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Emerging Evil: The Murder of Connor Conley

Bridget Conley was working overnights at a casino near her home in Rising Sun, Indiana, on November 28th, 2009. She had left her seventeen-year-old son Andrew and ten-year-old son Connor at home while both she and her husband worked. She had left the boys at home many times before while she worked, but tonight would be different. This night, something evil would emerge from its hiding place, and Bridget would suffer an unimaginable loss.

Bridget had given birth to her eldest son, Andrew, on May 14th, 1992. She later married Shaun Conley and he adopted Andrew. Together, the two welcomed another son Connor on May 29th, 1999. They family lived in Rising Sun, Indiana, just off the banks of the Ohio River. They both worked overnights at local casinos on the rivers, leaving their two sons home alone often. The boys were very good students, both making good grades, and neither had any behavioral problems. However, there were underlying issues with seventeen-year-old Andrew.

In early November, Andrew approached his mother and told her that he had attempted suicide. According to Bridget, Andrew showed her superficial cuts to his chest that he explained were from a suicide attempt. She said, “My concerns were that he was pushing the envelope to get out of school” (Associated Press, 2010). At that point, Bridget agreed to allow Andrew to drop out of school and pursue a GED. She said Andrew wanted to join the National Guard. She did say that she was seeking counseling services given his claims of being suicidal, despite her own doubts about his truthfulness.

On the evening of November 28th, 2009, Andrew wanted to go out with some friends and enjoy being a teenager. However, he was tasked with the responsibility of caring for his ten-year-old brother Conner. His mother told him that since she and their father were both working overnights, Andrew would have to find a sitter for Conner if he wanted to go out with friends. Andrew drove Conner to his grandmother’s home, but she was not home. He then asked his uncle to watch Conner, but he was not able to either. Andrew seemingly gave up and decided to return home with Connor.

Around 8:30 pm, Andrew and Connor began wrestling, a common thing among brothers. This wrestling match however escalated quickly. Andrew said that got behind his little brother and put him in a headlock. Andrew said his brother said, “Andrew Stop” (Conley V. Indiana, 2012), but Andrew felt compelled to just keep squeezing his brother’s neck. Eventually, Connor passed out. Andrew said he saw blood coming from Connor’s mouth and nose, but he was still breathing.


At this point, Andrew said he drug the fifth grader to the kitchen. After donning a pair of gloves, Andrew choked Connor (pictured) with both hands around his neck for the next twenty minutes. He then retrieved a plastic bag and placed it over his brother’s head, taping it with electrical tape. Andrew later said Connor was still breathing when he put the bag over his head. He wanted to make sure his brother was dead, so he drug him down the stairs and out the back door on to the concrete. He then slammed his head repeatedly into the concrete to ensure Connor’s death.

After he was confident his brother was dead, Andrew put his body in the trunk of his car. He cleaned himself and the scene up, changed his clothing, and hid the clothing and gloves in his room. Andrew left in his car, headed to his girlfriend’s house. His girlfriend said that Andrew was in a good mood that night, “happier than I’d seen him in a long time” (Conley V. Indiana, 2012). The two watched a movie and Andrew gave her a promise ring. His girlfriend had no idea that Connor’s dead body was in the trunk of Andrew’s car.

After leaving his girlfriend’s house, Andrew drove behind Rising Sun Middle School, where Connor attended classes, and disposed of Connor’s body in a wooded area behind the school. He covered the body with sticks and leaves before returning home. Shortly after he returned home, his father arrived home from his shift at work at approximately 2:30 am. Shaun recalled Andrew acting normally. He said that Andrew claimed Connor had stayed the night with their grandmother and asked his father for condoms (Conley V. Indiana, 2012).

Bridget arrived home at 5:45 am and stated Andrew was acting normally. She watched a movie with her son, and they joked back and forth. However, once Shaun and Bridget laid down for the day, Shaun in the master bedroom and Bridget on the couch, things grew dark again in the Conley home. At two different times that morning, Andrew stood over Shaun as he slept with a knife. He later said he intended to kill him, but something made him change his mind. Shaun recalls waking up to Andrew standing over him with “something shiny in his hand. He couldn’t tell what it was, and the teen quickly put the object in his pocket” (Associated Press, 2010).

Later that day, while the parents believed Connor was at his grandmother’s house, Shaun and Andrew watched football. That evening Andrew drove to meet friends and told two of his friends about the crime he committed the night before. Around 8 pm he walked into the Rising Sun Police Department and reported that he “accidently killed his brother” (Conley V. Indiana, 2012).

Conley calmly told authorities what had happened and walked the police through the entire crime. He led authorities to Connor’s body. The autopsy showed that he died as a result of manual strangulation. When police asked Andrew why we killed Connor he said, “Like I had to… like when people have something like they are hungry and there is a hamburger sitting there and they knew they had to have it and I was sitting there and it just happened” (Eagle 99-3, 2009). Andrew remained unemotional and unremorseful throughout his confession. He also claimed that he may have been influenced by the television show Dexter, saying “I just felt like him” (Murderpedia). Andrew also expressed that he had thoughts of killing people since he was in eighth grade.




Bridget Conley had to be held back by police when she arrived at the police station following Andrew’s confession. She shouted, “You killed my son”, to which Andrew (pictured) said, “I know” (Murderpedia). Bridget and Shaun were not interested in supporting Andrew and believed they had lost both of their sons that day.

The community of Rising Sun was in utter shock at the heinous crime and the teenaged killer. “Andrew was a good student, he had friends, he didn’t have discipline problems. And the same thing for Connor. I think that’s what makes it difficult for the community, the staff, the students, everyone, to try to come to grips with the situation” Stephen Patz, the Superintendent of Rising Sun-Ohio County schools said (Martin & Cornwell, 2009). A press conference was held on December 3rd, 2009, announcing the arrest and murder charges filed against Andrew Conley.

With the blessing of Shaun and Bridget, Andrew Conley was charged as an adult with the murder. Andrew pled not guilty at his initial hearing, showing no emotion. The prosecutor said, “sometimes people are just evil… this is an evil child” (Martin & Cornwell, 2009). His parents did not come to the hearing, nor did Andrew’s girlfriend. According to his girlfriend’s brother, “she had been behind him, but when she found out what happened, she said she couldn’t keep the ring” (Martin & Cornwell, 2009).

Connor’s obituary describes that fifth grader as enjoying fishing, swimming, comic books, skate boarding, video games, drawing, and reading. Connor had recently taken a hunter’s education course and was looking forward to hunting for the first time. He was survived by his parents, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Andrew was not mentioned in the obituary.

In a surprise move, Andrew Conley pled guilty to first degree murder in 2010. He was not given any promise or deal in exchange for his guilty plea. According to his attorney, Andrew entered the plea because he was remorseful and wanted to do the right thing. A psychologist had determined Andrew was mentally ill, but not legally insane. The state planned to seek a life sentence with no possibility of parole, despite Andrew being a minor at the time of the crime. As a result of his age, he was not eligible for the death penalty.

Andrew’s sentencing hearing began in September of 2010. During the sentencing hearing, the video-taped confession from Andrew was played. Andrew began to cry, the first time he had shown any emotion since his arrest nearly a year earlier. A psychologist testified that he had diagnosed Conley with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and a sleep disorder (Conley V. Indiana, 2012). Other mitigating factors presented by the defense were Andrew’s young age, lack of criminal history, his mental and emotional history, and lack of capacity to appreciate criminality of his conduct (Conley V. Indiana, 2012).

Three doctors testified that Andrew “understood the wrongfulness of his actions and is criminally responsible” (Conley V. Indiana, 2012). The defense psychologist presented testimony that Andrew was suicidal, and his parents were aware of multiple attempts. His parents denied being aware of an attempt to place a space heater in a bathtub to commit suicide (Conley V. Indiana, 2012). According to the three doctors testifying for the prosecution, Conley had denied ever being abused, but his defense psychologist testified that Andrew told him he had been molested (Conley V. Indiana, 2012). The court did not find these claims credible.

Aggravating factors included Connor’s young age and the nature of the crime. “The nature of the offense is a crime of unimaginable horror and brutality” an appellate decision later stated (Conley V. Indiana, 2012). Connor had been murdered in his own home by his big brother, someone he loved and trusted. Andrew apologized as the hearing, “I would like to apologize to Mom and Dad for all this. I would like to apologize to the community of Ohio County for all this happening. I still have no idea why this happened, but I really wish I did. I go to sleep every night and wake up every morning and wish I could change what happened" (Murderpedia). The judge handed Andrew Conley a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

A supreme court ruling in 2012 decided that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders is cruel and unusual, making it unconstitutional (Juvenile Law Center). However, this does not mean minors cannot be sentenced to life, but rather it cannot be mandatory. A judge upheld Andrew Conley’s life sentence in 2012 following the ruling. According to the Juvenile Law Center, “youth who commit the most serious or violent crimes have the capacity to change” (Juvenile Law Center).

Since his sentencing, Andrew has continued to appeal his sentence from behind prison bars. In a 2018 appellate hearing, Bridgit Conley testified that she had asked for the maximum sentence for her son but has since changed her mind. She now believes the sentence is too harsh as Andrew was only seventeen at the time of his horrible crime (Perleberg, 2018). In February of 2021, an appellate court granted Andrew Conley a resentencing hearing based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court found his defense attorney did not appropriately represent the mitigating factors including severe mental illness. The matter of resentencing is still pending as I complete this story.

Prosecutors firmly believe that Andrew Conley is an evil person. When evil emerged from its suppression that November night, an innocent young boy lost his life. If Andrew is truly an evil sociopath, it is unlikely he will ever be capable of living in society without being a threat. If he is not evil, but mentally ill, would mental healthcare treatment be sufficient to eliminate the threat to others?




References

Covington, O. (2021) Teen sentenced to life without parole wins resentencing; The Indiana Lawyer; Retrieved at: Teen sentenced to life without parole wins resentencing - The Indiana Lawyer

Perleberg, M. (2018) Conley’s mother, former attorneys testify at post-conviction relief hearing; WSCH; Retrieved at: Conley's Mother, Former Attorneys Testify At Post-Conviction Relief Hearing - Eagle Country 99.3 (eaglecountryonline.com)

WCPO (2010) Andrew Conley gives a walkthrough to officers; Retrieved at: Andrew Conley gives a walkthrough to officers. - YouTube

Eagle 99-3 (2009) Andew Conley murder charges press conference; Retrieved at: Eagle 99-3 - Andrew Conley Murder Charges Press Conference - December 3, 2009 - YouTube

Conley V. Indiana (2012) Andrew Conley V. State of Indiana; Indiana Supreme Court; Retrieved at: Andrew Conley v. State of Indiana (murderpedia.org)

Associated Press (2010) Ind. Father woke up, found teen son standing over him the day after he killed young brother; Fox News; Retrieved at: Ind. father woke up, found teen son standing over him the day after he killed young brother | Fox News

Conley V. Indiana (2021) Andrew Conley V. State of Indiana; Indiana Court of Appeals; Justia US Law; Retrieved at: Andrew Conley v. State of Indiana :: 2021 :: Indiana Court of Appeals Decisions :: Indiana Case Law :: Indiana Law :: US Law :: Justia

Murderpedia (Accessed 2021) Andrew CONLEY; Retrieved at: Andrew Conley | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers

Obituary (2009) Connor Conley; Retrieved at: Conner Conley Obituary - Indiana - Tributes.com

Crimesider Staff (2012) Andrew Conley, “Dexter” admirer, has life sentence for murder upheld by Ind. Court; CBS News; Retrieved at: Andrew Conley, "Dexter" admirer, has life sentence for murder upheld by Ind. court - CBS News

Wilson, C. (2010) Brother pleads guilty in slaying; South Bend Tribune; 18 Sep 2010; Retrieved at: 18 Sep 2010, B6 - The South Bend Tribune at Newspapers.com

Martin, D. & Cornwell, L. (2009) ‘Good Student’ pleads not guilty in brother’s death; Chicago Tribune; 06 Dec 2009; Retrieved from: 06 Dec 2009, Page 1-42 - Chicago Tribune at Newspapers.com

Juvenile Law Center (2021) Juvenile life without parole (JLWOP); Retrieved at: https://jlc.org/issues/juvenile-life-without-parole

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