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August 3, 2018

Jury returns guilty verdict in CVS murder case

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The jury found Bernard C. Duse Jr. guilty of murdering Warrenton CVS manger Rex Olsen on July 26 of last year.
Rex Olsen died after Bernard Duse shot him twice in the head behind the CVS store on Blackwell Road in Warrenton last summer.
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: Convicted of both charges Friday, 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 shot his boss in the back of the head. Mr. Olsen collapsed to the ground, face up. At close range, the killer 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: 7 men and 5 women.

• Verdict: Guilty, announced at 1 p.m. Friday. Jury will return at 2 p.m. to begin considering Mr. Duse’s sentence.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
UPDATE: Jury later Friday recommend life sentence for murder and three years in prison on weapon charge.

Deliberating for two hours Friday, the jury returned a guilty verdict in the CVS murder trial.

After five days of testimony and closing arguments, the panel of seven men and five women returned its decision at 1 p.m. in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. a turned the case over to the jury at 10:40 a.m.

After the verdict, Judge Whisenant called a recess until 2 p.m., when the jury will return for the sentencing phase of the case.

The panel found that Bernard C. Duse Jr., 77, of Alexandria, shot and killed store manager Rex Mack Olsen, 64, of Culpeper, at 10:15 p.m. on July 26, 2017, in the Blackwell Road pharmacy’s parking lot.

Mr. Duse, who filed an employment complaint with CVS, shot Mr. Olsen in the back of the head and the face.

He faces a potential sentence of life in prison.

Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher and Fairfax defense lawyer John F. Carroll, who represents Mr. Duse, made closing arguments Friday morning.

“It was a planned assassination,” Mr. Fisher said of Mr. Olsen’s execution-style murder.

An eyewitness saw “a man standing over another man, executing,” the prosecutor said.

Referring to a trove of evidence, Mr. Fisher told the jury: “We’re building a mosaic of guilt that ultimately leads to” Mr. Duse.

The prosecutor systematically attempted to debunk Mr. Duse’s two alibies.

Mr. Duse suggested that two African-American men he befriended in an Alexandria library might have committed the murder. The defendant Thursday testified that he met them in 2016 while he conducted research for his age-discrimination complaint against CVS.

The more the two men learned about his beef with CVS, the angrier they got, Mr. Duse said.

An African-American, the defendant loaned them his vehicle the week before and the night of Mr. Olsen’s murder, he said.

Mr. Duse said he never asked the men, whom he called Luther Williams and “Scatter,” planned to do with the vehicle.

Mr. Fisher dismissed the men as “make-believe . . . . library vigilantes” and Mr. Duse’s idea that they might have murdered the store manager as “fanciful” and “implausible.”

He also reminded the jury that the defendant’s wife Nancy Duse offered testimony that conflicted with statements to Fauquier deputies a year ago regarding her husband’s whereabouts the night of Mr. Olsen’s murder.

Mrs. Duse told the deputies she couldn’t recall where her husband had been that night.

But on Thursday she testified Mr. Duse was home and in bed when the murder took place.

Mr. Carroll told the jury the prosecution has failed to prove his client’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

“It’s just not there,” he said.

Mr. Carroll believes the prosecution had “rushed to judgment” in implicating his client early during the investigation.

After obtaining cell phone data that appeared to link Mr. Duse to the crime scene, the prosecution concluded, “They had their man,” the defense lawyer told the jury.

For more than 30 minutes, Mr. Carroll called into question the prosecution’s citizen, police and expert testimony that dealt with DNA, cell phone data and ballistics evidence.

Eyewitness Joshua Lloyd several times described the suspect as white to investigators on July 27 and July 29, 2017.

But under Mr. Fisher’s questioning earlier this week, Mr. Lloyd acknowledged he couldn’t be certain about the suspect’s race.

Nonetheless, Mr. Carroll on Friday showed the jury a photograph of Mr. Duse.

“Does that look like a white guy to you?” he asked.

Mr. Carroll suggested his client had “no problem” with M. Olsen and thus no reason to murder him.
“Bernard Duse is a man who served his country,” he told the jury. “He’s educated. If he ever had anything in his past, you would have heard about it.”
Mr. Carroll added: “He didn’t have to present evidence” in the case. “He told you what happened.”
Taken as a whole, the evidence proves Mr. Duse guilty beyond reasonable doubt, Mr. Fisher told the jury.

Previous coverage

> Taking stand, defendant suggest others did it

> 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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