Lloyd Harbor, NY lies on the North Shore of Long Island that looks out on the Sound to Connecticut. Also known as “The Gold Coast” for its wealthy neighborhoods and towns, it’s home to singer Billy Joel and the medium household income for a family is well over $500,000 a year. It was in this affluent enclave that Suffolk County police say troubled 23-year-old Denis Cullen Jr. put his mother Elizabeth in a chokehold and dragged her to the deep end of the swimming pool on the family’s $2 million property and held her head underwater until she drowned.
Denis Cullen Jr. had been a varsity lacrosse player in high school. But friends of the family say that’s also when he started dabbling in heroin. The family had fought to keep him sober and he had allegedly just completed treatment for substance abuse problems. It is unknown at this point whether he also suffered from mental illness, however, a fight with his mother over whether or not he was taking mood-stabilizing medications precipitated her murder.
After killing his mother, Denis Cullen Jr. reportedly took money from her purse and fled to New York City where he confessed the killing to one of his three sisters. Police had been called to the Cullen residence and found Elizabeth Cullen’s dead body. As they were investigating the crime scene, Denis returned home and went into custody without incident. Police were taken aback by his calm demeanor as he gave “chilling” details about murder, including how surprised he was at how hard his mother fought back as he forced the life out of her.
In a jailhouse interview with New York’s Daily News, Cullen said “I can’t do this,” after being asked about his stay at the Riverhead Correctional Facility. Matricide is not looked kindly upon by prison populations, who have their own code of morals and ways of meting out perceived justice. He is being held on $8 million bail. Despite his confession, he has pled not guilty and is next due in court tomorrow, August 23rd.