(Rising Sun, Ind.) – In a blue shirt and white tie that he may have never reason to wear again, Andrew Conley sat quiet and unemotional as he found out the rest of his life will be spent in a prison cell.
Andrew Conley being led out of the
Ohio County Courthouse.
Ohio County Circuit Court Judge James H. Humphrey announced the sentence of life without parole for the Rising Sun 18-year-old Friday afternoon. He faced a minimum of 45 years.
Only a few of Conley’s friends had showed up to support him, but not his parents who knew they lost both sons when 10-year-old Conner Conley was strangled to death by the older brother he looked up to. The event took place in their home on Hartford Pike Road on Nov. 27, 2009.
Slumping over in his chair staring into his lap in the courtroom, Conley showed no reaction as Humphrey read through factors he considered when deciding the harshest sentence.
“It was the right decision,” said Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard. “A 10-year-old child lost his life for no other reason that Andrew Conley wanted to know what it was like to kill somebody. For that, he deserved life and that’s what he got.”
Defense attorney Gary Sorge said Conely showed emotion away from the light of the television cameras and newspaper reporters after learning his fate.
“He was basically just very subdued, tearful,” said Sorge.
Mitigating factors the judge weighed included Conley’s lack of a criminal history, his cooperation with investigators, and his own age – he was 17 at the time of the murder.
However, aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigators.
Andrew’s remorsefulness was most at question between the prosecution and the defense. Judge Humphrey sided with the prosecution.
“True remorse would have been expressed during the hours the murder took place,” Humphrey said, adding that the murder – from the strangling to dumping the body in a wooded area near the Rising Sun City Park – took place over three to four hours.
Sorge disagreed with the judge’s assessment.
“I think he is remorseful. I think it’s just his personality,” said Sorge. “Some people are outgoing, some people are self-contained and he’s that type of individual. If you were alone with him the times that I’d been you’d see a different person.”
The murder included four violent acts, the judge said. Conley twice strangled Conner for a total of 20 minutes, placed a bag over his head, and slammed the boy’s head into the pavement in the family’s garage to ensure that he was dead.
Other aggravating factors named by the judge included reports from three psychiatrists that Andrew Conley may have suffered some symptoms of personality disorder, but he understood the wrongness of his actions and could still make the decision to not kill his brother.
Negangard insisted throughout the sentencing hearing that Andrew could kill again if ever released from prison.
Andrew told detectives that he twice entered his father’s bedroom armed with a knife intending to slit his throat the night the murder had taken place, but was unable to follow through. Another aggravator in the judge’s eyes.
“I was convinced that if he were to ever be released that he would kill somebody else. The judge by making the decision today has assured that will not happen,” Negangard said following the announcement.
Humphrey did not consider as a mitigator the fact that Conley reported the murder to Rising Sun police himself. Conley only went to police after his father asked him to go pick up Conner from their grandmother’s house where they believed he was staying, said Humphrey.
Conley’s written statement he read during a sentencing hearing in September was considered in Humphrey’s decision.
The judge did speculate at a motive for the killing.
Andrew wanted to go out with friends that November night, but had to babysit Conner because the boys’ parents were both working late shifts at a local casino. He drove Conner to their grandmother’s house near Rising Sun but she wasn’t home.
When the brothers returned home Andrew received a text message from his girlfriend asking him to come over. They began wrestling soon after that text. The wrestling led to something snapping inside Andrew as the strangulation began.
Conley never cited a motive himself, stating during the investigation and his courtroom statement that he did not know why he killed his brother.
Andrew Conley will have 30 days to appeal the sentence. Sorge said that is likely.