Last Saturday, police say, a 48-year-old Houston man named David Conley climbed in a window of the house where his ex-girlfriend lived with her husband and six kids. Using rope, and handcuffs he’d bought a few days earlier, he restrained the entire family. He then shot them all, one by one, starting with his ex-girlfriend’s husband, and ending with her.
Police took Conley into custody after an hour-long standoff.
Why hasn’t this horrific case of mass murder gotten the media attention that other mass shootings have gotten? Possibly because seven of the eight victims were black.
And possibly because, well, cases of men murdering their families are so common that they barely make the national news any more — even when the men in question kill more people than many much-better known mass murderers.
Someone shooting random people in a theater or a mall — that’s news. Men killing their exes and their children? That’s just part of the background noise.
Conley has reportedly confessed to everything, telling police in detail how he planned and carried out the eight murders. He has a long history of violence, having served five years in jail for a previous attack on his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Valerie Jackson.
In a series of jailhouse interviews, he’s been a bit more cagey on the question of guilt. But he’s been a lot less shy in discussing the motives for the murders he won’t publicly admit to.
He seems to have murdered eight people because Valerie wasn’t raising her children the way he wanted them raised. (Never mind that he was an on-again, off-again father as well as an on-again, off-again boyfriend, and that only one of the six children was his.)
And he was angry at her for “cheating” on him — with her husband.
The children “were growing up to be monsters, they were disrespectful,” Conley complained to one local TV reporter. “I’m not saying they’re dead because of that. I’m not even saying I killed them.”
“The Bible says, ‘Thou shall respect your mother and father or your days shall be short,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m not God, but you know, then, I’m the man of the house.”
Let that sink in for a second:
“I’m not God, but you know, then, I’m the man of the house.”
At the time of the murders, of course, Valerie’s husband, Dwayne Jackson, was the “man of the house.” But Conley felt that Dwayne, the father of five of the six children, was somehow usurping his own rightful authority.
“He tried to pimp out over me and take everything, rule over my house.” he complained to one local TV reporter. “How would you feel?”
But it seems pretty clear that his most virulent anger was aimed at Valerie. He blamed the alleged bad behavior of the children — particularly his son Nate — on her.
“Nate didn’t give me any respect because of what his mother was doing to me,” he told the TV reporter. “She was cheating on me.”
Conley apparently made her pay for this “disrespect,” killing her last, after forcing her to witness the murder of her husband and her six children.
Yet he seems to think he’s the victim here — disrespected by his children, his authority as “man of the house” usurped by another man, and “cheated” on by a woman he had previously beaten and repeatedly left. When he asked a reporter “how would you feel,” he apparently assumed the reporter would feel some sympathy for him.
This is toxic masculinity at its worst.