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Addicted to Murder: The True Story of Daniel

Conahan Jr.


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By David Lohr

Crossing the Line

On the afternoon of April 16, 1996, a private meeting was held in the parking lot of Cox Lumber Yard,
in Punta Gorda, Florida. A man driving a station wagon pulled into the parking area and called out to
a young man who was standing off to the side waiting for him. He knew the driver only by his first
name, Dan. The two men had no association with the business and were using the grounds as a neutral
meeting place to finalize plans they had discussed earlier. After a brief commentary, the younger man
got into Dans station wagon and they were soon driving down Highway 41, in a forested area far from
the commercial strips.
As they continued down the road, they discussed the photo shoot Dan had propositioned and the
financial arrangements. Again, Dan explained that he wanted the young man to pose for naked
photographs to use in a magazine article. The younger man agreed and they were soon traveling
down several dirt roads. The farther they traveled, the denser the woods became.
Once satisfied that he had found a secluded area, Dan pulled over. The two began making their way
deep into the woods. The atmosphere was somewhat eerie, with Oaks and Maples towering high all
around them. Dan eventually found an old hog trail, which they navigated down until they stumbled
upon a majestic foreground in the middle of the forest. According to The Fifteen Most Horrific
Murder Cases Ever to Shock America, by Bill Kelly, the two men then came to a stop and began
discussing the photo shoot.
Have you ever had pictures of yourself taken in bondage? Dan asked as he pulled out a camera.
No, came the young mans nervous reply.
Well here, let me show you, Dan said as he set the camera down on a nearby log.
Within minutes, Dan had his subject nude, with his hands bound around a tree. He was obviously
excited by the spectacle he had created and he began erratically clicking photos. Suddenly, Dan
stopped and set the camera down. His eyes became focused and his stare became the essence of evil.
He had fantasized about this moment for a long time. He began to ask himself whether he was
prepared to cross the line between fantasy and reality. He had already come this far, so what was to
stop him from acting on his desires?

Dan quickly produced a length of rope and walked behind the tree. He draped the rope around his
subject's neck and placed his foot on the tree for leverage. As he pulled, he could feel his victim
struggling and hear him crying out in short raspy breaths. Die you son-of-a-bitch! Die! he shouted,
as he pulled tighter on the rope. Eventually, his subject remained motionless. All struggling quickly
ceased. He was dead.

Disturbing Discovery
Punta Gorda, Florida, is located approximately 100 miles south of Tampa on the Gulf Coast. Founded
in 1887, Punta Gorda is the only city in Charlotte County with a population of 12,500 people.
According to the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce website, the towns name is Spanish and
translates to "fat point" so named because a broad part of the land in Punta Gorda juts into Charlotte
Harbor. Money Magazine once described the historic town as the second best area in the United
States in which to live. Charlotte County's crime rate is 60 percent below the national average.
Sadly, no one in northern Charlotte County was prepared for the wave of terror that was beginning to
crest over the horizon.
On February 1, 1994, two hunters were searching for a secluded area to hunt hogs, a favorite pastime
of local sportsmen. As they made their way down rural northern Charlotte County roads, they spotted
buzzards circling an area near Biscayne Boulevard.
One of the men had never been hog hunting before and had no idea what they looked like. Hoping to
find a dead hog where the buzzards circled, the men pulled over and walked into the wooded area. To
their disbelief, what they found was not a decomposing hog. Lying on the ground in front of them was
a mutilated male corpse. The two men immediately reported their find to the Charlotte County
Sheriff's Office.
A medical examiner later determined that the corpse was a white male, with brown hair, between 25
and 35 years old, approximately 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing 150 to 160 pounds. According to
several articles published by the Naples Daily News, the coroner surmised that the body had been there
for approximately one month. There was no identification with the body and no distinguishing
characteristics. The only clue to the victims identity was a stainless steel pin, which was discovered in
the victims lower left leg. Apparently the victim had been injured at some point and an operation had
been performed to repair his leg. It was also noted in the medical examiners report that rope marks
were discovered on the skin and mutilations were found in the neck and pelvic region. The genitals of
the victim had been removed.
As investigators scoured the crime scene, they found rope marks on a nearby tree, but nothing else of
evidentiary value. Unable to identify the victim, police requested a clay skull reconstruction. They
were hoping someone would be able to help them identify John Doe.
As 1995 came to an end, investigators were still no closer to solving the John Doe homicide. The
media published pictures of the facial reconstruction. Several leads followed, but none proved to be of
any help. Investigators began requesting dental charts and fingerprints of all missing men, but they
were still no closer to identifying the victim.

Speedbump & Hollywood

On January 1, 1996, a dog named Hollywood brought a human skull home to his owner, who lived
near Plamedon Road, in North Port. Wayne Brown ran into the house and got his wife, then called

They had been bringing pieces home for months, Hollywood and her mom, Speedbump, Susie
Brown told The Sun Herald. We thought they were bringing pieces of deer, rabbits, or alligators.
North Port investigators were able to quickly determine that the skull was human. The Police
Explorers, a Sarasota County sheriff's posse, were called in to search the area for any remaining bones.
There were the long bones of arms and legs and fingers and stuff, too. But I didn't know that then,
Susie Brown said. They started raking leaves and looking around the yard. They found a bunch of
bones and most of them were human.
As the search was expanded, the chest and hipbones were discovered in separate locations, within a
half a mile from the skull. Rope marks on a tree near the discovery of the bones was noted in one
officer's report. Other than the chest, hipbones, and remnants found in the Brown's yard, investigators
were unable to find the remainder of the skeleton.
The medical examiner later determined the victim to be a white male, between 25 and 35 years old,
approximately 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing between 150 to 160 pounds. Apparently,
decomposition, insects and animals had caused the head to detach from the skeleton. The examiner
further stated that the actual cause of death was undetermined and surmised that the man's corpse had
been mutilated and the genitals may have been cut out. Decomposition of the body was greater in the
areas of the head, neck and lower pelvis, thus suggesting there had been severe injuries to those areas.
As with the first John Doe, investigators were unable to identify the victim and had no leads to follow.

Another Chilling Discovery

Two months after the discovery of John Doe number two, on March 7, 1996, a Cape Coral man
traveling down Route 75 in North Port pulled off onto Laramie Circle. The man got out of his vehicle
to relieve himself in the woods, but as he made his way past the tree line he was shocked to discover a
nude male corpse lying on the ground. The man quickly contacted the North Port Police Department.

Florida map showing general area where bodies were discovered

When investigators arrived at the scene they cordoned off the area with crime scene tape and began to
search for clues the killer might have left behind. The corpse appeared as though it had been posed
face-up, in the shape of a cross. The only telltale sign investigators found were rope marks on a nearby
The medical examiner later determined the victim had been murdered just 10 days before discovery.
The man's corpse bore four stab wounds and his genitals had been amputated. Cuts and scrapes were
found on the feet of the victim and slash marks were visible on the upper torso. Investigators
surmised that the man had attempted to flee from the killer just prior to his death. The medical
examiner also noted rope-like marks, suggesting the victim had been tied up before death.

Investigators had no leads and no information to help them identity their latest John Doe. A composite
sketch was drawn up and the victim was described as a white male, with auburn hair, between 35 and
45 years old, approximately 5 feet, 6 inches tall, with a muscular build and bad teeth.

Puzzle of Murder
On April 16, 1996, two Charlotte County road workers were working along Highway 41. Around
noon, they decided to take a break from the scorching sun and walked down a nearby hog trail to do a
little hunting.
As they reached the top of an embankment, they stopped momentarily and peered into a gulch below.
They immediately spotted a suspicious object in the shadows of the dim light. Uncertain what they
were looking at, the two hunters circumspectly made their way down the embankment to satiate their
curiosity. There, in thick underbrush of foliage, the two men found a human skull lying on the
ground. Horrified, the men quickly made there way back to their vehicle and drove to the nearest gas
station, where they found two police officers on their lunch break.
After listening to the stories of the two hunters, the officers agreed to accompany them back to the
scene. The officers looked closely at the skull and confirmed that it was human. They immediately
reported the discovery to headquarters. The woods were soon swarming with homicide investigators
from five agencies -- the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the State Attorney's Office, the
Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, the Fort Myers Police Department and the North Port Police
Investigators scoured the woods and soon made another startling discovery. Beneath a piece of old
carpet, they found the body of a young white male. The victim was lying nude on his back. Rope
burns were evident on his neck and investigators saw that the victim's genitals had been removed.
They also made note of fresh footprints visible around the body.

Richard Montgomery, body at crime scene

Detective Rickey Hobbs of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office was appointed as the lead
investigator. Hobbs' duty at the scene was to have the crime scene sketched, photographed, and
searched for possible clues. When pathologists finished their preliminary autopsy report on the second
corpse, they turned it over to investigators. The report stated that the victim found under the carpet
had been raped and strangled with a rope, possibly clothesline. The pathologists were also able to
identify the victim through dental records and fingerprints, as 21-year-old Richard Allen Montgomery.
Bill Kelly (The Fifteen Most Horrific Murder Cases Ever to Shock America) provides details, with
some from The NewsCoastHerald Tribune.


Investigators learned that Richard Montgomery had lived with his mother, at Palms & Pines Mobile
Home Park, east of Punta Gorda. He had been arrested several times in his short life. Charges ranged
from assault with a deadly weapon, to auto theft, burglary and possession of burglary tools, disorderly
intoxication and violation of probation.

North Port Police Department logo

Investigators interviewed Montgomery's friends and relatives, in hopes of gaining information that
might lead them toward solving the case. According to North Port Police records, neighbors at the
mobile home park described Montgomery as a problem child growing up. Shirl Gibson, a 20-year
resident of the park, told investigators park residents were afraid of him. He was constantly abusing
his mother and you didn't see him out and around much during the day, Gibson told investigators.
He never had a job and spent the nights partying. Cars came and went all the time at their place and
we wondered if they were doing drugs.
Montgomery's mother had little information for police, although she did state that a few weeks before
her son's death, he told her he had met a new friend named Dan Conahan.
While investigators continued to question Montgomery's friends and relatives, a group of police
workers returned to the scene in search of additional clues. Not far from the first victim they
discovered another mutilated corpse.

Upon discovery of the fourth and fifth victims, residents of Charlotte County were beginning to panic.
Was it a neighbor? One of their friends? And worse, no one knew when he might strike again.
In each case, Charlotte County Medical Examiner R.H. Imami arrived, took notes and placed the
remains in a body bag. Because of the humidity and weather, a body decomposes quickly in Florida,
and the advanced state of decomposition made time of death almost impossible to determine. During
interviews with local media, Imami said he believed one man was responsible for all of the murders.
Charlotte County Under Sheriff, Col. John Davenport, arranged a press conference and stated that
there was cause for residents to be concerned, but not panicked.
Do you have some mass murderer running around preying on the citizens out here? I don't think
there's cause for alarm in that way, he said. But we do not have that subject in custody that we know
of, so there is cause for concern.

Charlotte County Sheriff's patch

On April 17, 1996, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office began to share notes with the North Port
Police. A task force, comprising representatives from Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, North Port
Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and state attorney's offices of
Charlotte and Sarasota Counties were assembled. The group began meeting almost daily to work on
the unsolved homicides. Lt. Mike Gandy, head of the major crimes unit for the Charlotte County
Sheriff's Office, stated that, although task force members were not attributing the murders to the work
of a serial killer, they also were not ruling out the possibility.
We're investigating that as we have been right down the line, he said during an interview with the
News Coast Herald Tribune. We haven't gotten to that point yet, but we're still looking into that
The following day, television news stations broadcast alerts warning residents that a possible serial
killer was on the loose in the area. The reports stated the individual was either homosexual or
bisexual and most likely a schizophrenic sociopath, who probably lived in the area. Local newspapers
deemed the killings utterly, vile and depraved, and dubbed the incidents, The Hog Trail Killings,
as all of the murders occurred in remote areas, which were inhabited by wild boars.
While processing the second body discovered with Montgomery, medical examiners discovered a
faintly visible tattoo on the victims shoulder region. Photos were taken and investigators asked the
local media to publish them, in hopes it would help them identify the victim.
Theresa Smith, a Naples resident, called after seeing the picture of the tattoo. She told police she had
not seen her brother in some time and he had a similar tattoo. Medical examiners obtained her
brother's dental records and within days made a match.

Kenneth Smith
The victim was Theresa's 25-year-old brother, Kenneth Lee Smith. Kenneth had been a Charlotte
County resident, originally from Naples, Florida. Police did not have an address for Smith and did not
know how long he had been living in Charlotte County. The only information police could assemble
on Smith was that he had been arrested in Collier County in 1991, on charges of grand theft, eluding

officers, driving with a suspended license, petty theft, resisting arrest and reckless driving. In addition,
Smith had been arrested again in 1992, on a probation violation.

A Suspect Emerges
On May 8, 1996, 34-year-old David Allen Payton, an inmate at Glades Correctional Institute, in Moore
Haven, Florida, contacted investigators. Payton told law enforcement officers that he knew who was
committing the murders in Charlotte County. State Attorney Investigator Brian Kelly and Lt. John
Brock went to the prison to interview Payton.
According to reports in The Sun Herald, Payton informed Kelly and Brock that he had previously told
his story to Fort Myers Police in March, but they refused to believe him. He then went on to describe
the events that led up to his arrest.

Daniel Conahan
Payton stated that on March 5, 1995, he was on his way home from DJs bar on US Route 41, in Fort
Myers, Florida. It was a blistering summer day and he was feeling the effects of the alcohol he had
consumed. He made his way to a local bus stop and decided to sit down in the shade and sober up.
Shortly after sitting down, a blue Mercury Capri pulled up. The man driving the vehicle asked him if
he would like to drink some beer and smoke some pot. Payton said he agreed and got into the mans
The man identified himself as Daniel Conahan and gave his new friend beer and a Valium tablet, a
prescription tranquilizer. As the two men traveled down Zemel Road, in Charlotte County, Conahan
asked him if he would pose for nude photos. Payton replied that he was not interested and turned
down a hundred dollar bill Conahan offered him.
Payton stated that Conahans actions were unsettling to him and he started to get anxious when they
turned onto an isolated dirt road. As Conahan traveled down the desolate road his vehicle slid off to
the side and became stuck in a mud hole. Urgently wanting out of the car, Payton offered to get out
and push. Conahan turned down his offer and instructed him to stay in the car and steer, while he
pushed. However a four-wheel-drive truck soon appeared and the driver helped Conahan free his
vehicle. Payton sat alone in the car as Conahan spoke with the driver of the truck and decided to speed
off and leave Conahan behind. The drugs and alcohol made him sleepy, and the next thing he claimed
to recall was waking up in Fort Myers, where he was arrested for auto theft. The car he was accused of
stealing belonged to Daniel Conahan Sr., who reported it stolen while his son was driving it. Payton
was then sent to prison for the theft of the vehicle. The task force wanted to believe Paytons story and
requested that he take a lie-detector test. Payton agreed, and on May 9, 1996, he passed the test.

Sketch of suspect by police

Not long after interviewing Payton, two other witnesses, Charles Bateman and Robert Beckwith came
forward. Bateman and Beckwith had both been acquainted with Montgomery. They described a man
who looked like Conahan as a "dude" who had propositioned them. However, when presented with a
three-year-old driver's license photo of Conahan, the two could not positively identify him.
Investigators decided to drive Bateman to a parking lot near Conahan's home. Once there, the witness
spotted Conahan Sr.'s blue Capri and identified it.

The Big Link

On June 7, 1996, investigators received information about a report, which had been filed at the Fort
Myers Police Department on August 15, 1994, by 26-year-old Stanley Burden. In this report, Mr.
Burden stated he had been taken to a wooded area off Rockfill Road, in Fort Myers, where a white
male then assaulted him. He identified the perpetrator as "Dan," who drove a 1981 to 1985 gray
Plymouth station wagon.

Conahan's Car, impounded by police

In the report, Burden said the perpetrator tied him to a tree, sexually assaulted him and tried to strangle
him with a rope. Task force members were quickly located and Burden told them he was offered $120
for nude photos in the woods. Investigators noticed he still had scars around his wrist and neck from
the 1994 incident. During a lineup of six photographs, Burden identified Daniel Conahan Jr. as the
man who assaulted him. Lee Memorial Hospital records later strengthened Burdens story.

Daniel Conahan's fingerprints

In checking Conahan's background, detectives found that he had been discharged from the Navy in
1978, under threat of a court-martial for several counts of sodomy and physical assault. According to
Naval records, the offenses were part of a "continuing plan or scheme by Conahan, to lure service men
just beyond the limits of the Naval Training Center, in Great Lakes, Ill."

As the investigation into Conahan intensified, his credit card records were subpoenaed. Purchase
receipts showed that Conahan used his card to buy knives, alcohol, leather gloves, rope, plastic tarps,
and several dozen roles of Polaroid film.
In July, investigators issued a search warrant at Conahans home and seized anything they deemed
suspicious. Days later, they assembled enough evidence to serve an arrest warrant. Fibers from a
rope seized during the search of Conahans property matched fibers on the rope used in the attempted
strangulation of Stanley Burden. In addition, a paint chip, which was found in Montgomerys pubic
hair, matched a paint chip taken from Conahans fathers car. Fibers found on at least one tree were
also matched to a pair of Conahans gloves.

Daniel Conahan's booking sheet

On July 3, 1996, Daniel Conahan Jr. was arrested on one count of attempted first-degree murder, two
counts of sexual battery and one count of kidnapping, in connection with Stanley Burden. Conahan
was then held without bond in the Lee County Jail.

Daniel Owen Conahan Jr. was born on May 11, 1954, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly after his
birth, Daniels parents moved to Punta Gorda, Florida. While Conahan was raised in a middle-class
family, he was the product of a troubled childhood, which was intensified by the use of alcohol and
Friends of Daniel later described him as a loner. He realized he was gay while attending high school
and his family was not pleased with his new sexual disposition. In an attempt to help their son with his
sexuality, his parents sent him to several psychiatrists. Conahan was irritated at being treated as
though he were abnormal and stated many times that his sexuality was not a disease and could not be
It wasn't the kind of thing you were open about in the 1970s, Conahan later told investigators. But
I found a gay bar, and if I got there early, they wouldn't card me. Being gay is part of God's plan, too.
In 1973, Conahan graduated from Miamis Norland High School. Classmates described him as a quiet
loner, participating in school activities halfheartedly.
Conahan joined the Navy in 1977. Following boot camp, he was stationed at the United States Naval
Base in Great Lakes, Ill. Nonetheless, his career as a naval officer was short lived. The following
year, Conahan attempted to lure sailors off base for sex in a motel. He was eventually turned in and
threatened with a court martial, but the district attorney could not find anyone willing to testify against
him. Months later, Conahan attempted to perform oral sex on a sailor, which resulted in a vicious
brawl. Fed up with his dishonorable behavior, the Navy immediately discharged him.

After his discharge from the military, Conahan remained in Chicago for 13 years. He worked several
different jobs, but never seemed to fit in anywhere. The majority of his free time was spent
frequenting gay bars.
"I learned there are a lot of hitchhikers on U.S. 41 from North Port to Fort Myers, and some of them
were looking to perform sex acts for money, he told investigators. Yes, I did (proposition people).
And I took some pictures of people. I didn't have a place to take someone to or time to sit in the parks
and run into the bushes like some of them do, and I wasn't into (doing it in) bars.
In 1993, Conahan moved back to Florida, to live with his elderly parents in Punta Gorda. While living
with his parents, he took nursing classes at Charlotte Vocational-Technical Center in Port Charlotte. In
1995, he graduated at the top of his class and became a licensed practical nurse. Bill Kelly (The
Fifteen Most Horrific Murder Cases Ever to Shock America) provides details, with some from The
NaplesDaily News.

On August 2, 1996, Daniel Conahan was arraigned at the Lee County Courthouse on charges of
attempted first-degree murder; two counts of sexual battery and one count of kidnapping. He entered
pleas of not guilty on all counts. Lee County Assistant State Attorney Robert Lee said the not guilty
plea was expected. A lengthy file on Conahan insinuated that he might be the killer of the five
Charlotte County unsolved homicides, but the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office would not say if he
was the prime suspect.
We're still investigating the homicides, County Lt. Michael Gandy told reporters during a press
conference. I can tell you I believe the homicide cases will conclude satisfactorily.
On May 22, 1997, a county construction worker was clearing brush on a dirt path when he discovered
skeletal remains under a pepper tree near Quesada Avenue.
Homicide detectives did not know if the body was linked to the deaths of the five other men. The
victim was listed as John Doe #4. Because county workers were excavating at the time, any evidence
that might have been left behind was destroyed.
It was beginning to seem that Conahan would never go to trial. With delays, dismissed lawyers and
the death of his parents, time seemed to stand still. Conahan requested and received antidepressant
medication and constantly accused his accusers of deception, perjury and witness tampering.
Conahan admitted he picked up men on the streets and took them into wooded areas for paid sex. He
also admitted to photographing them and discussing bondage, but he claimed to have never tied
anyone up.
He's either an innocent man who's going to the chair or the most depraved, sick individual you'll
meet, Conahan's defense attorney, Mark Ahlbrand told reporters from the Associated Press.

William Patten
On March 16, 1998, investigators identified John Doe #4 as William "Billy" Charles Patten, by
comparing the skeletal DNA with that of his parents' genes. The coroner surmised that Patten had been
dead for several years. He had been employed as a landscaper and was reported missing by his family
in 1993, nearly three weeks after he was last seen carrying a cooler of beer toward the Barron Collier
Bridge. He was 24 years old at the time of his disappearance.

On June 28, 1999, three years after his arrest, Conahan, who was scheduled to go to trial in August,
gave a jailhouse interview to reporters. Lounging behind a wall of Plexiglas, in a graffiti-strewn room
in the Charlotte County Jail, he maintained his innocence and said he was sure he would be railroaded.

William Melaragno
Two days later, investigators identified John Doe #3, as 36-year-old John William Melaragno. A
native of Cleveland, Ohio, Melaragno moved to North Port in November 1995, with two women police
believed to be prostitutes.
On August 9, 1999, Conahan waived his right to a jury trial, citing extensive media coverage and the
fear of being convicted by a conservative jury because he was gay. Investigators suspected Conahan
was a serial killer, with a fondness for trees, rope, and bondage, but they agreed not to bring up any
other cases during the trial.
Conahan, while a suspect in at least five murders, was only charged with killing and raping Richard
Montgomery. He was later charged with the attempted murder of Stanley Burden, while investigators
were building a case against him in the Montgomery murder. However, after Conahan was indicted in
the Montgomery case, the state dropped the attempted murder charges.

Judge Blackwell examines map evidence

On August 10, 1999, opening arguments began. Presenting the states case was prosecutor Robert
"Bob" Lee. Conahans lead attorney for the defense was Mark Ahlbrand. The presiding judge was
20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William Blackwell, known around the corridors as, "Stonewall".
Citing the barbaric manner in which the victim had been murdered, prosecutors said they would be
seeking the death penalty. The evidence will show that the defendant has a very dark fantasy. A dark
fantasy that he would act out with very deadly consequences, Lee said during his opening statement.
Lee then told the court that Conahan was a lethal phantom and would stalk the streets, soliciting
transients to pose for money before assaulting them. He stated the defendant had deviant fantasies and
a paranoid personality and it was the combination of the two that led to the death of Montgomery.
Lee described Montgomery as a high school dropout, who abused drugs and alcohol. He was easy
prey when he was drunk or when he needed some money. In an effort to show Conahans evil nature,
Lee described how Montgomerys body was discovered close to the bludgeoned and sexually assaulted
remains of Kenneth Lee Smith. According to Lee, Conahan cut off Montgomerys genitals "with near
medical perfection," skills he would have gained while working as a nurse at Charlotte Regional
Medical Center. He did this, Lee said, because he felt that if he left them on the victim,
investigators would take saliva samples and his DNA would have linked him to the murder. His
terrible lust and passion spent and his dark fantasy fulfilled, he walked away with his gruesome trophy
in his hand.
In contrast, Ahlbrand told Judge Blackwell that the defendant did have an interest in sex with men, but
was not known to be aggressive in his relations with them. This man is on trial not because he is
guilty of the offense, but because he has adopted a lifestyle, which is similar to their scenario as to who
killed Richard Montgomery. He matched their little profile," Ahlbrand said. Ahlbrand also claimed
that Conahans bad back made him incapable of committing the crimes for which he was accused.
They're describing this as a very brutal, physically demanding thing and he was on his butt for about
two, three weeks, and he was bed-ridden for a couple months, Ahlbrand said.
Following opening statements, Montgomerys roommate was one of the first summoned to testify. He
stated that, on the day of his disappearance, Montgomery told him he was going to make $100 for
posing nude. He then left and walked toward Cox Lumber Yard, where Conahan presumably picked
him up.
When I asked him about it, the witness said, he just said hed be safe, not to worry.
Did you ever see him again?" prosecutor Lee asked.
"No, replied the witness.
Under cross-examination by the defense, the witness admitted that Montgomery did not specify it was
Conahan he was going to meet with when he left.

Star Witness

The states star witness, 29-year-old Stanley Burden, provided chilling insights into how six men may
have died at the hands of Conahan.
I live the attack every night, he told the court. You dont forget nothing. It just beats at you and
beats at you and tears you apart. Burden stated that he had been down on his luck in 1994, when
Conahan offered him $150 to go with him and pose for photographs. Burden was flat broke and
reluctantly agreed. The two men then got into Conahans car and drove to an isolated and wooded
area. As they walked down a hog trail, Conahan asked Burden if he ever had pictures taken in
bondage. I told him no. Then he said hed show me how to do it, Burden testified. Conahan began
by tying his hands around a tree and taking pictures of him in various explicit positions. Burden said
he felt awkward and alarmed when Conahan tied a rope around his neck. He said Here, Im going to
drape this just around your shoulders and take some pictures. Then he yanked straight back into the
tree, Burden continued. He said Conahan was covered with sweat, breathing heavy and cursing,
Why wont you die you son-of-a-bitch?
He tried with everything he could to kill me Burden said. You got your foot on the back of the tree
and youre pulling with everything youve got and it dont work. What would you do? It was like he
gave up. If he didnt have somewhere to go that day, I believe he would have tried to stand there and
keep going.
According to articles published by the Naples Daily News, Ahlbrand rebutted and said his client
admitted to being with Burden in August of 1994, but Burden had refused to be photographed in the
nude and they had consensual sex instead. Ahlbrand also reminded the court that Conahan was held a
year under those charges, while investigators tried to build a case against him and that the state had
dropped the Burden charges when they decided to indict Conahan in Montgomerys murder.
Ahlbrand further stated that the states star witness was a convicted pedophile, who admitted to having
used cocaine, alcohol and various other drugs. He also pointed out that Burden was currently serving
10 to 25 years, in the Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio, for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old
Burden then claimed that Conahans attack led him to assault the boy. How do you know that I would
ever have did that? he asked the judge directly. The kid asked me for sex. He said he was starting
his puberty or whatever. Thats what he wanted, so thats what he got.
The most important witness called upon by the prosecutors before resting their case was Paula Sauer, a
microanalyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Sauer testified she found 15 types of
fibers taken from Conahans home, his fathers 1984 Mercury Capri, which he sometimes drove and
his Plymouth station wagon. Sauer told the court a 16th type fiber, found on Conahans property,
matched fibers on a rope police alleged was used in the attempted strangulation of Stanley Burden.
Sauer used a film screen to explain her findings to the court. According to Sauer, an uncommon pink
fiber, called polypropylene, was lifted from Montgomerys body, and later matched to a length of rope
found in Conahans father's car.

Rope introduced as evidence during the trial

Janice Taylor, a senior crime lab analyst, enforced Sauer's testimony. Taylor testified that a paint chip
in Montgomerys pubic hair, matched a paint chip sample taken from the Capri. These two paint
chips were indistinguishable from each other, Taylor said.
On August 16, 1999, the sexual battery charge against Conahan was dismissed, after a medical
examiner testified there were no signs of semen on Montgomery and there was no trauma to his anus.

On August 17, 1999, after just 25 minutes of deliberation, Judge William Blackwell found Daniel
Conahan Jr. guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and kidnapping. Conahan stood silently as the
verdict was read aloud.
Outside the courtroom, Ahlbrand told reporters, Im never surprised with a verdict. Im always
disappointed with an adverse verdict. Im convinced Judge Blackwell began deliberating to some
extent throughout the trial, which is what Id expect a judge to do.
Conahans other attorney, Paul Sullivan, said it was up to Conahan to choose whether the penalty
phase of the trial would go before a jury or if he would let Judge Blackwell decide his fate. Conahan
later chose a penalty trial by jury.
On August 24, 1999, pointing to extensive newspaper and television coverage of his murder trial,
Conahan asked Judge Blackwell for a change of venue due to intense media coverage of the case. The
following month, his request was granted and Judge Blackwell ruled that Conahans penalty hearing
would be postponed and moved to the Collier County Courthouse, approximately 60 miles to the south
in Naples, Florida. Conahan's penalty hearing was then set for November 1, 1999.
In mid-October, Conahan argued that lawyers Paul Sullivan and Mark Ahlbrand failed to give him an
adequate defense in his murder trial. He said they did not argue that a sheriff's investigator altered
witness statements and they did not point out that one of the states witnesses committed perjury.
Nonetheless, Judge Blackwell found that Ahlbrand and Sullivan provided an adequate defense and
informed Conahan that if he chose to fire them he was on his own. Conahan, after a brief meeting with
his attorneys, informed the judge that he would continue to retain his lawyers.

On November 1, 1999, the penalty phase began. According to court records, the jury spent the
majority of the first day examining photographs of Conahan's handiwork. Jurors looked at pictures of
Richard Montgomery's corpse, as it appeared at the crime scene and during the autopsy. Wearing stern
faces, the panel members examined the rope grooves on Montgomery's wrists and neck. They were
also shown photographs of Montgomery's back, which was scraped in a criss-cross pattern,
presumably caused from shifting back and forth against the tree while attempting escape. One juror
stared long and hard at the picture of Montgomery's groin, which was missing its genitals.
Later that day, jurors listened to Conahans 80-year-old aunt describe him as friendly, jovial and
honest. She testified that Conahan was dedicated to his parents, moving from Chicago to Punta
Gorda to care for them.
Prosecutors rested their case after Lee County medical examiner, Dr. Carol Huser, testified
Montgomery was likely conscious long enough to realize what was happening, as Conahan strangled
him. Deputy State Attorney Marshall King Hall then asked, Dr. Huser, would that be a terrifying

It sure would terrify me, she responded.

During cross-examination of Huser, defense attorney Paul Sullivan asked questions about erotic
asphyxiation -- cutting off breathing to heighten sexual arousal. However, Hall was quick to point out,
the implication that Montgomery died this way begs the question of why Montgomery's genitals were
During closing arguments, prosecutor Bob Lee told jurors Conahan murdered the victim for twisted
sexual gratification. Afterwards, Conahan stood and shouted to the jury, I do not know Mr.
Montgomery, nor did I ever! Blackwell had bailiffs rush the jury out of the courtroom and told
Conahan he could behave himself, be bound and gagged, or leave. Conahan replied he wanted to
leave, but on the advise of his attorneys he decided to stay.
On November 3, 1999, after deliberating for just 22 minutes, the jury recommended that Judge
Blackwell execute Daniel Conahan Jr. for the murder of Richard Montgomery. The following month,
on December 10, 1999, Judge William Blackwell announced his decision. It is obvious that during
this ordeal, Montgomery was confined or imprisoned against his will, Blackwell read from a
document. Such confinement against his will was for the obvious purpose of inflicting bodily harm
upon the victim or terrorizing him. The crime was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel. Two
medical examiners testified that many of Montgomery's wounds were inflicted before he died. May
God have mercy on his soul, Judge Blackwell said as he sentenced Daniel Owen Conahan Jr. to death.

The Florida Hog Trail victims were all found within a ten-mile radius of one another, all were
transients, four were posed on their backs, three had missing genitals and one was dismembered and
scattered. All the bodies were found within 10 miles of Conahan's home and police suspect Conahan
may have gotten rid of body parts in hospital biohazard containers, while working as a nurse.
No charges have ever been filed in connection with the other murders, although Conahan is labeled as
the prime suspect in those cases. An officer close to the investigation, has anonymously stated that he
has no doubt that Conahan is responsible for the murders, further stating that the murders were
committed in such a unique and distinctive way, that it is extremely unlikely another perpetrator
committed the murders.
On October 19, 2000, two transients stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a human body in Murdock.
The gruesome discovery immediately stirred up images of the six other bodies found years earlier. The
remains were found in a wooded clearing south of Peachland Boulevard. The remains of Billy
Patten, believed to be one of the Conahan victims, were found in a wooded area, which was visible
from this latest crime scene. Police have yet to comment on whether this latest skeleton may be linked
to the other murders.
Cpl. Rick Hobbs from the Charlotte County Sheriff's Major Crimes Unit was the Case Agent on the
Conahan Case. Investigators are still attempting to identify the remaining unidentified victims.


Daniel Conahan, prison ID photo

During September 2001, Conahan appealed his death sentence before the Florida Supreme Court.
According to records held by the Florida Clerk of Courts, Paul Helm, assistant public defender of the
10th Circuit in Bartow, represented the 46-year-old Conahan before the seven justices of the Florida
Supreme Court. Robert J. Landry, assistant attorney general of Tampa, represented the state.
Conahans attorney argued that the state did not prove premeditation and that Montgomery's killing
occurred when a sex game went awry. Regardless, the state pointed out that purchasing ropes and a
knife and withdrawing money from an ATM showed premeditation.
Helm then tried to get the kidnapping charge dismissed, arguing that there was no way to determine
when the victim withdrew consent to be with Conahan.
It took nearly two years for the Florida Supreme Court to finally reach a decision. On January 16,
2003, they rejected Conahans appeal, affirming the convictions and sentences, including the sentence
of death.
As of this writing, Daniel Conahan Jr. continues to declare his innocence.
As Daniel Conahan sits on death row awaiting his fate, many wonder if there are more victims yet to
be found. In addition, some investigators suspect that several recent discoveries may be tied to
Conahan, including:
Jan. 6, 2002 - County employees discover human remains near a landfill, off Zemel Road. The body
remains unidentified and the case is still being investigated as a homicide.
January 2001 - Landscapers unearth human bones on Grouper Hole Drive in Boca Grande.
Nov. 28, 2001 - During construction near U.S. 41 in Charlotte Harbor, construction crews discover
human remains, later determined to be male.
Oct. 19, 2000 Skeletal remains are found in some woods west of Toledo Blade Boulevard.
Cpl. Rick Hobbs from the Charlotte County Sheriff's Major Crimes Unit asks that anyone with
information contact him at 941-575-5351.

Books & Articles:
Kelly, Bill, The Fifteen Most Horrific Murder Cases Ever to Shock America. Not yet published.

Kelly, Bill, Along the Hog Trails. Available on the Internet.

The Sun Herald Florida
News Coast Herald Tribune Florida
Naples Daily News - Florida
Associated Press
Court Television Network
Florida State Courts
Charlotte County Clerk of Courts
Doe Network