RISING SUN, Ind. – Showing no emotion and with his parents a few blocks from the courthouse, an Indiana teenager pleaded not guilty to killing his 10-year-old brother. His mother and father were greeting mourners who came to pay respects to their slain younger son.
Andrew Conley, 17, was charged as an adult in Ohio Circuit Court with murdering his brother, Conner Conley, a decision that the boys' parents supported, said Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard. In front of a few of his friends, the teen answered only basic questions during Friday's hearing. His attorney, Gary Sorge, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf, and left the courthouse without talking to reporters.
Nearby, the boys' parents, Shawn and Bridget Conley, greeted a steady stream of friends and well-wishers who came to a viewing of Connor's body at the Markland Funeral Home. The fifth-grader was dressed in a dark suit and lay in an open casket.
The boy's killing has left residents of this small Ohio River town 90 miles southeast of Indianapolis shaken and confused.
According to prosecutors, Andrew Conley, told investigators he strangled Conner while they were wrestling at their home Sunday, then drove his body to a park and dumped it. They say he said he did it to satisfy his craving to kill.
Townspeople described Andrew on Friday as "nice," "normal," and "polite." A relative of the family, Debbie Snyder, said the Conleys were a "strong" and "balanced" family.
And school officials said the brothers were good students and had many friends. Andrew got As and Bs, was a member of the Spanish club and had no record of disciplinary problems.
The Conleys withdrew Andrew from school on Nov. 16, 12 days before Conner's body was found near a city park, Rising Sun-Ohio County Community Schools Superintendent Stephen Patz said Friday. He declined to say why, and the parents have not talked to the media.
Prosecutors, in an affidavit, said Andrew Conley showed no remorse when he entered the police station Sunday and announced that he had killed his brother. They said he described how he choked his younger brother, saying he strangled the boy to satisfy a craving like a hungry person eating a hamburger.
They also said Conley told investigators that killing his brother made him feel like the fictional television serial killer "Dexter," and that he had cut himself in the past.
Dr. Lisa Boesky, a San Diego child psychologist and expert on teen and child behavior, said the boy's alleged self-mutilation indicated he may have been suffering from depression or anxiety, or experiencing overwhelming emotions such as rage.
Boesky said teens who kill nearly always have deep, underlying problems and that it was unlikely the television show influenced Conley's actions.
"It's rarely something that happens overnight," she said. "This is not caused by a television show or a fight with their parents. This is typically indicative of a serious disturbance. And clearly in cases like this, it indicates that something is seriously wrong."
A white cross stood Friday at the site in the park near where Connor's body was found with the messages "In loving memory of" and "classmates of Conner 2009."
Connor's great-uncle, Al Snyder, attended the visitation Friday and described the boy as outgoing, artistic and articulate.
"He could carry on a conversation better than most adults I know," Snyder, 48, of Camden, N.Y., told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Pastor Jim Jenkins of the First Baptist Church of Rising Sun is among the clergy helping counsel students and staff at the two schools. He said the case has been especially hard on Conner's fifth-grade classmates.
"You've got a class of 20 children and all of a sudden one of them is not there and they've been murdered and their face is all over TV and the story is all over the radio," he said.
Patz, the school superintendent, said it was impossible to make sense of the crime.
"Everyone is just trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and they aren't fitting," Patz said. "They may never fit."