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August 3, 2018

CVS murder defendant suggests others did it

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Bernard C. Duse Jr. leaves the Fauquier County Circuit Courthouse on Thursday, when he spent almost two hours on the witness stand.
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher conducted a sometimes-intense cross-examination of the defendant Thursday afternoon.
Duse Murder Case
• What: July 26, 2017, murder in parking lot of CVS pharmacy at 510 Blackwell Road, Warrenton.

• Victim: CVS Manager Rex Mack Olsen, 64, of Culpeper County.

• Court: Fauquier County Circuit.

• Defendant: Bernard C. Duse Jr., 77, of Alexandria.

• Schedule: Five-day trial will began at 9:30 a.m. Monday, July 30.

• Penalty: If convicted of both charges, Mr. Duse could be sentenced to life in prison for murder and a maximum three years for the felony weapon charge.

• Fast facts: At about 10:15 p.m. last July 26, Mr. Olsen — the store manager — left the CVS to put trash in a dumpster at the back of the property. At close range, Mr. Duse allegedly shot his boss in the back of the head. Mr. Olsen collapsed to the ground, face up. At close range, the defendant then allegedly shot him in the face. Mr. Duse at the time worked as the store’s assistant manager.

• Prosecutors: Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey Cook and Senior Commonwealth’s Attorney Abigail Owens. 

• Defense lawyers: John F. Carroll and Colleen Sweeney of Fairfax County.

• Judge: Herman A. Whisenant Jr.

• Jury: 9 men and 5 women, including 2 alternates, selected Monday morning.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The defendant in the Warrenton CVS murder case dropped a bomb Thursday.

Bernard C. Duse Jr. testified in Fauquier County Circuit Court that perhaps two men he barely knew might be responsible for shooting and killing the pharmacy’s manager in the Blackwell Road pharmacy’s parking lot last summer.

Over a period of about 18 months beginning in January 2016, Mr. Duse told a jury that periodically he met the men in an Alexandria library, where he conducted research related to an age-discrimination complaint he lodged against CVS.

Mr. Duse, 77, of Alexandria, allegedly murdered Rex Mack Olsen, 64, of Culpeper, at about 10:15 on July 26, 2017.

Mr. Olsen died of gunshots to the back of his head and face.

Earlier this week during the five-day trial, Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher called it assassination.

Mr. Duse served as the store’s operations manager.

The defendant identified the men he met at the library as Luther Williams and “Scatter.” He had no last name for “Scatter,” whom he also called Clarence.

He described them as African-Americans — one in his late 20s, the other in his early 30s. One has skin lighter and the other darker than his own, Mr. Duse added.

Under Mr. Fisher’s sometimes-intense questioning, the defendant admitted he had no contact information for the two men, no knowledge of what they did for work and only a vague idea of where they lived.

Still, he loaned the duo his 2005 Saturn Vue on three occasions, including the night of Mr. Olsen’s death, according to the defendant.

Mr. Duse acknowledged he never thought to ask the men how they planned to use his small SUV. He “assumed” they might visit Washington.

Mr. Fisher seemed outraged by the scenario.

If the defendant had any reason to believe that his library acquaintances might have used the vehicle to drive to Warrenton to murder Mr. Olsen, why didn’t he notify police? the prosecutor asked.

Mr. Duse insisted he didn’t intend to implicate the two men.

In response, the perturbed prosecutor said: “You’re just floating it out there as a suggestion.”

Luther Williams and “Scatter,” whom he used as a “sounding board,” took a “strong interest” in his CVS complaint, Mr. Duse explained.

They wanted to know “how could (CVS) treat a man my age the way they treated me,” said Mr. Duse, who testified for almost two hours Thursday.

Extensive and detailed data indicate that Mr. Duse’s cell phone travelled the night of the murder from the Alexandria area, near his home, to the Warrenton area. The phone travelled the identical route Mr. Duse used to get to the store, according to the data.

The vehicle contained his iPhone the night he loaned it to the two men, Mr. Duse testified.

That seemed like an attempt to explain why the cell phone, but not he, got placed at the murder scene. Mr. Duse did not work the day of his store manager’s murder.

The defendant suggested the men knew the way to the Warrenton store because one of them and a female friend — on an unspecified date prior to the killing — visited him at the Blackwell Road CVS.

A video system records people who enter, leave and move around the store.

Mr. Olsen always carried his cell phone, according to his widow and others who knew him well.

But the shooter apparently stole his cell phone after murdering him.

The cell phone data show that both Mr. Duse’s and Mr. Olsen’s phones travelled together shortly after the murder to the Alexandria area, near the defendant’s home. The data also show that the phones followed the same route that Mr. Duse used to get to and from work.

The data indicate that the phones arrived in the Alexandria area at around midnight.

Mike Melson, a telecommunications data analysis expert who testified Wednesday, has little doubt the phones arrived in the same vehicle. If the devices moved separately, the two vehicles had to be “locked” at their bumpers, he said. 

Mr. Duse’s wife Nancy, a Filipino who speaks limited English and required a translator, testified Thursday that her husband had been at home and in bed when the murder occurred.

Mr. Fisher played for the jury two short audio clips drawn from an Aug. 2, 2017, interview of Mrs. Duse that appear to contradict her testimony.

During the 4-1/2-hour interview with two Fauquier deputies, Mrs. Duse twice seemed to state she that she couldn’t not recall her husband’s whereabouts the night of Mr. Olsen’s murder.

Based on that, Mr. Fisher repeatedly gave Mrs. Duse a chance to “correct” her testimony.

Declining to do so, Mrs. Duse said she believed the deputies wanted to know how her husband spent nights the week before the murder.

Hoping to establish motive, Mr. Fisher repeatedly asked Mr. Duse if he had developed a “hatred” of Mr. Olsen related to the age discrimination complaint.

Each time, Mr. Duse — a Vietnam War veteran with a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University — forcefully denied any disdain for Mr. Olsen.

“I never developed a hatred of Rex Olsen,” the defendant replied.

He filed the age discrimination complaint because CVS Regional Manager Robert L. Arnold suggested he was too old to get appointed manager of the company’s Manassas store, Mr. Duse said.

Mr. Olsen had nothing to do with that decision, the defendant insisted.

Based on a CVS evaluation system, Mr. Duse also failed to qualify for the company’s store manager-in-training program. That process included the preparation of a written assessment that proved critical of Mr. Duse.

Mr. Olsen helped create that document.

In an email Mr. Fisher introduced, the defendant called it a “hatchet job.”

But Mr. Duse testified he didn’t blame his boss.

“He was directed to do what he did, in my opinion,” principally by Mr. Arnold, the regional manager, the defendant testified.

In other emails quoted by the prosecutor, Mr. Duse spoke of CVS officials as “beneath contempt” and “extremely evil.”

But those remarks didn’t apply to Mr. Olsen, the defendant testified.

Fairfax defense lawyer John F. Carroll, who represents the defendant, also recalled Warrenton Police Lt. Timothy Carter to the stand. Lt. Carter had testified as a prosecution witness Wednesday.

Mr. Carroll showed the jury video of Lt. Carter’s interview of eyewitness Joshua Lloyd within hours of the murder. During that interview, Mr. Lloyd identified the suspect as white or light-skinned. Mr. Lloyd testified Monday that he couldn't be certain of the suspect's race. The defense attorney questioned Lt. Carter about inconsistencies between Mr. Lloyd's video statements and testimony.

Twenty-four people testified during the trial.

The defense rested its case at 2:45 p.m. Thursday. Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. recessed the five-day trial until Friday at 9 a.m.

Mr. Fisher and Mr. Carroll each will get 30 minutes to make closing arguments Friday. Mr. Fisher also will have 15 minutes to rebut the defense attorney’s argument.

The case then will go to the jury for a decision.

If convicted of murder, Mr. Duse could be sentenced to life in prison. He also faces a weapon charge, which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence.

Previous coverage

> Expert: Phone data links murder victim and defendant

> Victim’s widow and police officers testify

> Prosecution begins its case

> Jury selected Monday morning

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