LOS ANGELES - A homeless man testified Friday he was befriended by an elderly woman who is now charged with killing two other homeless men for profit and was pressured to sign documents with his personal information — papers he now believes involved insurance policies.
Jimmy Covington, 48, took the stand in the Superior Court trial of Olga Rutterschmidt, 75, and Helen Golay, 77, who each are charged with two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder for financial gain for allegedly taking out insurance policies on victims and killing them in faked hit-and-run accidents.
Covington said he was approached by Rutterschmidt on a Hollywood street in 2005.
"She asked if I was homeless," he said. "... I said yes. She said, 'I work with homeless people and I can get you some benefits. I can get you a place to stay and some money in 30 days.'"
Covington said Rutterschmidt promised him $2,000, took him inside an office building and said he could sleep there. He said she then made frequent visits to give him paperwork to fill out and sign. He said he gave her information including his Social Security number, driver's license number and medical history.
"She seemed real concerned and kind of anxious and sincere at first," he said. But when he balked at giving her more data including his mother's maiden name, he said, she became abusive.
Sometimes, he said, she came to the room where he was sleeping and entered with her own key at 3 a.m. Once, he said, he saw her walking with another woman outside the building but he was unable to identify the co-defendant, Golay, as that woman.
"Did she ever give you any help?" asked Deputy District Attorney Truc Do.
"Just sleeping in that room. She gave me $15 and took me to Burger King and bought me a hamburger," he said.
Asked why he decided to leave, he said, "She was asking for too much personal information and yelling at me. She was being verbally abusive. I was getting uncomfortable with it."
Asked if he ever gave her permission to apply for an insurance policy, he said, "No."
"And are you aware of an application with Triple A for a policy for $800,000 naming you as the insured?" Do asked.
"No," said Covington. "I was never aware of that."
On cross-examination, Rutterschmidt's lawyer asked if Rutterschmidt said she had a partner.
Covington said she did.
"And she said her partner was the boss?" asked Michael Sklar, a public defender.
"Yes," said the witness.
Rutterschmidt and Golay are accused in the deaths of Paul Vados, 73, in 1999 and Kenneth McDavid, 51, in 2005. Both women have pleaded not guilty. The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty.
Outside court, Covington told reporters he now believes he could have been the third victim in the case if he had not walked away.
"I feel blessed by Jesus and God who looked out for me," he said.
"And I pray for them too," he said of the defendants, "that they'll have their souls saved."
Covington, whose clean-cut appearance belied his predicament, said he used disability benefits to buy a membership at a Hollywood health club where he worked out, showered and maintained his appearance. It was outside that club, he said, that Rutterschmidt approached him.