James Olsen found guilty of murdering bedridden mom, Ruth Olsen

A jury has found James Olsen, of Garden A jury has found James Olsen, of Garden City, guilty of murder in the death of his 88-year-old bedridden mother. He is seen here leaving the Nassau County Court in Mineola after opening statements in his trial on Friday, May 9, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A jury Thursday found a Garden City man guilty of second-degree murder for strangling his 88-year-old bedridden mother with a necktie.

After failing to take his own life, James Olsen, 59, admitted to the killing in a 911 call that brought police to the family's home in April 2011.

During the trial, the defense argued Olsen was mentally ill and couldn't distinguish right from wrong when he choked the life from Ruth Olsen, an Alzheimer's disease patient.

But prosecutors told the Nassau County Court jury that Olsen had tired of being his mother's live-in caregiver.

Olsen showed no reaction as the verdict was announced after about five hours of deliberation. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison, with sentencing set for June 27.

The defendant's older brother, Steven Olsen, 60, of Valley Stream, called the murder conviction a continuation of a family tragedy. He said his brother "was not in his right mind" when he killed their mother.

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"My mom would be horrified," he said of the verdict. "My mom has already forgiven him. I believe that my mother forgave him as it was happening."

Steven Olsen testified during the trial that the last time he saw his mother was three days before her death. Her last words to him were: "Doesn't Jim do a great job taking care of me?"

Defense attorney Paul Delle said his client, who declined to comment as court officers led him away in handcuffs, plans to appeal.

"I think for a jury it was a difficult task, and I don't fault them for it. I think they were misled to a certain extent," the Garden City lawyer said, referring to prosecution claims that Olsen exaggerated his suicide attempt and was manipulative later when talking to a psychologist.

The psychologist testified that as his mother's caregiver, Olsen became so depressed he wanted to end his life but didn't want his mother to end up in a nursing home.

The witness told jurors he believed the defendant thought he was doing something good by killing her, because Olsen "was going to relieve his own misery, and he wasn't going to leave his mother behind."

Assistant District Attorney Christine Geier argued Olsen planned his mother's murder, choosing the necktie he used the night before. When she woke with the tie around her throat and told him he was choking her, he pulled it tighter, Geier said, citing Olsen's own admissions.

She said Olsen killed his mother because he was "fed up" with taking care of her. Geier also said he'd been anxious about finances because he'd been living off his mother's money, using some of the cash from a reverse mortgage to buy a $1,000 camera for himself.

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Several jurors, including the panel's forewoman, declined to comment Thursday as they left the Mineola courthouse.

The verdict holds Olsen accountable for his crime, District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.

"Caring for an elderly loved one can be very difficult, but James Olsen had no right to murder his mother," Rice said.

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