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Crime News Accident, Suicide, or Murder

Investigation Into a Fatal Hit-and-Run Reveals Elderly Women's Insurance Scam

Two “kindly looking grandmother types” who helped down-on-their-luck men at a Hollywood church were the surprise beneficiaries.

By Grace Jidoun
Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt Hunt for Possible Homeless Victims

Two senior men who had fallen on hard times turned up dead in Los Angeles alleyways six years apart. They were both victims of hit-and-runs and had sizable life insurance policies with the same beneficiaries. Was it coincidence or the work of heartless killers?

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In the early morning of June 22, 2005, police responded to a call about a body in an alleyway near UCLA in Westwood, Calif. First responders found Ken McDavid with tire marks all over his clothes. “The man’s body has been crushed; there’s black grease on his clothing,” recalled Detective Dennis Kilcoyne on Accident, Suicide, or Murder, airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.

With a mangled bicycle nearby and his ID still on him, police surmised he was working on his bike when he was tragically run over by a car. Luckily, a nearby business had a security camera on the alleyway, and a Mercury Sable was spotted, though it was too grainy to see the driver. The car paused for four minutes before backing up and accelerating down the alley. 

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A “well-dressed” 75-year-old woman named Helen Golay soon arrived at the morgue, identifying herself as McDavid’s fiancé. Not long after, Olga Ratterschmidt, 72, showed up to claim his body for cremation, identifying herself as his cousin.

“For a guy who appeared to be a homeless man found run over in an alley in the middle of the night, it was kinda odd that this woman claimed that he was a fiancé. It’s just something that bothered me,” said Kilcoyne.

Who was Ken McDavid?

McDavid had been down on his luck for years, but it wasn’t always that way. Friend Patrick Lamay could hardly speak without crying on Accident, Suicide, or Murder.

“He was a kind, considerate, compassionate human being,” Lamay said. “He would give you the shirt off his back even if he didn’t have one, he’d go find one and give it to you.”

Charles Suhayda, a former director of Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church, where McDavid and Lamay stayed for a stint, described him as “family” and mentioned his dreams of breaking into Hollywood as a writer.

At one time, McDavid was a voice personality on radio station KQLA, “interviewing the biggest metal acts throughout the ‘80s.” Toward the end of his career, he landed a gig at CBS and lived with his aunt in Beverly Hills, but Lamay said things took a turn when his aunt passed away, and he eventually became homeless.

He was looking for a way to get by when he met “two kindly grandmother types” serving breakfast at the church.

Police handouts of Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt

A Million-Dollar Life Insurance Policy

Two months after his death, Mutual of New York received an eye-popping $500,000 claim from Helen Golay on McDavid. A few days later, a second claim came in for $500,000 from Olga Ratterschmidt. It caught the attention of insurance investigator Ed Webster, who flew to Los Angeles to interview the women. When they blew him off, he called a meeting with the Los Angeles Police Department.

In a twist of fate, a detective overhearing the discussion happened to remember a similar case he had worked on six years prior.

Paul Vatos, 73, was the victim of an alleyway hit-and-run in 1999. Lo and behold, the same “two little old ladies” showed up at the morgue and were listed as beneficiaries of his life insurance policy, said Kilcoyne. “Helen and Olga had taken a few out on him to the tune of maybe seven or 800,000. Nothing like McDavid. We realized he had three, four million dollars out on his head.”

Detectives had a major fraud case on their hands but needed more evidence to prove murder, so they began interviewing people who knew McDavid. Suhayda, from the church, recognized Vatos. “

He was a retiree who was living on a small income, and that’s why he was supplementing resources by getting groceries from our food program,” he explained, adding that Ratterschmidt and Golay were volunteers at the church. "Helen and Olga looked like kindly grandmothers so there were no alarm bells that went off for me."

“It started to look like they were shopping for a victim, is what they were doing,” stated Kilcoyne.

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The Insurance Fraud Scam

“There has to be some sort of legal nexus between parties before you can take out an insurance policy… either you have to have a business relationship or some sort of romantic relationship,” explained Bobby Grace, LA County Deputy District Attorney, adding that most insurance policies have a vesting period of two years.

When Olga and Helen volunteered at the church to “help the homeless,” they met McDavid and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: a free apartment. But Lamay recalled that it was less than ideal. “There was almost nothing in the apartment, just two futons… and no electricity. It was almost as if he was still homeless with a door lock,” said Lamay, who offered to pay for his utilities and became his roommate until Olga forced him out.

Kilcoyne added, “For two years, they paid his rent, and they paid for life insurance on him. It’s almost like they were housing a farm animal for slaughter.”

Detectives put a surveillance unit on the women and pulled in the FBI.

What role did Jimmy Covington play in the investigation?

Detectives obtained access to Olga and Helen’s insurance policies and found the two were in the middle of scamming yet another vulnerable target. Police tracked down Jimmy Covington, an unhoused person who had been approached on the street by Olga with an offer of a place to stay and free groceries. He signed some paperwork, but split after the two repeatedly harassed him for personal information. Unfortunately, they had enough to take out a $800,000 life insurance policy.

With this new information, Deputy D.A. Grace felt confident he could get them on insurance fraud but needed more to build a murder case.

The police set a trap. The insurance investigator, Ed Webster, lured Helen to her favorite local coffee shop. “She thinks it’s payday, she thinks she is going to get a check for a million dollars,” recalled Kilcoyne.

The exchange was secretly recorded, and in a clip played on Accident, Suicide, or Murder, you can see her storming off from the table when Webster denied her claim and offered her just $1,500 for a premium reimbursement. They tried the same trick with Olga, but neither took the money.

Despite no hard evidence tying them to murder, Police were able to obtain an arrest warrant based on concern over Jimmy Covington’s life. In May 2006, eight months after McDavid's death, police charged the two with interstate wire fraud for collecting insurance payments and put them into federal custody.

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“The walls are caving in”

In footage of the arrests played on Accident, Suicide, or Murder, both women dramatically deny any wrongdoing. A search of Helen’s home turns up boxes of meticulous paperwork detailing all the insurance payouts related to the victims. “It was compelling proof of conspiracy to commit murder,” crime historian Joan Renner pointed out.

Everything unraveled when the women were put in the interrogation room together, and Olga immediately turned on her co-conspirator the minute police left. “You gonna go to jail, honey. They gonna lock you up. You were greedy. That’s the problem,” she said while being frantically shushed by Helen in video shown on Accident, Suicide, or Murder.

Meanwhile, police located the Mercury Sable, and DNA testing revealed that clothing and human flesh found on the undercarriage belonged to McDavid. A suspicious bottle was also recovered from Helen’s house containing a mixture of pulverized prescriptions. “The walls are caving in on the girls,” quipped Kilcoyne.

What happened to Helen and Olga?

The toxicology report from his autopsy showed that every drug in the bottle was in McDavid’s system “to the point where he would have no functioning ability other than breathing,” said Kilcoyne.

The prosecutor believed that Helen and Olga drugged McDavid, and Helen drove him to the alleyway and staged the scene during the four minutes that the car was paused. Then she backed up and ran over him while he was unconscious.

But there was still one last bizarre twist: Running over McDavid caused damage to the fuel line, and Helen called AAA roadside assistance right after she killed him. She was towed from the exit of the alleyway to her home, and the tow truck driver identified her to the police.

On March 18, 2008, they were both found guilty of first-degree murder, among other charges, and were sentenced to life without parole.

"People like Ken, you want the best for them, instead of the worst," said a tearful Suhayda. "This is a case when they got the worst."

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