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The Black Widow murders were committed by two California senior citizens, Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt, aged 75 and 77 respectively at the time of their trial in 2008. They murdered two homeless men — Kenneth McDavid, aged 50, in 2005 and Paul Vados, aged 73, in 1999 — staging their deaths to appear as hit and run incidents. They then collected life insurance policies that they had taken out on the two men, for a total of $2.8 million.[1][2][3]

Golay and Rutterschmidt befriended Vados in 1997, housing him and persuading him to sign a life insurance policy. They then duplicated his signature in order to take out further life insurance policies, which they cashed in when Vados was killed, apparently in a hit-and-run accident, in 1999. They had done the same with McDavid, some years later. They had more than a dozen life insurance policies on Vados, and 23 life insurance policies on McDavid.[4] A third homeless man, Jimmy Covington aged 48, testified at trial that he had been approached by Rutterschmidt, who had taken him to Burger King and promised him shelter. He testified that he had moved out after growing suspicious when Golay and Rutterschmidt asked him to sign documents and give his personal details to them. By then, Golay and Rutterschmidt had already filled out one life insurance policy application for him.[5][6]

The case was described, by Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels who prosecuted it, as "like Arsenic and Old Lace, but it doesn't have Cary Grant".[4][7][8]

The prosecution's case included secretly recorded conversations between Golay and Rutterschmidt when they were in jail. Ruttershmidt told Golay in one conversation "You did all these insurances extra. That's what raised the suspicion. You can't do that. Stupidity. You're going to go to jail, honey. They going to lock you up." Suspicion had in fact been raised when a detective happened to overhear a colleague discussing a case whose features closely resembled that of another one.[5][6] After comparing notes, investigators found that both women were named as life insurance beneficiaries, variously cousins, business partners, or fiancées, for both victims.[9]

Both Golay and Rutterschmidt were convicted, in April 2008, of conspiracy to murder Vados and McDavid, and of the first-degree murder of Vados. Golay was convicted of the first-degree murder of McDavid.[6][10] Convictions on the several counts spanned a week, because one juror had to go on a trip and be replaced by an alternate. The original jury reached a deadlock over the final two counts against Rutterschmidt, but after the alternate juror was introduced the trial judge ordered the jury to recommence deliberations.[10] Both women were sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison, without parole.[11][12]

The Black Widow murders is featured in the February 10, 2010 episode of "American Greed" [1]"#26" on CNBC.

References

  1. ^ Catherine Elsworth (2008-04-17). "Black widow murders: Two elderly women found guilty of conspiring to kill homeless men". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). http://telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1895893/Black-widow-murders-Two-elderly-women-found-guilty-of-conspiring-to-kill-homeless-men.html. 
  2. ^ "'Black Widow' killers get life in jail without parole". Taipei Times. Agence France-Presse. 2008-07-17. http://taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2008/07/17/2003417699. 
  3. ^ "Black widows face life for murder". The Australian. Agence France-Presse (News Limited). 2008-04-22. http://theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23579016-12335,00.html. 
  4. ^ a b "Elderly 'black widows' in killer insurance sting". Sydney Morning Herald (The Sydney Morning Herald). 2008-04-11. http://smh.com.au/news/world/elderly-black-widows-in-killer-insurance-sting/2008/04/11/1207856784167.html. 
  5. ^ a b Suzanne Goldenberg (2008-04-18). "Elderly women face jail over insurance killings". Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). http://guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/18/internationalcrime.usa. 
  6. ^ a b c Linda Deutsch (2008-04-18). "Pair in Arsenic and Old Lace case guilty". The Herald (Herald & Times Group). http://heraldscotland.com/pair-in-arsenic-and-old-lace-case-guilty-1.878816. 
  7. ^ Karl Vick (2008-03-18). "In L.A., a Case Straight Out Of 'Arsenic And Old Lace'". Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/17/AR2008031702489.html. 
  8. ^ Ed Pilkington (2008-03-19). "Murder trial recalls tale of Arsenic and Old Lace". Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). http://guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/19/internationalcrime.usa. 
  9. ^ Martin Kasindorf (2007-03-22). "2 charged in hit-and-run murder scam". USA Today (Gannett Co. Inc.). http://usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-03-22-hit-and-run_N.htm. 
  10. ^ a b "More "Black Widows" Guilty Verdicts". CBS News. Associated Press (CBS Interactive Inc.). 2008-04-21. http://cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/21/national/main4032044.shtml. 
  11. ^ "Life Terms in 'Black Widow' Case". Washington Post. Associated Press (The Washington Post Company). 2008-07-16. http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/15/AR2008071502808.html. 
  12. ^ Linda Deutsch (2008-07-17). "BLACK WIDOWS WILL DIE IN JAIL; pounds 1.5m tramps murder plot.". Daily Record. 

Further reading

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