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Police: Murder suspect spent mom's money

Garden City police said they received a 911

Garden City police said they received a 911 call Thursday night about a strangling of a woman at this house on College Place in Garden City. James Olsen, who was at the house when police arrived, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death, police said. (April 22, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim Staubitser

A Garden City man who feared his elderly mother would find out he was spending her money strangled her in his childhood home with a necktie, then slashed his wrists, authorities said Friday.

James Olsen, 56, of College Place, was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow after he dialed 911 about 8 p.m. Thursday to ask for help, said Det. Lt. John Azzata, commanding officer of the Nassau police homicide squad.

Garden City police found him in his home with bloodied wrists and his mother, Ruth Olsen, unresponsive, Azzata said. He said Nassau police believe the attack occurred early Thursday.

"After strangling his 88-year-old mother, Mr. Olsen attempted to commit suicide," Azzata said.

Olsen, the son of the late Leonard Olsen, a pioneer in the national movement for the rights of the disabled, was arraigned in his hospital room on a second-degree murder charge.

Azzata said Nassau police believe the killing was over "financial considerations that were going on in the home. The financial considerations have to do with Mr. Olsen utilizing Mom's money in his own way."

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Lewis said Olsen used a necktie to strangle his mother and that he admitted the killing to Nassau police.

Olsen was represented at the arraignment by a Legal Aid attorney and did not enter a plea.

At the arraignment, Olsen wore a breathing tube and appeared disheveled and unshaven. He sat upright in a bed in the hospital's intensive care unit and responded haltingly, saying he was unemployed when asked by Judge Andrew Engel of Nassau District Court.

Olsen said he had not worked in five years.

Engel ordered Olsen held without bail. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. He had previously been convicted of drunken driving, court records show.

Lewis and Olsen's attorney, Anthony DiClaudio, declined to comment after the arraignment.

Azzata said Garden City police became involved Thursday at 8:04 p.m. when Olsen dialed 911 and told an operator that he needed assistance.

Officers Thomas Bandel and Errol Wedra responded and administered first aid to James Olsen, while other officers searched the home and found Ruth Olsen's body, Azzata said.

Azzata said Olsen's mother was oblivious to his spending habits and that he had not been asked to leave the house they shared.

"We do not believe Mom was aware of this dollar loss," Azzata said. "We believe he was conflicted over the amount of money he was spending and didn't want Mom to know."

James Olsen has a brother, Steven, in Valley Stream, and a sister, Sally, whose address was not available.

Relatives could not be reached for comment.

Neighbors were shocked to hear of the slaying, saying James Olsen was a dedicated caretaker to his ailing mother.

"He's a very nice person," said Sarah Ewing, 82, a 64-year resident of the block who said she baby-sat James Olsen and his brother and sister.

Ruth Olsen "was a wonderful lady," Ewing said.

With Carl MacGowan

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