Chilling testimony in case of Germantown grandmother’s beating death

The gruesome details behind the beating death of an elderly woman in the city’s Germantown section were laid out in Common Pleas Court Tuesday during a marathon day of testimony.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 18, 2010, police found Ellen Walton dead inside her home on the 6300 block of Magnolia Street while responding to what was believed to be a robbery in progress, according to police testimony.

Three days later, according to testimony given by a detective assigned to the case, Corey Conaway, now 20, confessed to striking his 68-year-old neighbor several times with a frying pan after breaking into her home earlier that month.

As Walton struggled near the foot of her basement stairs, Conaway told detectives that he took TVs, jewelry and other items from the home and fled the scene in Walton’s Toyota Rav-4. He said he drove the car around for the rest of the week and even took it to school.

The car was later towed with two flat tires from East Mount Airy, according to testimony provided by a crime scene investigator.

During his confession, Conaway told detectives that he hit a tree and fled afterwards.

A 911 call from a suspicious neighbor ultimately led officers to Walton’s body.

The testimony

During a six-hour-plus span Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Naylor interviewed nearly a dozen witnesses, including a host of law enforcement officials. Detailed photographs accompanied nearly every stage of the day.

Officer Lamont Fox, one of four investigators that initially discovered Walton, told the jury that both floors of the house were ransacked when they arrived on scene. He said Walton was found on the floor with pieces of a frying pan nearby and a blood stain – part of a hand – on a wall above.

Fingerprint evidence was lifted from Walton’s basement, as well as from the inside and outside of the Toyota, and later matched to Conaway.

Police detail a confession

Conaway also reportedly fessed up to detectives after they took him into custody for questioning about the incident on Jan. 21, 2010.

Detective William Sierra said Conaway waived his right to a lawyer and willingly told him and another detective that he killed Walton. He also detailed the incident in full, witnesses said.

According to investigators, Conaway said he slipped into the property through a porch window on Jan. 8 after he saw Walton leave her home.

“I seen her go and I wanted some money,” Conaway told police.

Sometime afterward, Walton returned home while Conaway was still inside. As she walked up her basement steps, Conaway told detectives that he panicked and grabbed a frying pan, thinking that he could avoid a confrontation if he simply hit Walton once.

When Walton hit the top of the stairs, Conaway pushed her back down. He then hit her once with the frying pan. Still screaming, Conaway hit her a few more times with the cookware.

“She stopped screaming,” said Conaway during the interview. He then grabbed Walton’s keys and fled. Walton was still alive.

Days of suffering

Conaway told police that he could still hear her breathing when he broke back into the home two days later. Still, he told no one about the incident and didn’t call 911.

When Sierra asked Conaway if everything he told them was true, he said Conaway replied, “The whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God. I’m dead to my mom.”

Conaway is charged with murder, burglary and, among other things, robbery inflicting serious bodily injury.

On Wednesday, Naylor will finish presenting the Commonwealth’s case, which will include testimony from the medical examiner assigned to the case. Attorney Thomas McGill, who is representing Conaway, may then follow with his own witnesses. Closing arguments may also be heard Wednesday.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal