COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A prosecutor said a man charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of his mother put her in a headlock, dragged her into a pool and drowned her.
Denis Cullen, 23, was arraigned on a murder charge Thursday for allegedly killing his mother, 63-year-old Elizabeth Cullen. Bail was set at $5 million cash or $8 million bond.
Elizabeth Cullen’s body was found outside her home on White Hill Road in Cold Spring Harbor on Wednesday, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“Any murder that we deal with has certain aspects of it. This is a son who killed his mother and the way he killed her, the way he describes how it was done, was chilling,” Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said.
Biancavilla said they have a video confession in which Cullen admitted to fighting with his mother Wednesday morning after she scolded him for not taking his medication.
He said Cullen put her in a headlock, dragged her into the deep end of the pool and drowned her in a violent struggle.
“He said she struggled violently and he was very surprised that a woman of her stature could struggle as much as she did,” Biancavilla said. “He waited until she stopped moving and then carried the body out of the pool.”
He allegedly tried to hide his mother’s body next to a shed before stealing her wallet and car, Biancavilla said. He then went to the city where he confessed to his sister, prosecutors said.
Elizabeth Cullen’s body was found after Lloyd Harbor police were called to her home following a request to check on the welfare of the mother.
“Lloyd Harbor police received a call about a possible, intentional drowning,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said.
When officers arrived, they discovered her body in the back yard and contacted Suffolk County police to help investigate, authorities said.
“While we were processing the scene, the suspect returned to the home and we placed him under arrest,” Sini said.
Cullen was arrested without incident, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
Neighbors describe a childhood battling mental illness. Sources said Denis Cullen was once hospitalized after a suicide attempt. They are from a prominent military family. The victim was a daughter of famed Vietnam Maj. General 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.
Cullen lived at the home with his mother. Authorities said he has no criminal history.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” his defense attorney, Steve Fondulis, told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “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 the videotape.”
Cullen’s attorney says his client is not guilty.
If convicted, Cullen faces 25 years to life in state prison.