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August 1, 2018

Victim’s widow and cops testify about CVS murder

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Julia Olsen enters the courthouse Monday morning for the trial of Bernard C. Duse Jr., charged with shooting and killing her husband behind the Warrenton CVS pharmacy July 26, 2017.
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Jones, one of six law enforcement officers to take the stand Tuesday, testified that he oversaw the Aug. 2 search of the defendant’s home near Alexandria.
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
Holding a white handkerchief to her face, the Culpeper woman fought back tears as she testified about how she learned of husband’s late-night murder in the Warrenton CVS parking lot last July.

“I’m sorry,” Julia Olsen told a jury Tuesday in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

Mrs. Olsen and 11 others, including law enforcement officers and other experts, testified about the July 26, 2017, murder of Rex Mack Olsen, 64, of Culpeper behind the Blackwell Road store.

Bernard C. Duse Jr. of Alexandria that night allegedly shot and killed his boss. At the time, Mr. Duse served as the store’s operations manager.

The 77-year-old Mr. Duse faces charges of murder and use of a firearm in committing a felony. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison for murder and up to three years on the weapon charge.

His five-day trial began Monday in circuit court.

Tuesday’s testimony — often complex, technical and sometimes unsettling — dealt with DNA testing and analysis, Mr. Olsen’s autopsy, ballistics, cell phone data interpretation and the search of the defendant’s Northern Virginia home.

After a full day of testimony, Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. declared a recess until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

So far, Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher has called 17 witnesses to testify. Mr. Fisher expects three more to testify for the prosecution Wednesday.

Fairfax defense lawyer John F. Carroll, who represents Mr. Duse, will begin calling witnesses Wednesday afternoon.

Summary of Tuesday’s witness testimony

Day 2
Tuesday, July 31

• A. Scott Arnold
Sergeant, Warrenton Police Department

Sgt. Arnold was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the murder scene. He got there at 10:38 p.m.

“There was a body laying on its back,” Sgt. Arnold testified. He checked Mr. Olsen’s body for a pulse but didn’t find one.

The sergeant videotaped and took still photographs of the victim and the immediate crime scene. The prosecution showed the video and displayed the photographs on a large monitor in the courtroom for the jury to view.

• Julia Olsen
Victim’s widow

Mrs. Olsen had been asleep the night of her husband’s murder when she received a phone call from a CVS employee asking if he had gotten home from work.

Mrs. Olsen checked the couple’s home but couldn’t find her husband.

Concerned, she several times left messages on and texted his cell phone. Mr. Olsen kept his phone with him at all times, she said.

Unable to reach him, she drove to a nearby area that lacked cell service. Mrs. Olsen worried that her husband may have been in an accident — perhaps struck a deer — but couldn’t be reached because of a cell phone service dead spot.

She didn’t find her husband along that stretch of roadway.

Mrs. Olsen returned home and made several phone calls, including one to Fauquier Hospital.

A hospital employee told her that she would be contacted about her husband, she recalled.

Later, Culpeper law enforcement officers visited Mrs. Olsen to inform her of her husband’s death. They remained with her until a family member arrived.

Overseeing the investigation, Warrenton Police Department Sgt. Tim Carter interviewed Mrs. Olsen.

They talked about her husband’s “work habits in general.” Mrs. Olsen also told Sgt. Carter that her husband had had “trouble” with Mr. Duse, related to the defendant’s employee discrimination complaint against CVS.

• Jocelyn Posthumus
Chief medical examiner

Dr. Posthumus conducted the autopsy of Mr. Olsen’s body. The killer shot Mr. Olsen in the face and the back of the head. Dr. Posthumus testified that evidence indicates the killer shot Mr. Olsen at close range — from several inches to up to 4 feet away.

• Cara McCarthy
Supervisor, Virginia Department of Forensic Science

Ms. McCarthy analyzed a bullet that struck Mr. Olsen. Her analysis indicated a “.38 special” or .357 magnum revolver could have been used to fire the shots, Ms. McCarthy testified. Investigators recovered no murder weapon.

• Brinana Tassinari
Trooper, Connecticut State Police

Connecticut requires individuals who acquire weapons to complete a record-of-sale documents, Trooper Tassinari explained. Those records show that Mr. Duse obtained a Colt .380 and a Smith & Wesson .38 handgun in Connecticut in 1984 and 1977, respectively.

• Jason Romero
Sergeant, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office

Mr. Olsen’s cell phone apparently got stolen at the murder scene. Sgt. Romero used cell phone records, which showed that Mr. Olsen’s phone last accessed a cell tower about 2 miles from the defendant’s home near Alexandria.

• Justin Schmidt
Sergeant, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office

Sgt. Schmidt participated in Aug. 2 arrest of Mr. Duse at his home near Alexandria. Using a swab, he took two DNA samples from the defendant’s mouth, the detective explained. That process provides “true” or “known” DNA for comparison to other DNA related to the crime, according to Sgt. Schmidt.

• Jessica Harris
Forensic scientist, Virginia Department of Forensic Science

Ms. Harris conducted DNA tests of several items, including the belt and the pockets of the pants Mr. Olsen wore the night of his murder. For various complex and scientific reasons, Ms. Harris eliminated Mr. Duse as a “major” contributor to the DNA “mixture” profiles associated those items, or “was unable to draw any conclusions” about the defendant’s contribution to them.

Ms. Harris sent the DNA samples to the department’s central lab in Richmond for sophisticated testing that uses a “statistical software” program developed by Dr. Mark W. Perlin.

• Mark W. Perlin
CEO, Cybergenetics Inc., Pittsburgh

Using the company’s software program — TrueAllele — Dr. Perlin and two colleagues prepared an analysis for the prosecution that indicates an overwhelming likelihood that Mr. Olsen’s shirt pocket contained Mr. Duse’s DNA.

For years, Virginia has used his company’s system for separating and analyzing “complex” DNA mixtures, Dr. Perlin said.

“It’s generally accepted that computers can get more information than the human eye,” he told the jury.

During more than an hour of testimony, Dr. Perlin also talked about DNA properties, kinds of DNA, surfaces that may be more or less conducive to DNA transfers and ways that DNA can get transferred by people to other people, objects and surfaces.

• Dawn Rosenberry
Detective, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office

Det. Rosenberry on Aug. 2 helped search Mr. Duse’s home near Alexandria. Assigned to the defendant’s home office, the detective removed documents related to Mr. Duse’s discrimination complaint against CVS.

• Mark Jones
Lieutenant, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office

Lt. Jones oversaw the Aug. 2 search of Mr. Duse’s home. Officers removed boxes of documents. They removed from Mr. Duse’s home office safe a Colt .380 pistol, ammunition, a holster and documents, the lieutenant said.

• Douglas Degaetano
Forensic scientist, Virginia Department of Forensic Science

A residue analysis expert, Mr. Degaetano evaluated microscopic particles removed from the steering wheel, gear shift and driver-side arm rest/handle of Mr. Duse’s vehicle.

He described the particles as ones “we would expect to see from the discharge of a weapon.”

Previous coverage

> Prosecution begins its case

> Jury selected Monday morning

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