Murder trial heading to defense phase
Conway allegedly shot couple over prolonged custody dispute
After seven days of proceedings filled with what seems an overwhelming amount of evidence, prosecutors finished presenting their case on Tuesday morning against Caroline Marie Conway, who stands accused of shooting two people, killing one, during what was supposed to be a custody exchange outside a Waldorf McDonald’s last year.
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.
The defendant’s son, Prince George’s County police officer Richard Travess Conway, 27, was arrested and charged with murder a few days after the shooting when investigators discovered that he had reportedly conspired with his mother to kill the Manges, motivated by a heated and ongoing custody battle. His trial is slated to immediately follow his mother’s.
With Judge Steven Platt presiding, Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony Covington (D) and assistant state’s attorney Francis Granados had called their last witness as of press time Tuesday morning. The defense team was preparing to present its case to argue that Caroline Conway was not criminally responsible. Attorneys James E. Farmer and Melvin Allen Jr. plan to call an expert witness, a doctor, who they say will explain how Conway’s mental state was compromised on the day of the shooting.
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, according to proceedings. The court mandated visitation schedule required Richard to have them there at 6 p.m.
Suddenly, Caroline Conway opened the driver-side backdoor brandishing 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 custody exchange location to the courthouse parking lot in La Plata at 7:30 p.m. Granados said in his opening 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 vehicle. “Halfway out the car, the first gunshot went off,” Krystal told the court. She then ducked behind a vehicle and heard several 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 hitting the Jeep.
Wounded, she crawled over to a car parked next to the Jeep and placed her bloody hands on the window, 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 shooter to first responders as she received medical treatment.
Several witnesses indicated that Caroline Conway 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 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.
A man and wife who know the Conway family because their children attended high school together, though grew distant over time and rarely saw them anymore, testified that they were shocked when Richard and Caroline Conway showed up unannounced at their Waldorf home with the two children in the backseat. This was less than an hour after the shooting, according to Det. John Elliot’s testimony.
The husband testified that Caroline told him, “I did it. I shot them … Richard’s exwife’s husband,” and later “I shot them. I don’t know if I killed them, but I shot them.” Richard, the couple testified, casually confirmed what she was saying.
The prosecutors played a home surveillance video which showed the Conways arrive in a four-door Chevy Impala and leave after Caroline Conway changed her shirt, according to proceedings. In the video, two people, identified as the Conways by witnesses, are seen handling a white trash bag before bringing it into the car. The husband testified that he saw a handgun inside, but still did not believe Caroline Conway had actually shot anyone, and did not try to contact the sheriff’s office until the following day until he saw a news report on TV.
Later in the evening, Caroline Conway was arrested outside a police perimeter that had formed around their house on Guilford Drive, according to officer testimony. Richard Conway was detained after pointing out his mother standing in the crowd of bystanders behind him.
Caroline Conway was interviewed by lead detective John Elliot, and told him that she had been on a walk and was later picked up by Richard who had the kids with him, according to proceedings. The prosecutors played the video recording of the interview for the jury, in which she speaks at length about the custody dispute between Richard and Krystal before denying her involvement in the shooting.
Also called to testify was a 30-year-old female inmate who had been housed in the same cell block as Caroline Conway. She testified that Caroline told her that she and Richard had considered multiple different murder schemes, including “robbery gone wrong” and “murder-suicide,” and that the only thing she regretted was “that she didn’t kill Krystal.” The inmate said Caroline told her they decided to accuse the Manges of sexually abusing the child because “no jury would convict her for killing someone who was molesting her grandkids,” and said Caroline acknowledged that the allegations she had made to the department of social services were all fabricated. The witness also gave a detailed account of how the shooting occurred, consistent with previous testimony and evidence presented. In response to a question posed by Covington, the inmate told the court that she had a conditional agreement with the state’s attorneys office in which she was to plea guilty to a felony theft charge, testify truthfully in the Conway case, complete a drug treatment program, and in exchange she would received a suspended sentence.
Farmer cross-examined the inmate and was critical of her motivation to testify, drawing out of the witness that it was her third time testifying against a defendant in such a circumstance, and pointing out her numerous other theft convictions.
The inmate said she initially she began talking to Caroline because she enjoyed having intelligent conversation with her, something she said was hard to come by in jail. She said Caroline is “one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met,” and that she is “not crazy.”
A 17-year-old boy testified that Richard Conway, a family friend, called him and told him he needed his help to buy a “burner phone.” The teen said he bought the phone from a Walmart in Waldorf on April 4, 2015, because there was “something prohibiting him [Richard] from buying the phone as an officer,” and that “there was a drug dealer coming in from New York.”
Richard was a patrol officer with the Prince George’s County Police Department, and would not be tasked with any high-level investigations, according to proceedings. When the sheriff’s office raided the Conway home on Guilford Drive, they found his duty belt in his bedroom, but his service weapon and a spare magazine were missing.
According to FBI Special Agent Rich Fenner, an expert witness in historical cellular record analysis, the pre-paid phone made two calls to Richard Conway’s phone at 5:50 p.m. and 5:52 p.m., just minutes after the shooting.
Susan Kim, a firearm and tool mark examiner for Maryland State Police, an expert witness called by the state, said that she determined the .40 caliber shell casings recovered from the scene of the shooting had a unique set of markings, indicating that they had been fired from the same weapon as the “test firings” from his agency-issued Smith and Wesson M&P .40 handgun. The test firings were recovered by a detective, still preserved in the factory-sealed bag it comes packaged in with the firearm, according to proceedings.
Richard Conway’s service weapon was never recovered.
The trial is ongoing.