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: 19 | Posted Oct. 27, 2009

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That September, Oleson’s defense turned over recordings of someone else confessing the crimes to the Prosecutor’s Office. “Thirty seconds into meeting him at the jail, I felt like he was capable, beyond a shadow of a doubt,” says Leonard of the confessor. “I told him ‘If you have something to say, say it. There’s an innocent man sitting in the Salem County Jail.’ His response to me was, ‘I know.’ He was trying to get something off his chest.” 


“They blew me off,” Leonard says of the prosecutors.


In October, with the case stagnant, Oleson’s bail was lowered. That stung one of the dead women’s sisters, though she accepted why it happened. “I read what he was arrested for and I think it’s sickening,” Lentes said, “but it’s extremely upsetting that the person responsible for my sister’s murder is still out there free to live his life while my sister is gone forever.”


Oleson remained free long enough to hold a press conference complete with an apology from Denise Hill, the prostitute whose information became the linchpin to bringing Oleson under suspicion. In a bizarre twist, Hill recanted after realizing it was another customer, not Oleson, who confessed to her. Meanwhile, prosecutors whispered to other reporters that they checked out, and dismissed the story. 


Hill says the man who confessed even asked her to get a copy of the 48 Hours show to watch in her A.C. apartment. “He told me he couldn’t touch me because I’m an angel,” says Hill. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a prostitute, and that I still [do drugs] a couple times a week. I am what I am. What haunts me every day is that they never looked into anything I told them. I can’t get that out of my head. Why can’t they just take the time to look at somebody who may have murdered four people?”


In November, Oleson went back to jail after pleading guilty to the invasion of privacy charge. He says the pissed-off girlfriend planted those photographs knowing full well that the cops were on the way, but he ate the 364 days in jail because he didn’t want the child to face questions in a public courtroom. Is he a peeping Tom? “Maybe,” he says. But he’s “not Jack the Ripper.” With time served, he walked free in March 2008. 


After his release he spent more than a year in that motel that was frequented by people traveling selling magazines, welfare recipients and police. “It’s a motel of last resort,” says Oleson.


He and his fiancée then moved to a stand-alone rental home in Salem. Having a home is good for the couple. It enables Seaholtz’s two sons from a marriage that hasn’t been divorced quite yet to stay with them—even if her husband tells them to be wary of Oleson. It’s bad that the family saw a crack deal going down right outside their dining room window, while eating dinner. 


“It’s just a bigger cell,” Oleson said last month, “with more fresh air.”


Leonard remembers walking from the courthouse after the bail had been lowered. He says Oleson sported a gray T-shirt that read, “Off the Hook.” Gone were the national reporters, most of the Philadelphia TV vans and any element of perp-walks-free vindication. “In theory, that is the moment when he’s supposed to get on with his life,” says Leonard. “He turned to me and asked, ‘What happens next?’ I looked at him and said, ‘I don’t know.’ I still don’t know. He went from being Charles Manson to being Richard Jewell.”


Elements of Oleson’s story are indeed reminiscent of what happened to Jewell after an explosion at the 1996 Olympic Games killed one and injured 111 people. He went from hero to nail-bombing suspect to dead at 44 of natural causes. Thing is, Jewell, who likened the swarm of investigators and media to “piranha on a bleeding cow,” got an apology from Janet Reno. Plus, the real bad guy, Eric Rudolph, got caught. 


Oleson on the other hand hasn’t even received a private apology as he deals with a litany of physical and financial woes, and he hasn’t gotten back a damn thing the cops took during the search. 


“I can’t stand being lied to since I don’t lie to people,” said Oleson, who has been a guest speaker in a community-college robotics class, and concocted elaborate Halloween displays complete with a pair of hearses. “The only thing they’ve ever said is, ‘We never charged or accused you, so we can’t officially clear you.’ They ruined my life. I’ve prayed for death.”



“He’s a tragic figure. Life is a daily struggle for him,” says Leonard. “And investigators still, to this day, say, ‘I never liked him from the beginning. He’s the guy, and we’re going to get him.’ I believe that some of them still think he’s the prime suspect. Because of that, this case will never get solved. Maybe if they [the real murderer/s] get caught, Oleson can get what’s left of his life back. “If they come to me tomorrow, or in 10 years, with some iota of evidence that he did this, I would be stunned and disgusted. I believe wholeheartedly in his innocence. But, this is not a Terry Oleson case. For Terry Oleson, life goes on. This is about those four women and their families and loved ones.”


For Oleson and his fiancée, though, the future can be broken down easily.


“The world revolves around money and we don’t have it,” says Seaholtz, who self-published a book of her poems to Oleson entitled Heartfelt Confessions .


A dinner at McDonald’s when the kids are in town sometimes costs $20 that they don’t have. Food stamps, SSI and perpetual disability don’t go a long way, but the relationship brings at least a glimmer of hope for a future that will sustain him.


The Salem rental is better than the motel, but Oleson still wants to “get a little bit of property, an acre or two off the road, and build a house,” even if his ailments prevent any heavy labor. Still, “it hurt me” to have to sell the house and then get hit with a tax bill for $1,000 more than he got for it. 


For all he’s been through, Oleson has a very simple wish list: Getting property seized during the search back, and restoring enough of a good name where people he’s known for years won’t tell their children to keep the front door open when they visit Seaholtz’s kids. Those are pretty simple requests from a man left dangling in the wind. But let’s go two better: an apology for Oleson from those who destroyed his life, and some answers for the friends and family of Breidor, Dilts, Raffo and Roberts who still just want to know who killed their loved ones. ■

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 19 of 19
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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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19. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2014 at 08:35AM

“Why do u want to know his location? Did he do a bad job on the renovations? Or do u know something else?”

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