The sweet old grandmas who became coldblooded murderers: Podcast uncovers twisted tale of Black Widow Killers who slayed two homeless men to collect $5M life insurance
- Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt killed two homeless men – named Paul Vados and Kenneth McDavid – in 1999 and 2005, by running them over with a car
- They gave the men a place to stay and fed them food. But little did the men know, they had secretly taken out multiple life insurance policies on them
- The women, from Santa Monica, California, had taken out more than 20 policies in total (on both Kenneth and Paul), totaling more than $5 million
- On March 18, 2008, they were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder
- A new Dateline podcast, called The Thing About Helen and Olga, has detailed the dramatic story. The six-part series came out on November 16, 2021
The twisted tale of two ‘sweet old ladies’ who became ‘coldblooded murderers’ and slayed two innocent homeless men to seize $5 million in life insurance policies has been revealed in a new Dateline podcast.
Branded as the Black Widow Killers, Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt slayed two homeless men in 1999 and 2005 – in an attempt to collect multi-million-dollar insurance policies on their lives – after pretending to help them get off the streets.
The two elderly ladies, who were said to have looked like ‘very nice grandmothers’ gained the homeless men’s trust by giving them a place to stay and helping them get back on their feet.
But little did the men know, they had secretly taken out multiple life insurance policies on them, and had plans to kill them for the money.
Back in the 1990s, Helen – who was born in Texas in 1931 – and Olga – who was born in Hungary in 1933 – met at a health club and instantly hit it off.
In 1997, the ladies, who both lived in Los Angeles, California, got involved with the Hollywood Presbyterian Church – which was well known for helping the homeless.
‘They just fit the bill for the kind of volunteer who might be a good fit for our program,’ Pastor Charles Zaheda, who worked at the free meal program Helen and Olga volunteered at, said in Dateline’s new podcast, The Thing About Helen and Olga.
‘Two grandmothers wanting to volunteer and serve food, that’s pretty normal, that’s what grandmothers do.’
A brand new Dateline podcast, which came out November 16, has detailed the twisted tale of how two ‘sweet old ladies’ became ‘coldblooded murderers’
Helen Golay (left) and Olga Rutterschmidt (right) killed two homeless men – named Paul Vados and Kenneth McDavid – in 1999 and 2005, by running them over with a car
The two women killed the men in an attempt to collect multi-million-dollar insurance policies on their lives, after pretending to help them get off the streets
They gave the homeless men a place to stay, helped pay their bills, and fed them food. But little did the men know, they had secretly taken out multiple life insurance policies on them
The podcast came out on November 16, 2021, and host Keith Morrison revealed exclusively to DailyMail.com that although the two women worked together on their schemes, they didn’t exactly get along.
‘This is a truly mind-bending tale of these two elderly ladies. Helen and Olga were a pair,’ he told us. ‘They were frenemies in a way that made their exploits and their miss-exploits all the more fascinating to watch.
‘They met through their shared interest in profit and fraud. And once they were together, they developed a relationship which was truly unique.
‘They really didn’t like each other but they had specific roles to play and they were frequently carping and kvetching at one another about how the other had performed in those roles. But each role was important for the malfeasance they engaged in.’
They said they wanted to help those who were less fortunate than them, and offered various homeless men with a place to stay. They would also help pay their bills, feed them, drive them where they needed to go, and more. But it turns out, it was all a ploy.
Keith continued: ‘As you know, Los Angeles has a huge homeless population, as many cities do, especially along the west coast where the temperatures are a little milder.
‘The women latched onto this idea that they could be angels to men in distress and take advantage of them in unique ways – even as they were presenting themselves as helpful and kind ladies.’
On November 8, 1999, police discovered a man named Paul Vados’ dead body lying in the street. His injuries indicated that the 73-year-old had been run over while he was lying down, possibly passed out – although there were no drugs or alcohol found in his system.
A second man, named Fred Downie, died in November 2000, after he wandered into the street and got hit by a car. He was living at Helen’s home during the time of his death, but this time, it was Helen’s daughter, Kecia, who be-friended him.
She convinced him to move from Massachusetts to California and live with them, and right away, the mother-duo took the title of his house and control of all his financial assets. However, his death was ruled as an accident.
A third man named Jimmy Covington also later revealed that in 2002, while he was homeless, Helen and Olga offered him a place to stay in exchange for filling out a few forms, but he ultimately declined.
‘She said, “Hi, how are you? My name’s Olga, are you homeless?”‘ Jimmy recalled of the first time he met Olga, during the podcast. ‘I said, “Well, why would you want to ask that?”
‘She said, “Well, you don’t look like you’re homeless but you have a backpack and sleeping bag. I thought if you’re homeless – I work with an agency that works with guys that are homeless. We can help get you money and places to stay and other benefits, things like that.”‘
‘She seemed pretty professional and honest. She was dressed nice but seemed anxious also. She was fast-talking and seemed to be really anxious and in a hurry to get the answers that she needed from me and see if I was going to accept her offer,’ he continued.
He lived under their roof briefly, but when they told him he had to fill out paperwork that asked for his, as well as his parents’ social security numbers, he got spooked and left.
Then, on June 22, 2005, 50-year-old Kenneth McDavid, who according to NBC was a radio DJ, was found dead in a dark alley.
His chest and skull were crushed and he had grease marks on his clothing, leading police to believe that he too had been lying down when he was run over by a car. They found traces of alcohol, zolpidem, and hydrocodone in his system.
After Kenneth’s death, Mutual of New York (MONY) investigator Ed Webster started to look into the policies that were taken out on Kenneth, and he immediately noticed some inconsistencies.
Most importantly, the beneficiaries – Helen and Olga – were listed as Kenneth’s ‘business partners’ on the claims, yet they told the police that they were his fiancé and cousin.
After doing some more digging, Ed discovered that the women had taken out more than 20 policies in total (on both Kenneth and Paul), totaling more than $5 million. He decided to bring his concerns to the police.
‘It was a difficult investigation because you have to be able to connect dots. It has to be more than, “We’re pretty sure we did it.” You have to be able to establish absolute proof. It has to stand up in court and that took a long time,’ Keith explained to DailyMail.com.
‘The primary reason that this became known and was solved and became a story in the first place was because of an insurance investigator named Ed Webster.
‘He had once been a marine and after he served he somehow found himself in investigations and he was, I think, unique among investigators.
‘He had a very old-fashioned, non-technical way of going about his investigations. His thoroughness in following up every lead is what broke this case.’
The women had taken out more than 20 policies in total (on both Kenneth and Paul), totaling more than $5 million
The podcast’s host, Keith Morrison, told DailyMail.com exclusively that what drew him in was how ‘unique’ the story was. He said: ‘It’s one of those stories that just doesn’t happen’
He added: ‘Two sweet little old ladies having a plan like this and carrying it out the way they did, it just doesn’t happen’
On March 18, 2008, they were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder
‘I wasn’t sure what we had and I didn’t want to make too much of it because you’re dealing with people who were portrayed as a couple of sweet, elderly women,’ one of the detectives who worked on the case, Detective Dennis Kilcoyne, said in the podcast.
Investigators then started to keep an eye on the two women, and they quickly noticed that they already had another possible-victim in their claws.
Although they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest the women for murder just yet, the police then took them in for multiple counts of mail fraud.
After searching their houses, they discovered large quantities of zolpidem and hydrocodone, various documents pertaining to the two men, a stolen driver’s license, and a post-it note with a license plate number that was linked to a 1999 Mercury Sable station wagon.
Detectives then looked into the car, and they discovered that the night Kenneth was killed, Helen actually called a tow service for it after it broke down less than one block away from where he was found. The car was later abandoned right near her house, and it was eventually impounded.
Despite more than a year passing since he was killed, police decided to check the car – and they found Kenneth’s blood on the bottom of it.
Although Helen and Olga refused to sit down for an interview, Keith talked to the families of the victims, the detectives who worked on the case, and the insurance investigator for the podcast, and in the process, he made so many shocking revelations.
‘Some things emerged that I think nobody knew before we reported the story,’ he said.
One example was when he went to the cemetery where Fred was buried. There, he discovered that the man had ordered gravestones for Helen and her daughter, so that they could go next to his when he died.
‘[At the time of his death] he was still so taken with these women he had ordered gravestones for one of the women and her daughter to go next to him – these were the people who were responsible for his death,’ Keith shared.
One month later, they were both found guilty of conspiracy to murder and to first-degree murder of Paul. Only Helen was convicted of first-degree murder of Kenneth
They were sentenced to consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole
The talk show host explained that he originally discovered the story two years ago, and right away it drew him in. But as he started to look into it more and more, he realized there was a lot more to uncover under the surface.
‘This is a fascinating tale which I discovered two years back, but there was so much more story there than I was able to tell,’ he revealed.
‘We have a ton of material. When you go over the archives you discover the story wasn’t really told in full and it’s there waiting to be told.
‘I was just taken with [the story], fascinated with the relationship between these two women. And the immoral hoops that they had to jump through to get to the place where they ended up – essentially farming homeless people.
‘How do you persuade yourself that you’re a decent person when you’re engaged in fraud on many different levels and potentially murder as well?’
Despite the shocking nature of their crimes, the talk show host said he was not ‘surprised’ by the case in the end.
‘In this line of work you eventually get to the point where you’re not really surprised by the certain behaviors of some people. It happens way too often,’ he concluded.
‘I was not surprised and I was certainly not impressed by their behavior, it was so evil. But it was so unique. It’s one of those stories that just doesn’t happen. Two sweet little old ladies having a plan like this and carrying it out the way they did, it just doesn’t happen.’
On March 18, 2008, Helen, who was now 77, and Olga, who was now 75, were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
One month later, they were both found guilty of conspiracy to murder and to first-degree murder of Paul. Only Helen was convicted of first-degree murder of Kenneth. They were sentenced to consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.
All six episodes of The Thing About Helen & Olga are now available; Dateline airs every Friday at 9PM ET
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