Defense attorney says Ind. teen remorseful for strangling 10-year-old brother, pleads guilty

By Charles D. Wilson, AP
Monday, September 13, 2010

Defense: Ind. teen remorseful for brother’s death

INDIANAPOLIS — A defense attorney says an Indiana teenager who pleaded guilty to charges he strangled his 10-year-old brother is remorseful.

Eighteen-year-old Andrew Conley entered his plea Monday as jury selection was to begin for his trial in the small Ohio River town of Rising Sun.

Ohio Circuit Court administrator Connie Sandbrink says Conley faces a minimum sentence of 45 years in prison. Prosecutors have requested a sentence of life without parole. There was no plea agreement.

Attorney Gary Sorge told reporters at a news conference that Conley is remorseful and wanted to plead guilty all along.

Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard says the teen is a psychopath who poses a danger to others if he’s ever released.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana teenager who police say strangled his 10-year-old brother to satisfy an urge he likened to hunger pleaded guilty to murder charges Monday, a court official said.

Andrew Conley, 18, entered his plea as jury selection was to begin for his trial in the small Ohio River town of Rising Sun, Ohio Circuit Court administrator Connie Sandbrink said.

Sandbrink said Conley didn’t have a plea agreement with prosecutors, who intend to seek the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. His sentencing hearing was scheduled to begin Wednesday, and Sandbrink said it was expected to last three to four days.

Messages seeking comment were left for Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard and defense attorney Gary Sorge.

Conley was to be tried as an adult but couldn’t face the death penalty because he was 17 when his brother, Conner, was killed last November. Defense attorneys had been expected to argue Conley was insane at the time. Negangard had described the teen as “just evil.”

Police say Conley told investigators he had fantasized about killing people since he was in eighth grade, and that on the morning of Conner’s death, he stood over his sleeping father with a knife and thought about killing him. He also said he identified with the fictional television serial killer Dexter.

The teen told investigators he wrestled his brother unconscious, strangled him and then put his body in a trunk, where it stayed while Conley stopped to give his girlfriend a “sweetheart ring,” according to a police affidavit. He later dumped the boy’s body in a park near a school, the affidavit said.

Conley said he strangled Conner because, “I felt like I had to” and likened the urge to a hungry person satisfying a craving for a hamburger, according to the document.

Psychiatrists who have not examined Conley but who have studied similar violence by teens said the behavior some characterize as evil can defy explanation.

“They are not as good as grown-ups … at making moral decisions and controlling their impulses,” said Dr. Robert I. Simon, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School and the author of “Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream.” Teens’ sense of compassion also may be less developed, he said.

“Teenagers can be cruel,” he said.

Friends and neighbors have described the Conley family as “strong” and “balanced” and said both boys were good students who stayed out of trouble.

“He just didn’t seem to have any character like that. He wasn’t in trouble with the law, he didn’t make bad grades, he just seemed to be a normal teenager. He just seemed to be a quiet boy,” the Rev. Greg Matthew, pastor of the Rising Sun Church of Christ, said of Andrew Conley. Matthew preached Conner’s funeral service.

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