are now bent that way and all these different things.

It had been almost a year.  But there, under the car, they found a few spots of what looked like blood.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: But we don't know if it's human, or animal, or whatever.  I mean the undercarriage of the car sees a lot of things.

Frankly, it wasn't much.  They sent it off for testing anyway.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: The lab calls me. And they-- they're ecstatic, and they tell me that we have matched-- Kenneth McDavid's D.N.A. to the undercarriage of that Mercury Sable.

KeithMorrison: Ten months later?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: Ten months later.

Now, the Mercury Sable with its tell-tale DNA hidden on its undercarriage was the smoking gun. Helen and Olga are moved across the street to state court and charged with murder.

Helen Golay: What's, what, what, have I done?

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: Helen's the brains.  She's the money, and Olga was the muscle.  But between the two of them, they made quite a combination.

Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt were behind bars, waiting for trial - but might not have been here at all, said Detective Kilcoyne, if for that insurance investigator Ed Webster, and one standard clause in most life insurance policies, which is this: During the policy's first two years, the company can start an investigation for any reason, and a death along with a claim would trigger some scrutiny.

When McDavid died, one of those MONY policies was just shy of two years.  Thus, Ed's investigation.

The women would certainly have been keenly aware of all of those things. So why didn't they wait just a few months, until that period of contestability was over? 

EdWebster: I believe that he became aware-- or concerned about the number of insurance policies on his life. I don't even think he knew of all of them.  But he knew of enough.  And I think he ran. 

He left the apartment Helen had been paying for.  Took to living sometimes in seedy motels and sometimes back on the street.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: They were losing track of him.  And, you know, they've got way too much money invested in this-- in this-- person.

And, there was some sort of trouble in the partnership between Helen and Olga.

This was Helen, on the phone, 15 days before McDavid is killed.   

Helen Golay: I want to change-- uh,  the beneficiary and the ownership and everything.

Det. DennisKilcoyne: And she's talking to somebody that, you know, on the other end of an 800 phone number inquiring about how do you get the co-beneficiary removed from a policy. 

That is, she was trying to dump Olga. It didn't work, but McDavid was a marked man anyway.

Ed Webster: And I think at some point, they caught up with him. From the way his autopsy appeared, you could guess that he-- they took him to dinner. They tried to placate his fears.  They gave him a meal.  They gave him some alcohol. They slipped him some drugs.  And they took him out and killed him. 

Baliff: Remain seated, come to order. Court is again in session.

In March of 2008, Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt, still locked at the hip by their devious histories, went on trial - together - for the murders of Kenneth McDavid and Paul Vados.

Roger Diamond: Well, we start with the given that Miss Golay maintains her innocence. 

Their defense arguments, however, were not in sync at all. Helen's attorney, Roger Diamond, told the jury that his client was far too old and feeble to have been capable of such meticulously murderous behavior.   That it was her daughter, Kecia, who killed Kenneth McDavid. Kecia, by the way, was never charged with anything, nor would she talk to Dateline. Olga, however, made a quite different argument.  

Her attorney declined our interview request, but also maintained his client's innocence and in court he claimed that Olga was so unsophisticated, so unintelligent, really, that she amounted to no more than a lacky for the mastermind, Helen Golay. The jury didn't buy any of it.

Judge: You will rise, please.

April 2008, Helen Golay, 77 and Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, were convicted of murdering both Paul Vados and Kenneth McDavid.

Judge: You are hereby sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Afterward, the families of those victimized men were left to wonder what might have been.

What if McDavid's sister, Sandra, had been home, for example, the one time her brother called not long before he died?

Keith Morrison: What did he say in the message, do you remember?

Sandra Salman: ...He said, "I apologize after all these years of not talking to you.  But I want you to know, I'm okay.  I'm living in Los Angeles.  I work for a production company.  And everything's going great."

It wasn't, of course. Gloria Allred represents the Vados and McDavid families.

Gloria Allred: It is so evil and so heartbreaking to think that anyone would decide that the purpose of a homeless human beings is to make profit that their lives mean nothing.

There is a lush old graveyard on Cape Cod, not far from the house Mildred's uncle Fred basically gave to the Golays.

Keith Morrison: Right under your feet here.

Mildred Holman: I had no idea.

We went there with Mildred - and a little poking around turned up something that made her upset and angry all over again.

Mildred Holman: That is horrible. I can't believe that.

Keith Morrison: Kecia.

Mildred Holman: This is upsetting.

Fred Downie so loved Helen and Kecia he not only gave them everything he had,  he bought plots for them, one on either side of him.  He's down there now, waiting still.

Mildred Holman: I don't know. I can't believe it.

No known crime here, said Detective Kilcoyne.

As for Helen and Olga, Kilcoyne says they were cold-hearted opportunists. And if murder was what the opportunity called for, as with McDavid and Vados, so be it.

Keith Morrison: Looks as if they saw this as a business.

Det. Dennis Kilcoyne: Oh, it's absolutely a business.  And I-- and I think the actually murder of the men, the driving over their bodies in alleys, is just the cost of doing business.

Helen and Olga collected $600,000 for the death of Paul Vados. Together, they made 2.2 million from their final victim, Kenneth McDavid. And they might still be at it, if greed hadn't turned the head in the bouffant-do.

Keith Morrison: Do 'ya ever wonder why they filed on that second contestable policy?  Why they didn't just file a claim on the one that was safer?

Ed Webster: If they invested the time, and they invested the money, and the energy, and the filings of-- of claims and policies and payin' premium-- I think they felt entitled to it all.

Greed, their motivation...  Greed that brought them down. It was Olga who said it best.

Olga Rutterschmidt: You were greedy. That's the problem.

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