Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga Part 1
ELKHART, Ind. - For months, ABC57 Investigates has been digging into shocking accusations of police misconduct and coerced confessions within the Elkhart City Police Department.
These accusations have led to people, who, in some cases, spent decades in prison, being found not guilty and walking free.
ABC57 Investigates introduces our new series, Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga.
Currently, there are five people who have been exonerated in Elkhart. In July, Andrew Royer, became the fifth.
In Royer's Post-Conviction Relief Appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals found that a former detective, still employed by the Elkhart Police Department as a lieutenant, lied under oath.
Carl Conway started with the Elkhart Police Department in January 1998 and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a lieutenant. Now, over 20 years later, he’s still on the force, but Royer's murder case, which he started investigating in 2003, is now in the spotlight.
Conway accused Royer of murdering 94-year-old Helen Sailor in 2002 in her high-rise Elkhart apartment complex.
Royer was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 55 years. He spent more than a decade and a half behind bars, but new evidence suggests that the interrogation process was flawed.
Elliot Slosar, an attorney and adjunct law professor at the University of Notre Dame who works with the Exoneration Justice Clinic (which is compromised of law students) at the university, explains what happened.
"As a detective, Carl Conway interrogated Andy Royer over the course of two days, without recording it, and coerced him into a false confession," Slosar says.
Royer’s legal team, which includes Slosar as well as students from the Exoneration Justice Clinic, uncovered the fact that Lt. Conway lied and contradicted himself multiple times while under oath. That includes dismissing concerns about Royer's mental state and challenges.
After learning the details, Elkhart Police Chief Kris Seymore, who, according to records we obtained, has been chief since July 2020, but has been with the department since 1998, recommended Lt. Conway be fired.
A month ago, we sent Elkhart Police nearly a dozen records requests, which included trying to obtain more information on Conway's disciplinary record. On Monday morning, we received the first of those requests. We are working to go through those documents now.
While waiting on those documents, ABC57 Investigates sat down and talked with both Elkhart Police Chief Kris Seymore and Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson.
"I can live with mistakes as long as there’s ownership, as long as there’s a learning curve because that’s what discipline is designed for, people to learn from their mistakes, but, in an instance where behavior is intentional, is where I will and I have to draw the line," Chief Seymore says.
In the last two years, at least 20 Elkhart police officers have been reprimanded under Seymore's leadership, which the chief says ranges from minor verbal infractions up to termination.
Mayor Roberson wants people to know that city leadership is taking these investigations seriously.
"I hate the fact... whenever I see our police department investigated," Mayor Roberson says. "But I like the thought that nothing is being swept under the rug. Everything is being looked at in earnest and folks are going to be held accountable."
Lt. Conway is the fifth person to face termination under Seymore's leadership.
Seymore says the other four firing recommendations were for policy violations. The city’s Police Merit Board has only approved two.
On Tuesday night, ABC57 Investigates digs deeper into Lt. Carl Conway’s personnel file.
The Police Merit Board will meet on October 6 to decide Lt. Conway’s fate with the Elkhart Police Department.