Witnesses detail shooting as murder trial continues
Woman allegedly shot grandchildren’s mother over bitter custody dispute
The state was continuing to present its case as the trial for a woman accused of shooting two people, killing one, during what was supposed to be a custody exchange outside a Waldorf McDonald’s last year entered day four on Thursday in Charles County Circuit Court.
Caroline Marie Conway, 52, of Waldorf is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for allegedly shooting Robert Mange, 25, and Krystal Mange, 25, the mother of her son’s two children, in May 2015. Robert Mange died soon after at a nearby hospital while Krystal survived, according to court proceedings.
Around 5:45 p.m. on May 20, 2015, deputies of the Charles County Sher- iff’s Office responded to the McDonald’s parking lot located on Mall Cir- cle in Waldorf and found the two victims suffering from gunshot wounds, court proceedings indicated. Caroline Conway was arrested later that night after she had been identified as the shooter by one of the victims.
The defendant’s son, Prince George’s Coun- ty police officer Richard Travess Conway, 27, was arrested and charged with murder a few days after the shooting when investi- gators discovered that he had reportedly conspired with his mother to kill the Manges, motivated by a heated and ongoing custody battle, according to authorities and court proceedings. Police said they found several .40 cal- iber shell casings on the scene which matched the ammunition issued by the Prince George’s County Police Department. Police also found Richard Conway had reportedly persuaded a teenager to purchase a pre-paid cell phone on his behalf a few weeks before the shooting, pretending he needed it for an undercover nar-
cotics investigation, and said Caroline used that same cell phone minutes after the shooting to call Richard to pick her up.
With Judge Steven Platt presiding, Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony Covington and assistant state’s attorney Francis Granados were continuing to call witnesses to the stand as of press time Thursday morning. Caroline Conway is being represented by defense attorneys James E. Farmer and Melvin Allen Jr.
The shooting, Granados explained in her opening argument, was a violent culmination after a long and protracted custody battle between Richard Conway and Krystal Mange. In 2013, Krystal left Richard and moved to Virginia with their two shared children, and a visitation schedule was established, according to court proceedings. Richard and Caroline Conway made several allegations against the Mange couple, starting with child neglect, then physical abuse, and then child sexual abuse — unfounded accusations made in hope of winning sole custody, Granados said.
On May 20, 2015, the Conways and Manges were contacted by a case worker with the Department of Social Services, Granados said, informing both sides that the agency’s investigation yielded no evidence or indication of any wrongdoing and that visitation was to resume that day.
Caroline Conway went to the meet-up location at the McDonald’s on Mall Circle in Waldorf, got into their backseat and drew a handgun, Granados said.
She then forced Krystal to call Richard to change the custody exchange location to the courthouse parking lot in La Plata at 7:30 p.m. Granados said the move was an attempt to set up an alibi for Richard Conway.
After Krystal hung up, Robert Mange tried to grab for the gun, Grana- dos said. She began firing the handgun, and Robert was shot multiple times. Krystal tried to run but was shot once in the side of her abdomen.
Several witnesses who were at McDonald’s that day were called to testify. A man eating dinner near- by at Red Lobster said he heard gunshots, and then saw people running away from the scene through a window. He said he then saw a woman holding a
handgun walk toward a wooded area.
A man parked next to the victim’s vehicle testified that he saw the shooting. He saw a man exit the Jeep next to him and collapse, and saw a woman shoot him and then shoot a young wom- an after she placed her bloody hands on his window and asked for help.
One man testified that he later discovered his vehicle had been hit by a stray bullet, and the fragment, found inside the vehicle, was later collected by police. A dif- ferent man testified that his vehicle had also been struck, and that he found a bullet hole in the back of his truck.
A 14-year-old girl testified that she witnessed the shooting from the backseat of her parent’s car as they drove past McDonald’s. She testi- fied that she saw a wom- an wearing a sweatshirt
shoot a man and a wom- an who were trying to escape from a silver Jeep before walking away.
Multiple police officers called to testify said that Caroline Conway was arrested later that night as police surrounded her residence in Waldorf on Guilford Drive. Det. An- drew Schwab, who was the supervisor on the scene, said that Richard Conway approached an officer guarding the pe- rimeter and pointed out that Caroline Conway was behind him in the crowd of bystanders. Richard was detained for ques- tioning, and Caroline was arrested and interviewed by detectives, according to proceedings.
Katrina Everett, an investigator for the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, was called to tes- tify regarding her criminal investigation into the alle- gations of sexual abuse. Everett explained that
Caroline Conway had accused Krystal and Robert Mange and their friend “Montana,” or “Tanda,” of sexually abusing the child by “rubbing” his private parts. Her investigation, and the department of social services investi- gation, were both closed with an “unfounded dis- position.” Everett said she observed what appeared to be signs of coaching when the child was in- terviewed in April 2015 at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. “[He] was saying certain words,” she said, that she didn’t expect a child to say. The child did not report any abuse during the interview, according to testimony.
The prosecutors played the video of the interview for the jury. At one point the child said, “Jennifer can put mama, Robert and Tan- da in jail all by herself,” referring to Jennifer Helms, the child’s therapist.
Farmer cross-exam- ined Everett and appeared to be critical of her investigation, imply- ing that she had not been thorough enough when investigating Montana’s living situation. Everett explained that she ran his name through law enforcement databases and determined he did not live at the residence with the Manges. Farm- er then played a portion of the child’s forensic interview where he indicat- ed that Tanda lived at the home with the Manges.
As of press time Thursday morning, the state was still presenting its case, and lead detective John Elliot was in the process of testifying.
The defense plans to defend Caroline Conway by arguing that she was not criminally responsible for shooting due to her mental state, telling jurors that they would hear testimony from a doctor who would explain how someone suffering from a “psychotic dissociative episode” can appear normal. The defense attorneys explained in opening statements that Caroline Conway had endured sexual abuse as a child after her father was murdered and she was separated from her immediate family at age 2.
The trial is ongoing.