death penalty news—-TEXAS

Feb. 15


Strong, Experienced Teams Face Off in Olsen Trial

While their definitions of "success" are different, the 2 legal teams in
the Christian Olsen capital murder case can both claim to have achieved it
in previous trials where the death penalty has been sought.

Olsen, 21, is accused of killing his Bryan neighbor, 68-year-old Etta Jean
Westbrook, in June 2007. His trial begins Monday. Authorities say Olsen
admitted to the murder following his arrest. The state is seeking the
death penalty if he is convicted.

He is also accused of killing 63-year-old Geraldine Lloyd, one of the
women he was living with. He allegedly killed Lloyd nearly 6 months before
Westbrook, burying her in the backyard.

The Westbrook and Lloyd cases are being tried separately.

A jury of 10 women and 4 men will decide whether Olsen is guilty, and if
so, whether death or life without parole is the appropriate punishment.

Under District Attorney Bill Turner, officials in the DA's office say the
state has sought death 14 times in Brazos County prior to this coming
trial. In 12 of those cases, juries decided on death, while the other 2
convicted received life without parole.

Assistant District Attorney Shane Phelps will be the state's lead attorney
in the Olsen trial. His office says he has prosecuted 3 death penalty
cases, with 2 ending up with death sentences and 1 with a life sentence.
Phelps also served as a chief prosecutor in the Attorney General's office,
where he supervised a number of other capital murder trials.

Olsen will be represented by local attorney Billy Carter, who says he has
provided defense in ten previous cases where death was sought. Only 3 of
those ten accused received the death penalty, he says.

For Judge Steve Smith, this will be just the second case in his 361st
District Court where death is sought. That previous defendant, Ynobe
Matthews, was sentenced to death and executed for the 2000 murder of a
College Station woman.

There are currently two inmates on death row who were convicted of crimes
committed in Brazos County, according to the Texas Department of Public
Safety's website.

Carl Blue was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Blue went to
the woman's College Station apartment in August 1994, throwing gasoline on
her and lighting her on fire. She died less than a month later. A 2nd
woman in the apartment was also set on fire, but survived. Blue later
claimed it was a prank gone wrong.

Marcus Druery awaits execution for a Halloween 2002 murder. The
29-year-old was convicted of shooting a man that had been driven to
Druery's property, then taking cash and drugs from the victim and setting
his body on fire.

Also on death row currently is Lawrence Brewer, who was convicted of
dragging a handicapped black man to death in Jasper County in 1998. He was
tried and convicted in Brazos County after a change of venue.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in Texas in 1976, 13 people have
been sentenced to death after being convicted in Brazos County. That is
18th most among the state's 254 counties, according to TDCJ.


Olsen Capital Murder Trial Starts Monday

A 21-year-old Bryan man accused of 2 murders goes on trial for one
starting Monday, his life potentially on the line.

Christian Olsen is accused of murdering 68-year-old Etta Jean Westbrook of
Bryan in early June 2007, and then stealing the woman's credit card and
using it at stores around town. Olsen lived across the street at the time.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Olsen with Westbrook's case,
which begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the 361st District Court.

Just weeks after Westbrook's body was discovered at her 3504 Oak Hollow
Drive home, authorities acting on a tip unearthed the body of 63-year-old
Geraldine Lloyd in the backyard of 3505 Oak Hollow, where Olsen had been
living along with Lloyd's daughter, Kelly Sifuentez. Olsen and Sifuentez
were dating, according to police.

Olsen would be arrested again for murder shortly after Lloyd's body was
discovered and identified. Months later, Sifuentez would also be arrested
on a murder charge.

While the two murders are separate and will be tried as such, the state
has indicated it will present details on the Lloyd murder in the
punishment phase if Olsen is found guilty.

News 3's Steve Fullhart will provide live coverage throughout the Olsen
trial courtesy of his blog here at Get up-to-the-minute updates
from gavel to gavel. Plus, you can interact with Steve throughout the
trial by submitting your questions and comments to the blog.

"Real shocking," is how Mike Wilkinson, who knew Westbrook through church,
described the woman's murder. "It's just something you don't expect at all
but for someone that kind, that gracious, and that sweet. You would never
expect that."

Authorities found the gruesome scene on June 4, 2007 just after midnight.
Officers were responding to the home's alarm going off when they found
Westbrook's body face down in her living room, with blood throughout that
room, her kitchen and a bathroom.

"The initial assessment was that they either had a suicide or an
accidental death," said Bryan Assistant Police Chief Peter Scheets shortly
after the murder, "and that was based on the condition of the scene, and
the condition of the victim at the time."

But as police combed the crime scene, court documents state they found
Westbrook's credit cards missing. Her card company actually called while
police were at the scene to say possible fraudulent activity was taking
place on her card.

"Detectives contacted the credit card company and started tracking the
purchases, and the suspect, the defendant, Mr. Olsen, started using the
credit card, and that's why we were able to track him down," said Bryan PD
Lieutenant David Patterson.

With the card company tracking purchases, police used surveillance video
from those stores to identify Olsen, who was arrested early on the evening
of June 6 for credit card abuse, forgery and theft.

Olsen had been in the Brazos County Jail more than half a dozen times in
the previous 12 months, theft and forgery among the allegations.

Police first questioned Olsen about credit card purchases. He initially
said he had found the card in the street, police said.

Next came questions about the death of Westbrook. Court documents state
Olsen admitted to killing his neighbor on the afternoon of June 3. He told
police he had borrowed a baking pan from Westbrook and went across the
street to return it.

Court documents state Olsen told police he was invited in by Westbrook. As
he entered her home, he admitted to grabbing a six- or seven-inch piece of
metal and beating the woman, cutting his index finger in the process. He
then told investigators he went to a bathroom to clean himself up, and
then grabbed Westbrook's purse. Olsen said he took his neighbor's wallet
and hid the purse.

When asked why he did what he had admitted to, Olsen reportedly said he
did not know.

On June 16, ten days after Olsen's initial murder arrest, police say they
received an e-mail from a concerned citizen concerning an older woman who
lived in the same home as Olsen, 3505 Oak Hollow. The e-mail said that
woman hadn't been seen for a couple months, and asked police to check into

On June 22, court documents state Bryan Police detectives went to the
home, where they spoke in the front yard with Kelly Sifuentez. Authorities
asked her about her mother, Geraldine Lloyd. The daughter told police
Lloyd was in Houston at a friend's house, but that she did not have any
contact information for her mother.

Sifuentez's answers were described by police as "evasive." She said her
mother was still paying bills and still owned the home, and that all her
clothes and personal items were still inside.

After returning to their department that morning, police learned
Sifuentez's estranged husband, Felix, had contacted Bryan Police and told
them, "Christian Olsen killed my mother-in-law and buried her in the
backyard of the residence back in January."

After getting back in touch with Felix Sifuentez and hearing the same
thing again from him, police obtained a search warrant and found a body
buried. It would later be identified as Lloyd's.

"Through the course of our investigation, we believe that she's probably
been there since the latter part of January of this year," said Curtis
Darby, now an assistant chief at BPD.

Under questioning, court document state Kelly Sifuentez admitted Olsen had
killed Lloyd one evening in January 2007, and then had buried her the next
night, all because he wanted to cover up the fact that he had been
stealing money from Lloyd through checks and credit cards.

Sifuentez's daughter, Melissa, also told police her mother had informed
her Olsen had killed Lloyd.

From his jail cell, Christian Olsen was arrested for murder again. Unlike
with the Westbrook murder, he refused to answer questions pertaining to
Lloyd's death.

(source for both: KBTX News)