Doc­tor claims Con­way suf­fered trauma be­fore al­leged shoot­ing

Tes­ti­fies sus­pect on trial had ‘psy­chotic’ episode

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­

The ver­dict in the case of Car- oline Marie Con­way, ac­cused of shoot­ing two, killing one, dur­ing what was sup­posed to be cus­tody ex­change last year, will likely be de­cided by con­flict­ing tes­ti­mony of two ex­pert psy­chol­o­gists.

The doc­tor called by the de­fense on Wednes- day opined that Con­way, 52, was not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble for first-de­gree mur­der and at­tempted mur­der for shoot­ing Robert Mange, 25, and Krys- tal Mange, 25, the mother of her son’s two chil­dren, in May 2015. She said that Con­way was in a “psy­chotic dis­so­cia­tive state” at the time and could not “ap­pre­ci­ate the crim­i­nal­ity of her con­duct.”

As of press time Thurs- day morn­ing, Charles County State’s At­tor­ney An­thony Cov­ing­ton (D) and as­sis­tant state’s at- tor­ney Fran­cis Grana­dos were pre­par­ing to call their re­but­tal ex­pert wit- ness, a psy­chol­o­gist who’s find­ings con­tra­dict those of Dr. Bethany Brand.

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.

Around 5:45 p.m. on May 20, 2015, Krys­tal Mange was seated next to her hus­band, Robert, in a Jeep Wran­gler out­side the McDon­ald’s on Mall Cir­cle, wait­ing for Richard Con­way to drop off their two shared chil­dren, ac- cord­ing to pro­ceed­ings. The court man­dated visi- tation sched­ule re­quired Richard to have them there at 6 p.m.

Sud­denly, Caro­line Con­way, wear­ing a hooded sweat­shirt and black gloves, opened the driv- er-side back­door bran- dish­ing a black hand­gun, sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance to Richard Con­way’s po­lice-is­sued hand­gun, Krys­tal tes­ti­fied. Caro­line then forced Krys­tal to call Richard to change the cus- tody ex­change lo­ca­tion to the court­house park­ing lot in La Plata at 7:30 p.m. Grana­dos said in his open- ing statements that the move was an at­tempt to set up an alibi for Richard Con­way.

Af­ter Krys­tal hung up the phone, “Robert went for the gun,” she tes­ti­fied. She said Robert pushed Caro­line’s arm up against the roof of the Jeep, and that gave her enough time to try to es­cape the vehi- cle. “Half­way out the car, the first gun­shot went off,” Krys­tal told the court. She then ducked be­hind a ve­hi­cle and heard sever- al more shots, and then si­lence. She thought she had left, she said.

“I looked up and saw Ms. Con­way stand­ing there with a gun, look­ing at me,” Krys­tal tes­ti­fied. Caro­line then shot at her twice, she said, one bul­let strik­ing her in the side of her ab­domen, and one hit- ting the Jeep.

Wounded, she crawled over to a car parked next to the Jeep and placed her bloody hands on the win- dow, ask­ing for help from the man in­side, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony. Robert had been shot mul­ti­ple times in his up­per body and died soon af­ter.

Krys­tal iden­ti­fied Caro­line Con­way as the shoot- er to first re­spon­ders as she re­ceived med­i­cal treat­ment.

Sev­eral wit­nesses in­di­cated that Caro­line Con- way then walked away from the scene to­ward a wooded area.

The shoot­ing, Grana­dos ex­plained in his open­ing ar­gu­ment, was a vi­o­lent cul­mi­na­tion af­ter a long and pro­tracted cus­tody battle between Richard Con- way and Kr ys­tal Mange. In 2013, Krys­tal left Richard and moved to Vir­ginia with their two chil­dren, and a vis­i­ta­tion sched­ule was es­tab­lished, ac­cord­ing to court pro­ceed­ings. Rich- ard 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.

Through­out the trial, de­fense at­tor­neys James E. Farmer and Melvin Allen Jr. took ev­ery op­por­tuni- ty to at­tempt to give cre­dence to the al­le­ga­tions that a friend of the Mang- es, “Mon­tana,” had been sex­u­ally abus­ing the child, de­spite the un­founded dis- po­si­tions in the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and de­part- ment of so­cial ser­vices in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which were con­ducted af­ter Caro­line Con­way re­ported her sus- pi­cions to au­thor­i­ties in April 2015, ac­cord­ing to pro­ceed­ings. Caro­line had told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that one of her grand­chil­dren dis- closed to her that Manges and Mon­tana had touched his pri­vate parts, tes­ti­mony in­di­cated.

Jen­nifer Helms, the child’s ther­a­pist at Cen- ter for Chil­dren, tes­ti­fied that the child in­di­cated he had re­ceived a “con- fus­ing” touch from Mon- tana, when she dis­cussed the dif­fer­ence between a good, a bad and a con­fus- ing touch.

Though at a foren­sic in- ter­view at Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of the King’s Daugh­ters in Vir­ginia, the child made no dis­clo­sures, and the sub­se­quent in­ves­tiga- tions yielded no ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing, ac­cord­ing to pro­ceed­ings.

When cross-ex­am­ined by Farmer, Krys­tal Mange had ini­tially tes­ti­fied that from July 2013 to May 20, 2015, she had been liv­ing at her mother’s res­i­dence in Smiths­field, Va. She tes- ti­fied that she was ab­so­lutely sure that Mon­tana did not sex­u­ally abuse the chil­dren be­cause he did not have any alone time with them.

Farmer then read text mes­sages she had sent to Mon­tana that she said she didn’t re­mem­ber. “How are the kids do­ing,” Farmer read, and “Can you take the chicken out of the freezer?” Then he read one from Mon­tana to Krys­tal, “When are you com­ing home?” Es­pe­cially notable was a text in which Krys­tal in­di­cated that she was up­set she had to live at her mother’s house for a week.

The fol­low­ing day, Krys- tal tes­ti­fied again and told the court she had ac­tu­ally lived at Robert’s apart- ment in Nor­folk, Va., and had not been hon­est be­cause she was still scared of Richard Con­way. Farm- er pointed out that she had also falsely listed her mother’s ad­dress as her res­i­dence dur­ing all of the cus­tody hear­ings.

The de­fense ar­gued that the child sex abuse al­le­ga­tions were rel­e­vant to the case be­cause Caro­line Con­way had a “psy­chot- ic dis­so­cia­tive episode” brought on by the phone call from DSS just hours be­fore the shoot­ing on May 20, 2015. The call in- formed the Con­ways that their in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been closed as un­founded.

Called by the de­fense, Brand said that Caro­line Con­way had suf­fered “very se­vere chronic trauma” through­out her up­bring­ing which was un- treated and in­ter­nal­ized through­out her other- wise nor­mal life, and that she be­came in­creas­ingly men­tally un­sta­ble in the months lead­ing up to the shoot­ing be­cause of her be­lief that her grand­chil- dren were be­ing sex­u­ally abused, as she had been as a child, ac­cord­ing to court pro­ceed­ings. At age 2, Brand told the court, Caro­line’s fa­ther was mur- dered in front of the fam- ily’s Chicago apart­ment. As he climbed into his truck to go to work one morn­ing, a man hid­ing in the back­seat shot him in the back of the head.

With the fam­ily’s bread­win­ner gone, Caro­line’s mother had to work mul- tiple jobs to sup­port the large fam­ily, and she and her older sis­ter, then 4, were of­ten sub­jected to sex­ual abuse at the hands of a series of babysit­ters.

Caro­line Con­way and her older sis­ter both testi- fied about the abuse. Car- oline told the court she re­mem­bers one oc­ca­sion where she was taken into a room with two men. “He pro­ceeded to touch me,” she tes­ti­fied. “I re­mem­ber the pain. I re­mem­ber cry- ing … but they con­tin­ued to do it any­ways … it hap­pened quite a few times.”

Caro­line tes­ti­fied that af- ter the Con­ways re­ceived the news from DSS, her grand­son looked at her and said, “Yaya, I’m in big trou­ble.”

She said, “I re­mem­ber walk­ing, and then I was in a car” with Richard and her grand­chil­dren. “We came back home and the road was cut off.” She then re­mem­bers be­ing hand­cuffed, but tes­ti­fied that she had no mem­ory of the shoot­ing, go­ing to the house to change her cloth- ing, or be­ing in­ter­viewed by Det. John El­liot. Brand at­trib­uted the mem­ory loss to “dis­so­cia­tive am­ne­sia.”

Brand said that “there’s very eerie par­al­lels” between Caro­line’s ex- pe­ri­ence and what she thought was hap­pen­ing to her grand­chil­dren, who were 2 and 4 at the time of the shoot­ing. An­other par­al­lel she found was the sim­i­lar­i­ties between how Caro­line’s fa­ther was killed, and how she shot the Mange cou­ple, call­ing it a “re-en­act­ment.”

The doc­tor be­lieves Car- oline “fell apart psy­cholog- ically” when the Con­ways learned of the un­founded dis­po­si­tions just hours be­fore the shoot­ing on May 20, 2015.

Grana­dos cross-ex­am­ined Brand and was very crit­i­cal of her thor­ough­ness and her find­ings, point­ing out that at the time she de­ter­mined her opin­ion she had only in­ter­viewed Caro­line Con­way, her fam­ily, a search war­rant af­fi­davit, re­ports from DSS, and in­for­ma­tion re­layed to her through the de­fense at­tor­neys. De­spite the stakes be­ing so high, “you didn’t re­view a sin­gle of those items be­fore reach­ing your opin­ion?” Grana­dos asked. “Any of the po­lice re­ports, any of the col­lat­eral in­for­ma­tion? …Give me some­one [else you in­ter­viewed] other than the Con­way fam­ily be­fore you wrote your re­port.”

Brand de­fended her­self by say­ing she had con­ducted nu­mer­ous dif­fer­ent tests on Caro­line Con­way and found no ev­i­dence of her ly­ing or “ma­lin­ger­ing” dur­ing a seven hour in­ter­view. She tes­ti­fied that she was able to re­view more dis­cov­ery lead­ing up to the trial and could have changed her opin­ion if that didn’t “jive” with her ini­tial find­ings. Brand also said the Con­way fam­ily did not have the fi­nan­cial means for her to re­view all of the doc­u­men­ta­tion in the case.

“So you don’t do a full job un­less they pay you enough?” Grana­dos re­sponded, who also pointed out that wit­nesses said she wore gloves, a hooded sweat­shirt, called Richard Con­way from a pre-paid phone min­utes af­ter the shoot­ing, and was cap­tured on video get­ting rid of ev­i­dence af­ter­wards.

“It’s pretty log­i­cal and ra­tio­nal to flee the scene” and hide ev­i­dence, Grana­dos said, point­ing out that she in­structed Krys­tal to call Richard to change pickup lo­ca­tion, and later the Con­ways went to new meet up spot.

“So they lived out the alibi that Ms. Con­way set up for them,” he con­tin­ued, “... Isn’t that per­fectly ra­tio­nal?”

The trial is on­go­ing.

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