It began with a heated argument between mother and son.
The pair was standing near the shallow end of a pool in the back yard of one of Long Island’s most exclusive neighborhoods on Wednesday morning.
Authorities said Denis D. Cullen Jr. was refusing to take his medication and his mother, Elizabeth Cullen, was scolding the 23-year-old, according to Newsday.
At some point, Cullen would later tell police, he decided he had had enough.
“The argument escalated to the point where she had poked him,” Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla told reporters, according to Newsday. “After she poked him, he put her in a headlock, walked her from the shallow end of the pool with her in the headlock to the deep end of the pool, all the while she was struggling.
“He said she struggled violently and he was surprised a woman of her stature could struggle as much as she did,” Biancavilla said.
Cullen told police that he removed his mother’s body from the pool and placed it next to a shed, where he covered the corpse with a dinghy, according to Newsday. After taking a shower, he told police that he took money from his mother’s wallet and drove from his family’s $1.8 million home in Lloyd Harbor to a Long Island Rail Road station, where he caught a train into the city, the paper reported.
Cullen told police that he met up with one of his sisters and confessed to the crime, which led family members to call police, the paper reported.
“Lloyd Harbor police received a call about a possible, intentional drowning,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini told CBS New York. “While we were processing the scene, the suspect returned to the home and we placed him under arrest.”
That arrest occurred Wednesday night at the family’s home, located in “an exclusive enclave of multi-million-dollar properties,” according to Yahoo News.
Cullen has a history of drug addiction and mental problems, Yahoo reported, but he doesn’t have a criminal record. He lived with his mother and had been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, CBS reported, noting that the victim is “a daughter of famed Vietnam Maj. Gen. George Casey and the sister of the U.S. Army commander of the same name.”
“Neighbors on the private road said she devoted her life to her children and are stunned by its tragic ending,” CBS added.
During a court appearance Thursday, Cullen pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. A judge set Cullen’s bail at $5 million cash or $8 million bond in 1st District Court in Central Islip, according to Newsday.
Police told the paper that Cullen’s confession included “chilling detail” and was made after he turned himself over to authorities.
“This is a son who killed his mother, and the way he killed her, the way he describes, how it was done, is chilling,” Biancavilla said, according to Newsday.
After speaking to his client for several minutes last week, Steve Fondulis, Cullen’s attorney, described his client’s demeanor as “calm.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Fondulis told Newsday. “I have to determine if he has a psychiatric background. I have to determine if he’s under a doctor’s care. And I have to look at a videotape.”
“He hasn’t been convicted of anything, so he’s not sorry at this point; he hasn’t said ‘I’m sorry,’ ” the lawyer added after being asked whether Cullen had shown remorse.