Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cop Talk - Detective Dennis Kilcoyne Part 1

I'm just getting around to posting my notes from the great California Crime Writer's Conference that was held in Pasadena in June 2011.  I pulled together most of the speakers for the "Matters of Crime" track. Luck shone upon us as we had a terrific line-up. I'm going to post a series of excerpts from the notes I took during the sessions. Here's the first.

Me and Detective Dennis Kilcoyne
We were very honored to have Detective Dennis Kilcoyne of the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division speak to us.  RHD is the elite investigative team within the LAPD which handles the most challenging cases in the city--challenging either because of their complexity or their celebrity component. 

Detective Kilcoyne is one of the RHD's top investigators.  Notable cases he's worked include: the double murder involving O.J. Simpson, the Ennis Cosby murder, the Bank of America shootout in North Hollywood, the Doris Duke death investigation, several murders of police officers both on and off duty, the killer grannies who insured and then murdered homeless men, dubbed “the Black Widows,” the case involving serial murderer Lonnie Franklin, dubbed the “Grim Sleeper,” and more recently, the savage beating of the Giants fan at Dodger Stadium.

Detective Kilcoyne has served as the president of the California Homicide Investigators Association for the past six years.

We crime writers were rapt as Detective Kilcoyne described some of his most notable cases, dropping insider details.  He talked at length about the "black widows": Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt.   Golay and Rutterschmidt were longtime friends in their seventies, glamourous party "girls" who were sort of low-rent Gabor sisters.  They took out multiple life insurance policies on homeless men, naming themselves as the beneficiaries, put the men up in cheap apartments and took care of them until two years had passed.  After two years, under California law, it's difficult for insurance companies to contest life insurance policy benefits.  So when the victim's time was up (literally), "the girls" gave him a cocktail of  booze and ground up prescription drugs, laid him in an alley, and ran over him with a 1999 Mercury Sable.  They were convicted of murdering two men and are serving consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.  Kilcoyne says they still don't know who was driving the car used to run over the men.

Kilcoyne described Golay at "the brains of the operation" and "the most evil person I've come across in thirty-five years" in law enforcement.  "The girls" became volunteers at a large church in Hollywood that feeds the homeless.  While appearing altruistic, they were in fact "shopping" for victims. 

Kilcoyne says the girls were at first at a federal prison because they were arrested for mail fraud, a federal crime, which gave the LAPD time to put together the murder case.  Kilcoyne said the federal prison was like "a country club" where the girls enjoyed playing cards and the other prisoners treated them like celebrities.  This did not sit well with Kilcoyne.  Finally, he was able to move them to an L.A. jail and he picked what he thought was the worst one: the 77th Street Jail in South Central L.A. 

He told a funny story about transporting Golay to that jail.  He was driving his RHD sedan and Golay was in the back seat with a detective.  It was a hot day in the middle of rush hour and he took the surface streets through residential neighborhoods.  He was traveling around 20 miles per hour when a football got away from some kids and flew into the street.  He couldn't dodge it, so he ran over it.  It went "ka-thump... ka-thump" beneath the wheels and shot up behind the car.  After it made the noise, he turned to look at Golay and said, "Sound familiar, Helen?"

She replied, "That's not funny, Dennis."