Teen Kills Brother, Loves TV Show 'Dexter': Life Imitating Art?

Photo: Andrew Conley
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Rising Sun, Ind., is a sleepy town on the Ohio River with quaint streets, 100-year-old buildings, and benches along the riverfront that beckon you to sit and contemplate. But every once in awhile there's a surprise here, and that came on Nov. 28, 2009.

Late one night, Andrew Conley, 17, walked up to the phone outside the Rising Sun Police Department and reported a crime so horrific and unusual that even seasoned detectives were disturbed by it.

Conley had murdered his own brother, 10-year-old Conner. He had strangled him with his own bare hands.

"He asked me to stop and I just couldn't," Conley told "20/20."

Click here to watch the full interview with Andrew Conley on the latest full episode of "20/20."

"It hit me that I had just killed my brother and that I was going to be what I thought I was going to be all along -- a monster," Conley confided to police.

Det. Tom Baxter has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and led the interrogations of Conley.

"In the manner that he talked to me was, almost as though, 'I'm sorry you have to hear this because I'm assuming you've never heard anything so terrible before,'" Baxter said.

Equally terrible to some were Andrew Conley's fascination with the fictional serial killer Dexter Morgan from Showtime's hit series, "Dexter."

"The fact is, he has said on numerous occasions he had fantasized about killing people," prosecutor Aaron Negangard told "20/20." "He told us he was reading books about it—on serial killers. He was watching Dexter."

Indeed, just an hour into his first interrogation with police, Conley told them, "I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's called 'Dexter', and it's on Showtime. And I feel like him because he's a serial killer of bad people…but I just feel like him."

But it remains a mystery as to why Conley killed his little brother. Even when pressed by "20/20" during a three-hour interview, there were few answers.

"I don't know," was Conley's repeated response. "I'm just a person that did a horrible thing and I shouldn't be alive for that."

Like many real psychopaths, the fictional Dexter Morgan's harrowing exterior hides a disturbing hollowness inside. As Dexter himself says in season one, episode one: "People fake a lot of human interaction, but I feel like I fake them all. And I fake them very well."

'No Tears. Just an Explanation'

That sounded much like Conley just 24 hours after disposing of his brother's body in nearby woods.

"I don't see why sometimes people get so happy over something or upset over a little thing," Conley told police. "I just sit there with a blank face."

"I don't know how you could commit a crime like that and not be emotional about it," said Det. Baxter. "No tears. Just an explanation."

Extensive pre-trial interviews conducted with psychologists, psychiatrists, friends and family also shed scant light on an immediate cause, but one of Conley's closest childhood friends did tell "20/20" there was "massive amounts of neglect throughout his childhood" and that Conley's family "just kind of ignored him." Andrew Conley's mother, Bridget Conley, would not talk to ABC News on camera.

Dr. Edward Connor, one of four doctors who evaluated Andrew Conley shortly after the murder, wrote in his psychological assessment that Conley, "struggl(ed) with various severe psychiatric symptoms throughout his latency and young adolescent years."

As for Conley's feelings about the show "Dexter," Connor told ABC News, "When a person is tormented already to begin with…they over-identify with the character and sometimes, in fantasy, act as if they are that person."

Even a life sentence in prison did not stop Conley's fascination with "Dexter." In a jail video that recorded the visit of a family friend, Conley asks about the show's most recent plot developments, peppering the friend with questions and comments such as "Whoa, and did Dexter kill Trinity?" and "So Dexter got arrested? Dang. That's cool."

Still, not everyone buys the connection between "Dexter" and Conner's murder. The family friend featured in the jail video, Beth Hurley, said, "In my mind it is just a show. Just a show. I watch it. My kids watch it…I didn't connect 'Dexter' to the act with Conner."

Conley Attempted Suicide

Despite all the unanswered questions about Andrew's behavior, one thing is clear: He admits to being deeply depressed, probably for years. In fact, he says he tried to kill himself long before he killed his brother. He said he tried hanging himself, overdosing on pills and chemicals and electrocuting himself in the bathtub.

"I put a space heater in the bathtub…it shocked me, but it just wasn't enough," he said.

Andrew's mother, Bridget, has never visited her son in prison.

"I think there are a lot of children and a lot of teenagers who are lost," Connor said. "And they're looking for an identification that they often find in the media."

Click here to watch the full interview with Andrew Conley on the latest full episode of "20/20."

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