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August 4, 2018

After survivors’ testimony, jury gives life sentence

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Rex Olsen’s family waits for the trial to start Monday morning as defense attorney John F. Carroll enters the courthouse in Warrenton.
I think you can face anything, as long as you choose to face it . . . . I’m OK. Things will be OK, but things shouldn’t have to be that way.
— Julia Olsen
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
From the start, she knew her life would never be the same again.

“How am I going to exist for the next 30 or 40 years without my partner?” Julia Olsen told a Fauquier Circuit Court jury Friday afternoon, about an hour after the panel of seven men and five women found her husband’s killer guilty of first-degree murder.

In the sentencing phase, the jury deliberated just 30 minutes before giving the maximum penalty to Bernard C. Duse, Jr., 77, of Alexandria, in the horrific shooting death of Rex Mack Olsen, 64, of Culpeper, last summer in the parking lot the Warrenton CVS on Blackwell Road.

The panel also gave Mr. Duse a three-year sentence for use of a firearm in the commission of a murder.

Until his murder on July 26, 2017, Mr. Olsen served as the store’s manager. At that time, Mr. Duse worked as the Warrenton CVS operations manager.

At close range, Mr. Duse shot his boss in the back of the head and then in the face, according to the prosecution.

Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher likened the attack, which took place at 10:15 p.m. near the dumpster site in the store’s parking lot, to an execution and assassination.

During Friday’s sentencing phase, Mrs. Olsen testified for about eight minutes about her husband, their relationship and the loss she has suffered as a result of his death.

“Our relationship has been a long a one,” during which the couple learned a lot from each other, she explained. “We’ve lived a very happy, contented life . . . . We were very lucky.”

Mrs. Olsen described her husband as an avid gardener. When not working his garden, he spent winter months planning one for the next growing season, she added.

Mr. Olsen also built and installed blue bird boxes on their property, according to his widow. He made careful note of their use — recording the number of eggs per box, “hatchlings” born and boxes occupied, Mrs. Olsen said.

“He was very, very fond of nature.”

In ways large, small and sometimes “ridiculous,” his death changed her life forever, Mrs. Olsen told the jury.

The couple talked of traveling more after Mr. Olsen’s retirement from CVS — to new and familiar places, she tearfully recalled.

“Now I have to go back myself” to places they loved, “if I choose to.”

His death also forced her to acquire never-before contemplated skills.

“I’ve never had to use power tools,” admitted Mrs. Olsen, smiling.

Still, she plans to sell their home, mostly because of its maintenance demands.

Life without her husband “will always be an adjustment,” Mrs. Olsen told the jury.

And though at loose ends over his murder, “I’m pretty tough,” she said. “I think you can face anything, as long as you choose to face it . . . . I’m OK. Things will be OK, but things shouldn’t have to be that way.”

The couple’s two sons — Hans and Colin Olsen — also testified during Friday’s sentencing phase.

“He was a good dad,” who loved his wife and holidays and vacations with family, Hans said. “He was a good guy.”

“My father was a kind loving man, probably the best person I know,” Colin said. “This has been an extremely rough year. I don’t have a dad anymore.”

One member of Mr. Duse’s family spoke during the sentencing hearing.

Fonda Duse regarded her uncle as a “surrogate father” and “patriarch of a large family.”

“Whenever we have an issue, he’s our go-to person,” said Ms. Duse, who described him as a compassionate, attentive and “very spiritual person.”
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