January 21, 1995 in Nation/World

Officers Look At Son In Killing Of Doctor Colleagues Recall Arguments Between Mother And Adult Son

Associated Press

Behind the brick walls of the stately, Tudor-style house of Dr. Teresita V. Costello was evidence of a dark story: a padlock on her bedroom door.

The elegant, successful widow used the lock to protect her belongings from 25-year-old James Costello, her rogue son who detectives believe tormented her with his drug abuse, unemployment and demands for money, said a police source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Dr. Costello’s body, with two bullets in the head, was found in the trunk of her Mercedes last week. She was clad only in underpants.

Officially, police said they have no suspects, but they want to question James and are watching him closely. Detectives are also looking into the possible disappearance of $50,000.

Police said the 64-year-old Dr. Costello had been dead about a month when her body was found Jan. 14. The car was parked on a residential street in the Bronx, miles from the Queens home she shared with James.

James won’t answer police questions on the advice of his lawyer. He and his brother, Craig, 23, showed up late for their mother’s wake Wednesday, avoiding a throng of reporters and two detectives.

Some family members denied James was at odds with his mother, an obstetrician. Now alone in the house, he is distraught, they said.

Other relatives and colleagues recalled friction between the two.

“All the time, they fought over money,” Dr. Emily Simpson said outside the funeral home.

The police source said Dr. Costello recently threatened to kick James out of the house.

A native of the Philippines, Dr. Costello built a successful practice working out of her home and in Manhattan. Her husband invested in real estate. They sent their sons to private schools.

Her husband died of cancer 10 years ago, unleashing turmoil in the household. Both boys dropped out of school and freeloaded, friends said.

Craig recently moved to San Francisco to enroll in art school. But James remained at home and “made his mother suffer,” said a mourner at the wake who refused to give her name.Dr. Costello also found solace in work and travel.

Dr. Costello bought a plane ticket for a Dec. 6 trip to Manila, where she planned to attend a medical school class reunion, friends said. She was also considering buying a home in the Philippines, which might explain the $50,000 relatives said she withdrew from the bank.

Dr. Costello never made it to Manila. On Dec. 10, a niece reported her missing. Police later discovered her passport and an unused plane ticket in her bedroom.

James said he had last seen his mother on Dec. 3, before he took her car into Manhattan for a night out, said Lt. Bob Davis, a missing-persons detective who was first on the case.

As weeks passed, police began to suspect foul play. Finally, someone from the Bronx called to say the car had been parked in the neighborhood for weeks.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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