On Saturday, a family of eight was found dead in their home, and the suspect, David Ray Conley, surrendered to authorities after a standoff with Harris County sheriff's deputies.
Earl Yanske was among the first to know. He had known that Conley, who was his sister Valerie Jackson's ex-boyfriend, had gone to Jackson's home in Northwest Harris County earlier Saturday and was armed, the Houston Chronicle reports. From Montana, Yanske had contacted police, who checked on the premises twice throughout the day but did not see any sign of trouble — until the third check at 9 p.m., when they spotted a body in the window and tried to enter the home. Conley shot at officers, and a standoff ensued before Conley surrendered.
Around 11 p.m., the Chron reports, Yanske received a phone call from Conley, 48, and asked him, “Did you kill my sister?” To which Conley replied, “Yes, I did.”
Authorities allege that Conley killed one of his own sons. According to police, he had broken into a window and shot Jackson, her husband, Dwayne, and the six children. On Sunday he was charged with multiple counts of capital murder and was held without bail.
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Conley and Valerie Jackson had met online 15 years earlier, the Chron reports, and had two children together. But Conley also had a long history of violence — including multiple assaults against Jackson, Harris County court records show.
The most recent was just a month ago, when Jackson filed a criminal complaint claiming Conley had slammed her head against a refrigerator. Two years earlier, Conley was sentenced to nine months in the Harris County jail after he threatened Jackson with a knife. And 11 years earlier, in 2002, Conley was sentenced to five years in prison after putting a knife to Jackson's throat, cutting her and punching her in the face, according to court records. Conley's record also shows a number of arrests for possession of crack cocaine, robbery, DWIs, evading police and trespassing, among others charges.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, wondered how a man with a criminal record like Conley's could have acquired a gun in the first place. "There are many questions waiting to be answered, including how the suspect — who police say has a criminal past and could very likely have been a prohibited purchaser — got his hands on a gun," Gross said.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson attended Conley's arraignment Monday morning, telling reporters that the official decision on whether to seek the death penalty, which officials will announce in three to four months, would be a "no-brainer."