Posted on: Thursday, September 20, 2001
The September 11th attack
Maui man says misinformation led to false report of son’s death
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
LAHAINA, Maui — One friend took him to dinner in a heartfelt gesture of support. Another gave him money. Both friends were devastated by the news.
And why wouldn’t they be? Curtis Larson had just lost his only son and pregnant daughter-in-law in one of the most horrific tragedies in American history, going down in a hijacked plane that crashed into the World Trade Center last week.
The story of Larson’s son and daughter-in-law was told across Hawai’i and beyond, with Jude and Natalie Larson listed among the victims in newspapers and Web sites around the globe.
But the story wasn’t true.
Curtis Larson, a sculptor and jewelry maker, now says he was duped, the victim of back-to-back phone calls that began at 4:40 a.m. The first was from a woman claiming to be his ex-wife, informing him of the death of his son; the second call was from someone claiming to be from an airline and purporting to confirm the deaths of Larson’s son and daughter-in-law.
He said that during the second call, he was asked to disclose his Social Security number, date of birth, passport number and military identification number.
Larson repeated his account in a brief interview yesterday at his Lahaina apartment.
But conflicting accounts put his story in doubt.
In the hours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Larson told reporters that his son was in medical school at UCLA, that his daughter-in-law was pregnant and that the couple had visited her family in Boston. He said his son had lived on Maui as a youth and had since visited 19 times. Larson also described himself as a Vietnam veteran.
None of that is true, according to his son, whose real name is Jude Olsen and who is a 30-year-old landscaper in Olympia, Wash.
Olsen said Monday he had learned only the previous day that he and his wife were identified as hijacking victims and was upset because some relatives had agonized over the news. He declined an extended interview.
Larson said officers from the Lahaina police station took a written report yesterday on the telephone scam. But police said later in the day that no report was filed.
Meanwhile, Larson’s friends are upset.
Kathryn Oxman, a Lahaina jewelry maker who hadn’t seen Larson for a couple of years, cried when she heard the news and then took him to dinner that night.
“He didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to press it because I thought he was dealing with it in his own way,” she said.
But when conflicting accounts started to emerge, she said she was so upset she didn’t want to face him.
Village Galleries owner Lynn Shue, who occasionally displays Larson’s artwork, said he has a history of exaggeration. She said she remembers his recounting terrifying stories of the Vietnam War, in particular a tale about how his friend was killed in front of him.
“Curtis means well. He’s a brilliant man,” Shue said.
Larson yesterday denied he told anyone he was a Vietnam veteran.
He said yesterday his son believes he made up the story to gain publicity, but he denied that. He also denied telling anyone his son was a UCLA student, although at least three newspapers, including The Advertiser, reported that Larson made the statement.
The Advertiser has been unable to confirm the identity of a man who answered the phone at Larson’s apartment Sept. 12 and identified himself as a close family friend named Steve Jocelyn.
The man, who indicated he lived in the same apartment complex as Larson, said he went camping with Olsen when he visited last summer and gave him surfing tips, but Olsen said he’d never heard of such a person. The manager of the Lahaina complex where Larson lives said no one named Jocelyn lives there.
The phone number Jocelyn gave as his own is not in service.