Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga Part 6
ELKHART, Ind. - If Andrew Royer didn’t kill Helen Sailor, then why did he confess to the crime?
Back in July, Royer was exonerated of that murder. That's when ABC57 Investigates began looking into his case and the Elkhart Police Department.
On this week's segment, ABC57 Investigates spoke to a world-renowned expert in false confessions and obtained deposition video of former Elkhart Police Lt. Carl Conway.
Dr. Richard Leo is a professor of law and psychology at the University of San Francisco. He's one of the world’s foremost authorities on police interrogations, coercion, and false confessions.
He testified as an expert witness in Andrew Royer’s post-conviction relief hearings.
"Imagine being in a police interrogation room, being aggressively interrogated or yelled at, lied to, and manipulated for four, five, six, nine hours over two days," Dr. Leo says, comparing it to a kid wanting to get out of class.
On September 3, 2003, Andrew Royer was brought in to the Elkhart Police Department to be questioned in the murder of 94-year-old Helen Sailor.
"There’s a good factual record now, even though the interrogation itself wasn’t recorded," Dr. Leo explains.
In back to back days, former Elkhart Police Detective Carl Conway interrogated Royer for nine hours, but only one hour of audio recordings exist.
ABC57 Investigates submitted a public records request for those recordings, but we were denied citing "confidentiality."
"It's very unprofessional and indicative of a disregard of memorializing the truth not to record when you’re previously recording," Dr. Leo says.
That's because Dr. Leo says Elkhart Police stopped video recordings sometime around 1997, shortly after Edgar Garrett, who falsely confessed to killing his daughter, was acquitted of her murder.
But with Royer, there were two audio statements, one on September 3 and another on September 4.
"They’d already charged him with murder by the time of the second interrogation," Royer's attorney Elliot Slosar says. "The fact that a second interrogation happened is an indictment of the fact that the first interrogation was fatally flawed."
So, why interrogate Royer a second time if he already confessed?
"He was drifting, he was having a difficult time staying focused," Carl Conway said in a 2018 deposition video ABC57 Investigates obtained.
And Royer's mental fatigue happened four hours into the September 3 interrogation, according to the Conway deposition. In that deposition video, Conway says, despite Royer’s mental state, he decide to record Royer’s confession.
Elliot Slosar: Isn’t true that you had to remind him that he actually gave a confession to murder?
Conway: Yes sir.
Dr. Leo says some people with mental issues, like Andrew Royer, are weaker and can break easier under pressure during a long interrogation.
"All of us think we would never falsely confess, but the truth is we all have a breaking point," Dr. Leo explains, believing Royer's breaking point came much sooner than most.
In Conway’s deposition, he appears to be confused about whether or not he knew Royer had a mental illness. At one point he said this:
Slosar: Isn’t it true you were aware that he had a disability?
Conway: Yes sir.
But later in the deposition, Conway contradicts himself.
Conway: As of today, I still have no knowledge of him having intellectual deficits.
But Conway knew Royer was seeking treatment at Oaklawn. He also knew there was an opinion that Royer had "the mind of a child" and "would do an say anything he was asked."
Dr. Leo authored a 38-page report on everything wrong with Royer’s confession, including documenting a sizable number of contradictions Royer made. Some of those contradictions are:
- Royer said Sailor’s apartment was cleaned, but it was wrecked.
- He said Sailor’s body was in the kitchen, but actually she was found in the bedroom.
- Royer said he pawned Sailor’s jewelry, but the pawnshop had no record of it.
"He got fact after fact after fact wrong in his confession and that should’ve been a red flag to any properly trained interrogator," Dr. Leo says.
We asked Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker if these were red flags to her.
"I cannot really comment on evidence in the Royer case because there is a possibility we go forward again," Becker stated.
Royer’s attorneys say if that’s the case, they’re ready.
"Detective Conway admitted on the stand that he was only ever able to corroborate two facts from Andy Royer’s confession – one that he lived in the building and two that he knew Lana Canen and that is an indictment – as clear of an indictment as you can ever get – that the information that was elicited from Andy Royer was false," Slosar explains.
In that deposition video, Lt. Conway couldn’t remember who prepped him to take the stand in Royer's murder trial in 2005. An Indiana Court of Appeals called his testimony "perjury." Conway said in the deposition that he believed one of the people who prepped him was Vicki Becker.
We still have yet to hear any comment from 11 people and agencies about Becker’s shocking comments on our last segment that she was an eyewitness to Royer’s interrogation, which raises questions about whether or not she knew Conway was lying on the stand.
To watch the other parts of our series, click here.