"Sometimes good people are capable of bad things," Brenda Johnson says in The Closer episode "Speed Bump." The TV homicide detective is tracking down a hit-and-run death that leads straight to a high-profile Hollywood director. It's a tricky case that's actually based on true crime, and somehow the real story of murders that took place in actual Hollywood led to suspects who were deceptively even more horrifying than the "good people" Brenda must work to convict on the show.
Known as the Black Widow Murders, the staged hit-and-run deaths of two homeless men in 2008 were discovered to be the desired end of a million-dollar life insurance scheme dreamed up by two septuagenarians in California. The first perpetrator, Helen Golay, was a landlord who already owned a million dollar home, and the second, Olga Rutterschmidt, was a divorcee who owned a coffee shop. Together, they decided to secure a fortune to spend the rest of their days in luxury.
According to a third target who escaped before he became a victim, the women worked like this. They'd approach a homeless man on the street and feed him, perhaps taking him out for nearby fast food. Next, they'd groom the homeless man, helping him secure shelter, before asking him to sign forms that supposedly were meant to help set him up for a better life.
Instead, these forms were for life insurance policies that named the two women as beneficiaries in the event of the homeless man's death, which these so-called black widows would then be sure to execute according to their calculating scheme. One of their victims had as many as eight policies taken out in his name. The Deputy District Attorney who ultimately sent the pair to jail described it as a modern Arsenic and Old Lace.
On The Closer, the episode takes its own turns away from its true crime inspiration, focused on a newly released murderer who ends up the victim of the staged hit and run, and it's the people attached to the prior murder case who end up as Brenda's biggest suspects – at least at first. All that is a distraction, of course, as history repeats onscreen and another victim with a suspicious life insurance policy offers Brenda the clue she needs to make the right arrest. (They do call her the closer for a reason.)
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