Two elderly women were charged Monday with killing homeless men in hit-and-run car crashes in order to collect million of dollars on their life insurance policies.
Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, who was born in Hungary, and Helen Golay, 75, each were charged with two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder for financial gain.
The murder charges carry special allegations that would make the women eligible for the death penalty if convicted. However, prosecutors will wait until the cases move closer to trial before deciding whether to seek capital punishment, county Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels said in a statement.
"It's not totally unexpected given the accusations previously made. I plan on handling the case and winning because there was no murder and there is no evidence of murder," Golay's attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, said Monday.
"I expect that Miss Helen Golay will be fully exonerated," he said.
The women cannot be arraigned on the murder charges until they are transferred from federal to state custody.
Rutterschmidt did not immediately obtain an attorney in connection with the state charges, federal and state officials said.
The women are accused of arranging hit-and-run accidents in alleys, leaving 73-year-old Paul Vados — who was also born in Hungary — dead in November 1999 in Hollywood, Calif., and 51-year-old Kenneth McDavid dead in June 2005 in Westwood, Calif.
Both accidents were unsolved until the women were arrested in May and charged with federal mail fraud. They are awaiting an October trial on the federal charges.
The women befriended the transients, paid for them to stay in apartments for as long as two years and in exchange obtained the victims' signatures, authorities alleged.
The women took out three dozen life insurance policies on the men, had them killed and then collected while falsely claiming to be relatives, according to the complaint.
Some of the insurers found the circumstances suspicious and refused to pay.
An investigation was launched last year when police looking into McDavid's death found similarities to the Vados case, authorities said.