The grandfather of suspect Denis Cullen, 23, was a military general who died in Vietnam

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August 19, 2016 03:15 PM

The New York man accused of drowning his mother in the backyard pool of their $1.8 million Long Island home is the nephew of a former U.S. Army chief of staff and grandson of a military general who died in the Vietnam war.

Denis D. Cullen, 23, pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of second-degree murder after police allege he put his mother, Elizabeth, 63, in a headlock and dragged her into the pool’s deep end following an argument about his unwillingness to take his medication.

A spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Robert Clifford, tells PEOPLE, “I don’t know what medication they argued about or what condition it was prescribed for.”

Elizabeth Cullen was the daughter of the late Maj. Gen. George William Casey, according to her 1983 wedding announcement in The New York Times. Casey died on July 7, 1970, with six members of his staff in a helicopter crash while traveling to visit wounded troops, reports the Fort Hood Herald. He was 48.

Casey’s son and Elizabeth Cullen’s brother, George William Casey Jr., went on to become the Army’s chief of staff, and capped a 40-year military career by serving in the top-ranking position from 2007 to 2011, reports The Patriot Ledger.

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Traveled to New York City After Alleged Murder

Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said yesterday that police had a videotaped confession from the suspect, who was arrested when he returned to the Cullens’ home in affluent Cold Spring Harbor Wednesday afternoon while authorities were there investigating after a 911 call earlier in the day.

Police said that after Cullen allegedly drowned his mom, he pulled her body from the pool and tried to hide it in the yard under a dinghy. Subsequently, police alleged Cullen showered, took his mom’s money and car and traveled to New York City. Along the way he called a sister to report what had happened, and she called their father, who asked police to conduct a welfare check on his wife.

Clifford tells PEOPLE, “The defendant admitted to Suffolk police homicide detectives that he killed his mother and the catalyst, according to the defendant, was their argument over his not taking his medication.”

The court-appointed attorney for Denis Cullen, Steve Fondulis, said his client was “calm” during the 10 minutes they spoke prior to his arraignment, according to Newsday.

“He hasn’t been convicted of anything, so he’s not sorry at this point; he hasn’t said ‘I’m sorry,'” Fondulis said when asked if Denis Cullen had shown any remorse.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “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 a videotape.”

Denis Cullen currently is jailed on an $8 million bond, and due back in court Tuesday.

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