A 21-year-old Bryan man accused of two 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. (Learn more about the legal teams and Brazos County death penalty case history by clicking here)
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 KBTX.com. 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 it.
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.