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July 31, 2018

Prosecution begins its case in CVS murder trial

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Bernard C. Duse Jr., 77, of Alexandria, arrives for his trial Monday morning at Fauquier County Circuit Court.
It’s going to be a great show.
— John F. Carroll, defense attorney
Duse Murder Trial
• What: July 26, 2017, murder in parking lot of CVS pharmacy at 510 Blackwell Road, Warrenton.

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

• Court: Fauquier County Circuit.

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

• Schedule: Five-day trial will begin 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; 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 prosecutor called last summer’s brutal murder of the Warrenton CVS pharmacy manager the “culmination” of a “bitter” 18-month employment dispute involving a disgruntled co-worker.

Bernard C. Duse Jr. of Alexandria last July allegedly shot and killed his boss, Rex Mack Olsen, 64, of Culpeper, near a trash dumpster behind the Blackwell Road store.

The 77-year-old Mr. Duse — who faces charges of murder and use of a firearm in committing a felony — at about 10:15 p.m. on July 26, 2017, allegedly shot Mr. Olsen in the back of the head and then the face.

At the time, Mr. Duse worked as the store’s operations manager.

His five-day trial began Monday in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Mr. Duse, an African-American, blamed the victim and CVS’s area district manager for his failure to qualify for the company’s store manager training program.

In 2015, Mr. Duse filed a discrimination complaint against CVS.

That process eventually ran its course after an arbitrator rejected the defendant’s conspiracy theory related to his thwarted career, Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher told the jury during his opening statement Monday afternoon.

“This defendant took his own brand of retaliation” when he “assassinated” Mr. Olsen in the CVS parking lot, Mr. Fisher said.

The prosecution will use testimony from its 41 potential witnesses, documents — including email, cell phone data and DNA and gunpowder residue reports — and other exhibits to make its case against Mr. Duse, the prosecutor explained.

In his opening statement, Fairfax lawyer John F. Carroll, who represents Mr. Duse, dismissed the prosecution’s case a “fantastic narrative” designed to distract the jury from truth.

“It’s going to be a great show,” Mr. Carroll said.

The defense attorney spoke of a witness who within two hours of the murder identified the killer as a “white guy.”

Mr. Carroll suggested investigators didn’t immediately pursue that lead.

“This was a rush to judgement from the beginning,” he said.

But, Mr. Carroll also told the jury the witness “changed his mind about” the suspect’s race.

He also plans to question the reliability of DNA evidence to prove his client’s innocence.

Wearing a dark suit, white shirt striped tie and white sneakers, Mr. Duse took notes on a yellow legal pad during Monday’s hearing.

It took about three hours Monday morning to impanel the jury. Following the attorney’s opening statements Monday afternoon, five prosecution witnesses took the stand before Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. declared a recess until 9 a.m. Tuesday, when Mr. Fisher will continue making his case.

Summary of Monday’s witness testimony

Day 1
Monday, July 30

• Brian McClain
Sales manager, Country Chevrolet

After work, on the night of the murder, Mr. McClain arrived at the CVS drive-through at 10:11. He testified that he heard at least three loud “smacks,” which he likened to wooden pallets striking the ground.

Mr. McClain saw no police or activity in the store parking lot that caused him concern.

“There was no commotion,” he said. “It was just normal.”

He left the drive-through at 10:29 p.m., according to his receipt.

• Joseph E. Murphy
Supervisor, Communications Division, Fauquier sheriff’s office

Mr. Murphy at about 10:32 p.m. took a 9-1-1 call related to the murder from a CVS employee and about four minutes later sent medics to the scene. A co-worker dispatched law enforcement authorities, who arrived first at 10:38 p.m.

• Joshua D. Lloyd
Stafford County resident

Talking on his cell phone, Mr. Lloyd sat on a bench outside the Ruby Tuesday restaurant adjacent to CVS when he heard what sounded like “fireworks.” He looked to his right, heard “another shot” and “saw sparks.”

Mr. Lloyd testified that he saw a person move a body and then walk away.

He testified that he headed toward the CVS, where he told the shift manager that he saw someone “bleeding out back.”

In interviews with investigators, Mr. Lloyd described the killer as a “white guy,” perhaps in his “early 40s.”

But, under questioning Monday by Mr. Fisher, he admitted he is no longer certain about the killer’s race.

Mr. Carroll reminded Mr. Lloyd that he had at least four times described the killer as white.

The defense lawyer asked if anyone later tried to persuade him to change his description of the killer?

“No,” Mr. Lloyd replied.

Mr. Lloyd said he believes the killer may have a “tan” complexion and wore a “tan” hat and jacket.

• Heidy-Beth Savering Knighting
Shift supervisor, CVS store

After talking with Mr. Lloyd, Ms. Knighting placed the 9-1-1 call. The overnight store shift manager also gave investigators a photograph of Mr. Olsen that allowed them to identify the victim.

A creature of habit, Mr. Olsen typically parked his “little red car” in the same space and as needed took a bag a trash to the dumpster behind the store at the end of his shift, according to Ms. Knighting.

Video from a camera at the store’s entrance shortly before Mr. Olsen’s death shows him toting a bag of trash in the direction of the dumpster. But, at the time of the murder, the store had no camera monitoring that area.

The defendant did not work in the pharmacy the night of the killing, according to Ms. Knighting.

To her knowledge, Mr. Olsen has no enemies.

“Rex was a great manager,” testified Ms. Knighting, who knew Mr. Olsen for eight years.
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