La Plata, MD – Was it a grandmother driven crazy by the thought of never seeing her grandchildren again or premeditated murder?
That’s what a Charles County Circuit Court jury will have to decide in the first-degree murder trial of Caroline Marie Conway, 53 of Waldorf, which began Monday, Dec. 5 before visiting Judge Steven I. Platt in La Plata.
Charles County Assistant States Attorney Francis Granados told the jury—composed of 13 women and three men—that the defendant was in the midst of a heated child custody dispute with her son’s ex-wife in Virginia.
“She went into work and told her boss, ‘If that woman ever tries to take my grandchildren from me, I’ll kill her,’ ” Granados said. “On May 20, 2015, the defendant made good on that threat.”
Granados explained that in July of 2013, the defendant and co-defendant Robert Conway—a former Prince George’s County police officer—drove to Virginia to see the kids and “snatched them up and ran.” He then filed for a protective order against the mother and filed for custody of the two boys.
As the nasty custody battle proceeded in court, the prosecutor said Conway tried repeatedly to discredit the ex-wife and her husband, even to the point of reporting sexual child abuse by the couple. Granados asserted that after investigating the allegations “not a stitch of evidence” was unearthed supporting those claims.
Three days before the murder occurred, Granados said Richard Conway had a youth purchase a pre-paid phone for him. That phone, he said, was used by the defendant to call her son for a ride after she shot Robert Michael Mange, 25 of Smithfield, VA, and his pregnant wife Crystal in the parking lot of the former Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonalds at Mall Circle in Waldorf.
Mange died at the scene and the wife, though critically injured, did survive.
The prosecutor alleged that the defendant and her son had concocted an elaborate scheme to cover up their intentions, claiming Conway’s original intent was to force the couple to drive to a secluded location but that plan went awry when Mange grabbed for the gun. She wrested it away from him and when the couple fled their Jeep she jumped out and shot them both.
After the shooting, the Conways drove to the residence of friends near Gallant Green in Charles County where Caroline Conway disposed of the clothes, the phone and the gun used to commit the crime.
When they arrived back at their home on Guilford Drive in Waldorf, they found the house surrounded by police. Conway was actually arrested after she was found standing among onlookers at the scene.
Defense Attorney Melvin L. Allen Jr. said there is a lot more to the story. “The state will not tell you all the facts,” he told the jury. Allen said Conway was born in Chicago and her father was murdered when she was 2 years old. While shuffling in and out of different living situations she and her sister were both raped.
He said the thought of losing her grandchildren was too much for Conway. “We all are deeply upset that any life is lost,” he said, “but also that the non-violent mental state of a grandmother can be broken in such a circumstance. Is someone in their right mind capable of such a thing?”
After Allen’s oratory went on for an extended period, Charles County States Attorney Tony Covington raised objections.
“Are we ever going to get to the evidence?” he asked the judge.
Testimony will continue in the case on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Contact Joseph Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org