HOUSTON — David Conley told Harris County Sheriff’s investigators that he broke into his former home and killed eight people because the woman he formerly lived with had changed the locks on the doors, according to a Harris County prosecutor.
During probable cause court Sunday, a prosecutor recounted Conley’s statement to investigators that he broke into the home Saturday through an open window after Valerie Jackson changed the locks. Assistant District Attorney Celeste Byrom went on to say Conley, 48, then told investigators that he restrained eight people with handcuffs, including Jackson and a 6-year-old boy, and shot them in the back of the head.
Doctors at the scene of the 2200 block of Falling Oaks, near Veterans Memorial and Fallbrook Drive, said all eight victims suffered gunshot wounds to the head and died at the scene.
Conley, who didn’t appear in court, has been charged with three counts of capital murder and had bond denied. He’s being held in the Harris County Jail.
The dead were identified as parents Dewayne Jackson, 50, his wife Valerie Jackson, 40, and children Nathaniel, 13, Dewayne, 10, Honesty, 11, Caleb, 9, Trinity, 7, and Jonah, 6. Nathaniel was believed to be Conley’s son from the relationship with Valerie Jackson. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office had earlier said that there were three adults and five children killed.
“We do not — cannot — fully comprehend the motivation of an individual that would take the lives of so many innocent people. Especially the lives of the youngest,” said Chief Deputy Tim Cannon of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “The killer’s motives appear to be related to a dispute with Valerie, who was a former domestic partner.”
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Cannon said the incident is a tragedy with which the community is all too familiar.
“We’re here today on a very sad day,” Cannon said. “We’re here with our brothers in arms standing behind us because we’re all hurting. It’s a difficult day for us at the sheriff’s office. Once again, a tragedy has struck … our city. Our hearts go out to those … affected by this tragedy.”
Conley has an extensive criminal history that dates back to 1988, including incidents of family violence, drugs and driving while under the influence.
Conley was recently charged with assaulting a family member — his second such charge — July 8 when he allegedly pushed his girlfriend’s head against a refrigerator multiple times, according to court documents. Conley reportedly told his girlfriend to discipline her 10-year-old son because he returned home from a park after dark. When she said no, Conley reportedly got a belt and said he would do it himself, court documents said. His girlfriend then reportedly grabbed the belt out of Conley’s hands and that’s when he allegedly pushed her head against the refrigerator.
In 2013, Conley was charged and convicted of aggravated assault of a family member when he threatened this same girlfriend with a knife. An emergency protective order and a no contact order was issued against Conley, court reports show, and he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months in county jail.
Deputies called to perform a welfare check Saturday evening got no response at the door to the home when they arrived, Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Thomas Gilliland said. Officers then received more information that indicated a man in the home was wanted on a warrant for aggravated assault on a family member.
The sergeant on the scene called for a High Risk Operations Unit, similar to SWAT, to help make entry and investigate. While the call was being placed, deputies surrounded the home and spotted the body of a juvenile through a window.
At that point, the four deputies on scene forced their way in, and the male suspect inside began shooting, the sheriff’s office said. Deputies pulled back and waited for the HROU to arrive.
After more than an hour the man, later identified as Conley, came outside and surrendered.
The bodies of eight people were found in the home.
Neighbors were in disbelief Sunday.
“I cannot believe it,” said Adela Ramirez. “I am in horrific shock.”
Family assistance counselors were helping the deputies who answered the call “decompress,” Gillilland said.
“It’s a hard job being a patrolman in this town, and our deputies do a yeoman’s job every day,” Gilliland said. He added that counseling is important “when someone so callous could do something like this to children.”