Psychologist testifies that Indiana teen who strangled 10-year-old brother isn’t psychopath

By Charles Wilson, AP
Monday, September 20, 2010

Doctor: Teen who strangled brother not psychopath

RISING SUN, Ind. — An Indiana teenager who pleaded guilty to murder said he felt like he was watching from outside his own body while he strangled his 10-year-old brother, two experts testified Monday at his sentencing hearing.

The psychologist and psychiatrist both said Andrew Conley was seriously mentally ill and told them he heard voices. But they also said he still knew that what he was doing was wrong when he killed his brother.

Conley told police he lost control while wrestling with his brother Conner last Nov. 28 and put the boy in a chokehold until he lost consciousness. He said he then dragged the boy into the kitchen, where he strangled him for 20 minutes.

The teen told both doctors that he felt as if he were watching the killing while it occurred, a condition they said is known as dissociation and is brought on by stress.

“To be watching yourself is a strange new perspective for most folks,” said Dr. George Parker, head of forensic psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Parker and psychologist Edward D. Connor of Erlanger, Ky., testified on the fourth day of the 18-year-old’s sentencing hearing in the small Ohio River town of Rising Sun. The teen faces 45 years to life in prison.

Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard pressed Connor about whether Conley showed signs of a psychopathic personality, but Connor said the teen didn’t fit that profile.

Both experts said Conley was remorseful about the killing, which wouldn’t be typical of a psychopath. Defense attorneys said Conley had asked for help in getting the death penalty, which he can’t face because he was 17 at the time of the murder.

“I felt that he felt very badly about what he had done,” Connor said.

Connor said Conley was likely more confused than callous when he drove to give his girlfriend a promise ring while he had his brother’s body in the trunk of his car and when he joked with his mother the morning after dumping the body in a town park.

“I never got the impression that he was happy about what he’d done,” Connor said. “I believe he was trying to present himself as OK,” he added.

Negangard repeatedly asked both doctors about inconsistencies in what Conley had told them, but both said they didn’t believe the teen was faking mental illness.

Defense attorney John Watson asked Connor about a comment Conley made to police in which he likened his urge to kill to a hungry person craving for a hamburger. Connor said he didn’t see it as flippant.

“He’s trying to explain something that he doesn’t understand,” Connor said.

Conley’s grandmother testified Monday that she still loves him even though she hates what he did.

“I didn’t hate him. I hate what happened. I still love him,” Dianna Monk said. “I’d take him in a heartbeat.”

She also said she gladly would have baby-sat for Conner the day he was slain if she hadn’t had to work. Conley told police he had stopped by his grandmother’s house to see if she could watch Conner that day, but she wasn’t home. After the killing, he told his parents his brother was spending the night at her house.

Other defense witnesses described Conley as a quiet, helpful youth.

Bonnie Fancher, Conley’s former Cub Scout leader, said he was a “very kind, very sweet child.” She said she was troubled when she took him home three or four times and no one was home.

“I felt that there wasn’t adequate supervision at all,” she said.

Conley unexpectedly pleaded guilty a week ago, avoiding a jury trial. The hearing is expected to conclude Tuesday.

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