Terry Oleson: The Fifth Victim


The day the bodies were found, Terry Oleson was 60 miles from the Golden Key Motel, a sleazy place where he was forced to flop a few nights each week. Even now, though, he can't escape the cloud of suspicion.

By Brian Hickey
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Oct. 27, 2009

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Photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge

Everywhere Terry Oleson goes, he thinks people are staring at him. Whispering, “Oh my God, that’s the serial killer.” Yet he goes on about his day, pretending he doesn’t feel it, trying to mask the effects.

If it’s even possible to put into words what happens when you’re painted as the shady drifter who choked four Atlantic City hookers to death and lined their heads up in a particular order, Oleson is willing to do it.

“I have nothing to hide,” says the never-charged, No. 1 person of interest in the case. “But as far as I can tell, this story doesn’t end well. My life’s done.”

Those are chilling words when you consider the context. But Oleson, who hasn’t talked publicly about the case since a photo-op press conference last March, doesn’t hide from a single question.

I’ve interviewed Oleson no fewer than 10 times since last October. Any fear that I had about being in a motel room with somebody suspected of killing people in motel rooms quickly dissipated.

In the run-down New Jersey Turnpike motel room he shared with his fiancée Carol-Ann Seaholtz and their pooch Bandit for a post-release year while trying to sustain themselves on welfare dollars, Oleson seemed world-weary and cordial, but was prone to controlled vocal outbursts when asked sensitive questions. 


Seaholtz, the high-school sweetheart who reignited their flame by sending Oleson poems in jail while police investigators tried to make their case, sees the strains on him. He gives off the aura of a struggling-to-get-by everyman who got swept up in a tempest. Yet through it all, even the decimation caused by not being able to get, or physically do, work hasn’t broken him. He’s just accepted a broken reality.

“I really don’t know what to do. We just sit here and watch TV. I’ve basically lost ties with everybody I was ever close to. It’s ruined my life. Like a knife cutting me from the inside out, that’s how I feel 24/7,” he says. “It’s all so frustrating. I don’t see a way out right now.”

The day the bodies were found, Nov. 20, 2006, Oleson was 60 miles from the Golden Key Motel, a sleazy place where he was forced to flop a few nights each week. If he had earned enough to cover the commuting costs, the mechanically gifted handyman would’ve slept under his own roof. But he didn’t, so he couldn’t.

Oleson, powerfully stacked with a hammer of a laugh despite deteriorating vertebrae that he says have already made him two-inches shorter, did what he had to get by.

But the day the motel became a crime scene, Oleson’s life started on a path from bad to seemingly unsalvageable.

By April 1, four months and a dozen days after the bodies were discovered, the law was closing in on the man they suspected of being a serial killer. So compelling was the case of four strangled Atlantic City prostitutes eroding in a marsh behind the motel—their heads all facing the neon lights, a message amid madness—that efforts were already underway to find catchy nicknames. Atlantic City Ripper. Black Horse Strangler.

But none of that was on Oleson’s mind. That night he was focused on evicting his longtime girlfriend from the Salem County house he’d built up since buying it from his family when he was 17 years old.

They were a toxic mix. Oleson says marble tiles were swung and strangers were almost run over during fights at Home Depots. Restraining orders were issued. When he asked her to take her daughter and leave, she cried harassment to the cops. He already had a judge’s order.

Oleson says his ex packed up just about everything, hers and his , before the court-sanctioned deadline. What he didn’t know then was that when he was off in Atlantic City working, neighbors had seen the police around the house. They were building a case. 


The next day when he went to the courthouse to settle a traffic ticket, police approached and questioned him. Oleson remembers the homicide investigator’s exact words: “We know you did it.”


“What the hell are you talking about?” Oleson recalls thinking. “They were not very good at their jobs if they thought I killed those women.”


Officers impounded Oleson’s truck and followed every step of his over 30-mile walk home from the courthouse. Three days later, news helicopters hovered over Friesburg Road in Alloway, a 12-mile maze of country roads from the Delaware Memorial Bridge that dozens of reporters somehow happened upon.


Investigators descended on Oleson’s home searching for evidence. Baseboards were yanked from walls, swatches cut from furniture for DNA and unlocked car windows were smashed so, presumably, police wouldn’t have to enter through the door. When they found a DVD with pictures of a nude underage girl, they had what they needed to lock him up. When they walked out, they told Alloway Construction official H.F. Underwood they were “worried that if they left the house in such deplorable condition, the electric could spark and they’d be responsible [for a fire].” So the house was condemned. It was a real-time destruction of both a homestead and a man’s life. 


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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. cseaholtz said... on Oct 27, 2009 at 11:31PM

“First off....Thank you Jeff the pictures look great!! Now...Brian! :-) Reading the whole complete story is basically what we were hoping for. You just put it out there plain and simple. I hope that readers are able to get just a small glimpse of what Terry goes through on a daily basis. I'm glad that you wanted to do this story. Not only did you do (in our opinion), a kick ass job, we also were able to meet you and your wife and we now are friends.”

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2. Media Matters said... on Oct 28, 2009 at 09:51AM

“Someone should tell Ms. Seaholtz that posting in this forum undermines the credibility of the story and the impartiality of the cover story.”

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3. Hickey said... on Oct 28, 2009 at 09:57AM

“While I see Media Matters' point, I can assure you that getting to know Terry and Carol-Ann did not effect how the story was reported and/or written. I get to know sources often, from pols and average Joes to suspected serial killers and their girlfriends.”

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4. Vicki said... on Oct 28, 2009 at 02:35PM

“"First off I would like to say that I have never met a couple more caring for one another than Carol-Ann and Terry. I have come to know them over the last two years. I was new to this area and had never heard of the incident that transpired in AC. It wasn't until a co-worker came up and told me what happened. Did this change my opinion of Terry? Absolutely not. What saddens me the most is that everytime I spoke with both of them, I would find out more and more of the story. I would always tell Carol-Ann, this isn't right. You need to do something about it. You need to go to court, etc. Unfortunately, what I have been told is that not one attorney would take the case because of fear going against Atlantic City County. It's BS and something should be done about it. How can others sit back and have the audacity to ruin one's life and just kick it to the side-line. In my opinion, it is F***** Up!! Carol-Ann and Terry, love ya both and you will be welcomed in my home anytime door opened or closed however you wish.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Oct 30, 2009 at 05:59PM

“Again, why did he have nude pictures of underage girls in his house?”

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6. Anonymous said... on Oct 30, 2009 at 07:34PM

“Accordingly....He hadn't lived in the house for almost 3 years. When his ex-gf left the house, she took everything he owned. When she walked out the door the only thing left in the house was the camera, camera bag and the cd that had the pictures on it. He's not the one who even took the pictures. The girls mother took them and then planted them in the house for the police to find. She knew the police were coming because she's the one who called AC police and stated that her 'husband confessed' that he had done it. All because he had her sorry a** evicted!!!”

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7. Anonymous said... on Oct 30, 2009 at 09:37PM

“Cause the child's mom took them and left them there when her azz got evicted!”

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8. Wrongfully accused also said... on Nov 1, 2009 at 12:12AM

“I just got done reading this story, and I can relate to how he must feel. But I do have a comment for one of the other comments that have been left. As someone that has been wrongfully accused and railroaded by the police, correct me if I am wrong but isn't this story about someone who has been wrongfully accused for murder? That's the jist of the story that I got. Nothing else about his case was believable, why would you even believe he had pictures of anybody?”

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9. Anonymous said... on Nov 1, 2009 at 12:18PM

“Wait....I just got done reading the story and correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this story about Mr.Oleson being wrongly accused??”

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10. Anonymous said... on Nov 1, 2009 at 08:49PM

“Wait....to begin with, this story isn't about pictures of an underaged girl, not girls. The story that I got is about how he was wrongly accused. The fact that his life is now ruined all because someone said that he killed those girls. Also the story seems to me about getting justice for the killed womans family's. Officals need to stop looking at him for this and start looking for the REAL killer, then maybe justice will be served for all that are involved.”

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11. Jenn said... on Nov 3, 2009 at 01:15PM

“Nice job making the victims sound like assholes for being murdered.”

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12. Stacy said... on Nov 4, 2009 at 11:17AM

“No one was trying to make anyone sound like assholes for being murdered. I think the whole point of the story was to stop looking at Mr.Oleson for the murders and start looking for the thr REAL killer. AC has wasted (in my mind) too much man power and time wasting on trying to pin Mr.Oleson and not looking or seeking out new tips. It seems that the media, AC and the public already (know) that Terry did this when in fact he did not. They wasted at least 6 months trying to pin Terry when they could of took that 6 months and searched leads that they were getting on the actual killer! (That's just my opinion)”

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13. Anonymous said... on Nov 5, 2009 at 10:25PM

“How is this story making the victims sound like assholes? Please do comment, because I don't see that in this story”

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14. tommy b said... on Nov 14, 2009 at 11:07AM

“hey hickey, your losing your fastball....stick to your blog”

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15. Hickey said... on Nov 16, 2009 at 10:23AM

“Thank you for the valuable advice, tommy.”

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16. pvnj1 said... on Nov 17, 2009 at 07:07PM

“hey carol and terry i've known carol for years and have great respect for her she's a great mother and friend. i have gotten to know terry over the last few months have gotten nothing but respect , kindness ,humor and friendship from him. it is past time to look for the real killer. love and respect both of you!”

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17. Natalie said... on Jan 17, 2012 at 11:52PM

“@jenn - what?? There is nothing in this article that shows any disrespect for the victims. Quite the opposite, imho.”

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18. anonymous said... on Oct 18, 2013 at 02:08PM

“he did renovations in our home right before all this happened , would like to kmow where he can be located.”

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