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Son testifies about final chat with mother before 2011 slaying

James Olsen, of Garden City, who is accused

James Olsen, of Garden City, who is accused in the death of his mother, 88, in 2011, leaves the Nassau County Court in Mineola after opening statements in his trial on Friday, May 9, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The older brother of a Garden City man facing a murder charge in the strangling of their 88-year-old bedridden mother testified yesterday about the last time he saw the victim.

"Last words my mother said were, 'Doesn't Jim do a great job taking care of me?' Then she said goodbye," Steven Olsen told jurors.

Ruth Olsen's final meeting with her older son came after the two shared dinner in her bedroom a few days before the slaying.

"We talked," said Steven Olsen, 60, of Valley Stream. "She was still quite lively."

Assistant District Attorney Christine Geier has said during the Mineola trial that James Olsen, 59, killed his mother with a necktie in April 2011 as the woman lay in bed. Olsen told police he'd taken out a reverse mortgage on his mother's home, and besides home improvements, spent some money on himself, according to the prosecution.

Police have alleged he killed his mother because he didn't want her to find out about how much of her money he was spending.

The defense has portrayed James Olsen as the loyal live-in caretaker of the Alzheimer's disease patient, saying he suffered from depression and had attempted suicide, including a failed attempt to take his life after killing his mother.

Attorney Paul Delle of Garden City, who is presenting an insanity defense, has told jurors his client didn't have the capacity to understand his conduct and didn't have murderous intent.

Steven Olsen testified that his mother, who had a pacemaker, lost her driver's license in her early 80s and started to withdraw from an active social life as her health worsened. He said she decided on a reverse mortgage because her savings were low and more cash was needed for expenses.

The witness said his mother never questioned what his brother spent money on, and his brother didn't complain about taking care of her.

Childhood friends testified yesterday that the defendant attempted suicide in 2007.

His former girlfriend, Roxanne Burke, testified he never treated his mother poorly while caring for her and running their household.

She said they dated in 2005, but broke up after he lost his license following a drunken-driving arrest. She said things got strained when he began relying on her to help get him to specific stores where his mother wanted him to buy household supplies.

Burke testified that she hadn't seen the defendant since 2009.

Olsen faces up to 25 years to life in prison if the jury convicts him of the second-degree murder charge. Testimony resumes tomorrow.

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