Friday, August 29
LANESBOROUGH — The state's highest court yesterday upheld the murder conviction of Patricia Olsen, making it all but certain that she will spend the rest of her life behind bars for orchestrating the murder of her husband.

Olsen, 47, was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2006 for persuading her son, Christopher Robinson, to kill her husband, Neil Olsen. The prosecution argued that Patricia Olsen was in deep financial trouble and wanted to collect her husband's life insurance and inherit his assets, including their home at 333 South Main St.

But the defense argued that the 21-year-old Robinson was a pathological liar who acted on his own, killing his stepfather because he believed the man was a tyrant who had spoiled his relationship with his mother.

The jury didn't believe the defense. On appeal, Patricia Olsen's attorneys argued that the judge inappropriately blocked the jurors from hearing testimony from more than 20 witnesses that Robinson was a liar. The Supreme Judicial Court yesterday ruled that the judge acted appropriately.

"There was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of murder in the first degree," Justice Roderick L. Ireland wrote in the published decision, adding, "It was for the jury to decide which witnesses were credible."

The state may have bolstered its case, Ireland wrote, by putting witnesses on the stand who were able to support Robinson's version of events and that of his sister, Amanda, who testified that her mother asked her to find someone to kill Neil Olsen.


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Olsen's attorneys also argued that the judge should not have allowed the jury to see gruesome pictures of Neil Olsen's body. The court again disagreed.

Robinson shot Neil Olsen seven times on Jan. 9, 2005, and then beat his body with a metal rod in an apparent effort to make it appear that Olsen had been trampled by his horse. Robinson testified that his mother bought the .22 caliber rifle for him, repeatedly asked him to kill her husband, and told him that Neil Olsen had hit Robinson's infant child.

Robinson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

After Patricia Olsen's conviction, Neil Olsen's mother, brothers and sisters filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her. Last month, a judge awarded the family $1 million; they will be able to collect his $77,000 life insurance policy, $290,000 in proceeds from the sale of his house, and $144,000 in retirement savings.