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Md. Can't Prosecute In 1990 Shooting

Allison Klein

Dec 16, 2005 | Washington Post

retail store 

When he died at age 50 three months ago, his death was blamed on that long-ago shooting. But because of a quirk in Maryland laws, the man who pulled the trigger can't be charged with murder, and the family is dismayed.

"Why can't he get charged with murder now?" asked Eugene Conley's sister Donna Conley. "He murdered my brother. You don't shoot somebody three times and hope they live. He should be punished for what he did."

His mother, Eloise Conley, 67, remembered her son yesterday as she sat in her living room in Northeast Washington, baby-sitting for her great-granddaughter.

Once a ladies' man and manual laborer, Eugene Conley's physical and mental health slowly deteriorated after the shooting. At the end, he could neither walk nor leave the house, his mother said.

The Conleys think Anthony Stroman, who was convicted in 1993 of shooting and robbing Eugene Conley, should now be prosecuted for his death. Stroman, 45, is serving a 30-year prison sentence for attempted murder and other charges.

The reason is because the shooting happened in 1990.

State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey researched the issue yesterday and found a twist in the Maryland statutes that prevents him from prosecuting Stroman for murder.

If the crime was committed before October 1996, murder charges can only be brought if the victim dies within a year and a day of the attack. If the victim lives longer than that, as in Conley's case, murder charges cannot be sought.

The statute of limitations law changed in 1996, and there is now no time limit for prosecution between when a person is harmed and when he or she dies, Ivey said. But the new law didn't apply to crimes that took place before 1996.

Ivey added that old cases are often difficult to prove in court.

For the Conleys, yesterday's news was a particularly hard blow. They said they don't want Stroman to ever be released from prison.

"This man murdered my brother 15 years ago," Donna Conley said. "He stole his soul 15 years ago. All these years, my brother couldn't even go to the bathroom alone."

The D.C. medical examiner's office told Eloise Conley that her son's death was ruled a homicide because he had a tremendous amount of scar tissue in and around his organs caused by the bullets.

The police also classified the case as a homicide, the county's 164th for the year.

"He was very healthy before the shooting," Eloise Conley said.

After the shooting, Eugene Conley was in a hospital for six months, then in intensive rehabilitation.

The bullets injured most of his internal organs, she said, leaving him in constant pain. He was able to walk a bit, but taking three steps often would take 15 minutes.

Eugene Conley rarely left the house after he was shot. If he did, he took someone with him or told his mother where he was going and when he'd be back.

"Sometimes he'd wake up fighting and screaming in his sleep," his mother said.

Eloise Conley worked as a nurse for 30 years but quit in 1994 to take care of her son. He usually stayed in, reading books and doing crossword puzzles. During the last two months, he could not see.

He began to drink heavily, going to bed and waking up with a vodka bottle, his mother said. "He didn't know how else to deal with his pain," she said.

Eugene Conley almost never spoke of what happened to him, and when he did, it was brief and many years after the incident.

But family members often relive the violent incident in their minds. On Oct. 8, 1990, Eugene Conley had just cashed his paycheck at a liquor store at Eastern Avenue and Riggs Road. He was headed to his car when a gunman approached.

"If he had just asked my brother for the money, he would have given it to him," Donna Conley said. "He didn't have to shoot him."

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