RISING SUN, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana teenager who told his girlfriend a few weeks before he strangled his 10-year-old brother that he wanted to be just like a fictional TV serial killer was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole.
Andrew Conley, 18, bowed his head silently, and members of the courtroom audience gasped as Ohio Circuit Judge James Humphrey methodically read from a written sentencing order.
Conley unexpectedly pleaded guilty last month to the Nov. 28 murder of his brother, Conner, averting a trial and setting off a five-day hearing in the small Ohio River town of Rising Sun.
"He deserved life, and that's what he got," said Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard, who had pushed for the most severe penalty. Conley couldn't face the death penalty because he was only 17 when the murder occurred.
"He knew this could happen," said defense attorney Gary Sorge, who had argued that Conley deserved leniency because he was seriously mentally ill. "He knew he was going to be locked up for years and years and years."
The judge found that Conner's age at the time of his death "far outweighed" any arguments in favor of leniency. And, though he said he couldn't consider it as an aggravating factor under Indiana law, he dwelled on the "horrendous and personal nature of the killing."
The teenager told police he choked his brother while they were wrestling until the boy passed out. He said he then dragged his brother into the kitchen, put on gloves and continued strangling him for at least 20 minutes.
He then put wrapped the boy's head in two plastic bags. A coroner testified that Conner may have still been alive for minutes or hours after that point, Humphrey noted, but the bags helped suffocate him, and Conley repeatedly banged the boy's head on the ground before loading him in the trunk of his car to make sure he was dead.
Conley told psychologists he had been unable to stop and felt as if he were watching the murder from outside himself. But the judge said the despite contradictory statements by Conley, experts agreed that he still knew that what he was doing was wrong. Humphrey repeatedly referred to one doctor's opinion that Conley "was able to make rational decisions" at the time of the murder.
Humphrey discounted Conley's claims of remorse as "superficial and not sincere," saying he could have expressed remorse when he drove to give his girlfriend a promise ring with his brother's body in the trunk of his car, but he hadn't.
The judge also noted that instead of telling his father what he had done the following morning, he asked for condoms, and joked with his mother and watched football. Conley also said he had stood over his sleeping father with a knife and considered cutting his throat, Humphrey said.
Conley's parents have since moved out of state.
According to testimony during last month's hearing, Conley said he had fantasized about killing people since he was in eighth grade.
The judge also noted that Conley had told his former girlfriend he wanted to be just like the Showtime serial killer character Dexter a few weeks before the killing while walking on the trial where Conner's body was later found.
Defense attorneys had argued that Conley had helped police by confessing and telling them where to find Conner's body, but Humphrey said Conley likely knew he was going to be caught anyway.
During last month's hearing, Conley read a statement in which he said he would accept whatever punishment he received.
However, defense attorney John Watson said Conley would likely appeal the sentence.
"He was a 17-year-old boy and there was evidence of mental illness," Watson said. "It seems to me that some of that could be interpreted differently by different folks."