Inside a segregation cell in a Houston jail, David Conley waits, passing the time talking to reporters about the rocky relationship he had with his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Earlier this week, he was charged with numerous counts of capital murder after he allegedly sneaked into her home through a window and fatally shot her, her common-law husband and her six children — each one in the back of the head.
Authorities said Conley, 49, killed Valerie Jackson, 40, her husband, Dwayne Jackson, and the six children, including his son, 13-year-old Nathaniel.
“I love Nate. I love Nate to death,” he told KPRC-TV earlier this week. Though, he said, he has wondered for years whether he is the child’s biological father.
“I understand how it looks, but it’s not like that,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “The Bible says, ‘Thou shall respect your mother and father or your days shall be short.’ I’m not God, but you know, then, I’m the man of the house.”
Conley said his attorney advised him not to talk about the allegations against him but in an interview he told a KHOU-TV reporter: “I’m only human.”
In jailhouse interviews, Conley has instead focused on his relationship with Jackson who, over the years, bounced back and forth between him and Dwayne Jackson. He claimed Valerie Jackson had cheated on him with Dwayne — a “demon” and a “monster” who was “harassing” him.
“He tried to pimp out over me and take everything, rule over my house. How would you feel?” he told KPRC-TV. “Dwayne was a monster and Valerie, she was no Good Samaritan either. They did evil things all the time.”
Conley also said Jackson wouldn’t discipline the children so they were “growing up to be monsters.”
“They were disrespectful, rude in school,” he told the TV news station. “I’m not saying they’re dead because of that. I’m not even saying I killed them.”
When Conley met Jackson in 1999, he said, he was “trying to do the right thing in life.” He had been in trouble for auto theft, cocaine possession and evading arrest, according to court records. The next year, the two had a daughter.
Jackson’s mother has reportedly had custody of the daughter for years.
Around that time, Conley was arrested and charged in a domestic violence dispute. Jackson told police Conley had cut her neck, punched her in the face and wrapped an electrical cord around the baby’s neck. The handling of that case became an issue this week after he was charged in the murders when local media reported that, given Conley’s previous felony convictions, the prosecutor in that case could have sought the maximum sentence — 25 years to life — but opted in 2002 to accept a plea deal instead for five years behind bars.
Conley said the domestic abuse allegations against him “were all lies.”
“Basically what happened to that case is what happens with so many domestic violence cases: The victim recanted her story,” Jeff McShan with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office told KHOU-TV.
McShan said Jackson then blamed the alleged abuse on an ex-boyfriend.
“We went all the way up to the trial date hoping she would tell the truth about what happened, show up for court, but we couldn’t even locate her,” he said.
Conley and Jackson then reportedly had a son, Nathaniel, though Conley said paternity was never proved.
For years, Jackson went back and forth between Conley and Dwayne Jackson.
“I never tried to hold her back,” Conley told the Houston Chronicle, “but then she would always try to run off and be with him.”
Valerie Jackson had five children with Dwayne Jackson.
Early on, Conley was reportedly married to another woman. His estranged wife, Vernessa Conley, told Fox News that Conley had abused her years ago.
“He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me out of the bed and he drug me over the floor and he took an extension cord, the orange ones that you use,” she said, “and he wrapped it around my neck and I blacked out.”
“If I hadn’t left he probably would have killed me,” she added.
Conley and Jackson’s troubles came to a head last month when Conley allegedly attempted to discipline Jackson’s 10-year-old with a belt. Police said she tried to grab the belt from him but he slammed her head into a refrigerator. Police issued a warrant for his arrest.
Conley told the Houston Chronicle he left the house that he claims he shared with Jackson and went to a motel. Ultimately, he decided to move out but, when he realized he didn’t have anywhere else to go, he went back, according to KPRC-TV.
On Saturday morning, Conley discovered Jackson had changed the locks, police said, so he slipped through an unlocked window. At some point that morning, Jackson’s brother, Earl Yanske, who was in Montana, said he heard Conley was in the house. He tried to call Conley. No answer. Then a family member phoned police.
Deputies went to the home several times throughout the day but nothing seemed amiss. Finally, about 11 p.m., Yanske said, his cellphone rang. It was Conley, returning his call.
“‘I need to ask you a question,’” Yanske said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “‘Did you kill my sister?’”
“He said, ‘Yes, I did.’ . . . There was totally no emotion in his voice.”
Outside the home, authorities saw a body through the window.
“Deputies on scene forced entry into the home and were immediately met with gunfire,” Harris County Chief Deputy Tim Cannon told the Associated Press. “The deputies withdrew from the home.”
Authorities waited for the sheriff’s office SWAT team to arrive and, after an hours-long standoff with police, negotiators finally got Conley to come out.
Inside the home, police found the victims. The children were identified as Nathaniel, 13, Dwayne, 10, Honesty, 11, Caleb, 9, Trinity, 7, and Jonah, 6.
Now the same prosecutor who gave Conley a plea deal in 2002 will face him again and, this time, could seek the death penalty, KHOU-TV reported.
“We’re talking about a span of three to four months before that decision will be made,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson told reporters.
Conley is set to appear in court again Sept. 15.
This story has been updated.