The lead detective in an Elkhart murder case whose actions contributed to the exoneration of a man with a mental disability is now facing termination from the Elkhart Police Department.
Elkhart Police Chief Kris Seymore has recommended that Lt. Carl Conway be terminated from the northern Indiana police force based on his conduct in the case against Andrew Royer. Royer was convicted in 2005 of the murder of 94-year-old Helen Sailor, but he was granted a new trial in 2020, and the state dropped the murder case against him earlier this summer.
Conway questioned Royer multiple times — interviewing him for hours before turning on a recording device — and obtained multiple confessions from Royer, whose co-defendant, Lana Canen, was also exonerated. But in post-conviction proceedings, the Elkhart Superior Court found, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, that Conway took advantage of Royer’s mental disability to elicit a confession, then lied about his interrogation tactics at trial.
In a letter to Conway dated Sept. 10, Seymore frequently referenced the Court of Appeals’ April opinion upholding Royer’s grant of post-conviction relief.
“The Court of Appeals of Indiana described some of your testimony as perjury, a felony offense under the criminal laws of the State of Indiana,” Seymore wrote in the letter, which was presented to the Police Merit Commission on Monday. “The Court identified your perjurious testimony surrounding the significant material question (of) whether you provided details to the defendant during the unrecorded portions of your interrogation of him which he then restated in the recorded portion of the interrogation.”
According to the COA, Conway testified at trial that he intentionally did not provide details about Sailor’s murder to Royer during the interrogations. But during successive PCR proceedings in 2019, Conway’s testimony on that issue “directly contradicted this aspect of his testimony at Royer’s trial.”
Another issue, Seymore wrote, was Conway’s conflicting testimony on whether he took Royer’s mental disability into account before questioning him. Royer is 46 but is described as having “the mind of a child.”
“In other words,” Seymore wrote, “the Indiana Court of Appeals found that you either lied about your concerns for Mr. Royer’s mental disabilities or cavalierly disregarded them — or both.”
The police chief pointed to a footnote in the appellate opinion that he described as a “rare public rebuke of your egregious conduct … .” Specifically, Judge Melissa May wrote, “Detective Conway’s false testimony at Royer’s trial is particularly galling because he was an Elkhart Police Department detective at the time of Royer’s trial and, as of the evidentiary hearing on Royer’s successive-petition for post-conviction relief, Detective Conway was still employed by the Elkhart Police Department overseeing the juvenile bureau and the special victims unit.”
Seymore said Conway violated Elkhart Police professional standards and general orders, as well as the city’s business ethics and conduct policies. He also pointed to four previous disciplinary actions taken against Conway and noted that at least one case has been dismissed due to Conway’s involvement.
Seymore charged Conway with misconduct including:
- Immoral conduct under Indiana Code § 36-8-3.5-17(b)(2)(F).
- Conduct injurious to the public peace or welfare under I.C. 36-8-3.5-17(b)(2)(G).
- Conduct unbecoming a member under I.C.36-8-3.5-17(b)(2)(H).
“No measure of discipline for your conduct can restore your credibility within the criminal justice system,” Seymore wrote. “As a result, your termination is the only appropriate discipline that can be had.”
Conway has been on paid administrative leave since April. According to the South Bend Tribune, he is scheduled for hearing before the merit commission in early October.
In a statement to the South Bend Tribune, Conway said only, “The appellate court never said I perjured myself; that’s a misstatement on behalf of Chief Seymore.” The COA opinion uses the word “perjury” on multiple occasions.