Conway evidence suppression hearing concludes

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WATERTOWN — In the second part of an evidence suppression hearing Tuesday, Michael J. Conway testified to his actions the night before an interview with police in connection with the 2015 death of Vicki L. Miller.

Conway, 53, was previously charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, first-degree criminal contempt and reckless endangerment for allegedly causing the death of Ms. Miller, 56, but pleaded not guilty to all counts in September 2017. Ms. Miller was found dead in September 2015.

Mr. Conway testified that he had been questioned by police on Sept. 11, 2015, and police had not allowed him to return home that night. Instead, he spent the night at the Rainbow Motel, first stopping home to collect medicines and a 12-pack of beer in a duffel bag, which was presented to the court as evidence.

“I drank beer, took medication, watched TV,” Mr. Conway told the court. He said he thought he had drunk all 12, although after seeing one left in the duffel bag, said he must have only drunk 11.

After that, “I went down to the Rainbow Motel store and bought another 12 pack,” he said.

He said he did not remember his interview at the police station.

“I do not remember going back to the police station, just leaving the motel,” he said.

Mr. Conway also said he did not leave his reading glasses at the police station on Sept. 12.

The main focus of the day’s hearing was Mr. Conway’s various medical conditions for which he was prescribed his medication, including treatment for post concussion syndrome.

“It makes me tired, confused, I don’t remember names, dates, stuff like that, I can’t fill out paperwork anymore,” Mr. Conway testified.

Attorney Michael J. Vavonese, who is representing Mr. Conway, called Angela Watson, who at the time of his arrest, worked with Mr. Conway as a health home care manager. She testified that for 15 months she helped him get to medical appointments and work through issues caused by a traumatic brain injury, back pain and depression.

“Mike was very forgetful, he was in constant pain, after 10 minutes of walking he’d have to sit down,” Ms. Watson testified. She filled out paperwork for him, as he was not able to fill it out himself.

“He struggled to do yardwork,” she said.

At the last hearing, Officer Ernest Miller testified that Mr. Conway had said he spent most of the day before Ms. Miller was found dead mowing his lawn and doing yardwork. Mr. Miller said that the lawn was not completely mowed.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Lt. Christopher Thomas also testified, along with Dr. Claudine Ward and Oliver Brown, an emeritus professor of pharmacology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Dr. Ward, who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation, had seen Mr. Conway as a patient for his concussion. She said he had short-term memory problems and difficulty processing at speed.

At one appointment, “he said he had memory deficits and couldn’t recall things that happened the previous day,” she told the court.

She gave him a test called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. The test is scored out of 30, and a normal score is 26, according to Dr. Ward. Mr. Conway, she said, scored a 12.

She testified that his symptoms were “increasingly more concerning for dementia.” At their last meeting in August 2015, Mr. Conway said he had stopped taking his medication, and Dr. Ward encouraged him to begin taking it again.

Mr. Brown had prepared a report for the court on the five medications found in Mr. Conway’s duffel bag that he said he had taken in addition to drinking the beer on the night of Sept. 11. These included two anti-depressants, a muscle relaxant and a drug mostly taken for seizures or pain relief. Mr. Brown said they could have made Mr. Conway groggy and affected his ability to think clearly.

“That’s what they are intended to do, is change the chemistry of the brain,” Mr. Brown said. If taken all together on top of alcohol, “a lot of unusual things could happen, let’s put it that way.”

No decision was made at the conclusion of the hearing, and both defense and prosecution were told to submit legal arguments in writing.

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