Mur­der trial head­ing to de­fense phase

Con­way al­legedly shot cou­ple over pro­longed cus­tody dis­pute

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­[email protected]­ Twit­ter: @An­drew_IndyNews

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.

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