A 19-year-old man accused of gunning down his mother at their Palm Springs home must stand trial on a murder charge, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Brian Patrick Conroy is charged with killing 36-year-old Amber Lane, who was shot just before 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2017 in the 4100 block of Calle San Antonio. She died at Desert Regional Medical Center about two hours later. Lane was killed with a .357 revolver that she owned.
Tuesday’s preliminary hearing included testimony from Palm Springs police officers, as well as Conroy’s stepbrother, Andrew Lane, and Conroy’s stepfather David Lane, both of whom were at the home when the shooting occurred.
The testimony did not illuminate a concrete motive for the killing, but Palm Springs Police Det. Chris Jaeger testified that Conroy told him in an interview that he went into his mother’s bedroom and pointed the gun at her for unknown reasons. He believed that she began laughing at him, and Jaeger ventured that this angered Conroy and caused him to shoot her.
Family members also testified that Conroy had been acting strangely in the days and weeks prior to the shooting.
Andrew Lane said Conroy had been acting “paranoid” and “distant,” and made statements that “someone was watching him.” He also expressed various times that he did not want to be alone and needed someone with him, according to Andrew.
David Lane said that on the day of the shooting, Conroy “wasn’t himself” while working his shift at Wang’s at the Desert, where his mother and stepfather also worked. Lane said Conroy “wasn’t focused” and when asked what was wrong, Conroy simply said he couldn’t talk about it.
At Conroy’s arraignment last year, a prosecutor alleged that he made statements that “voices commanded” him to commit the killing, but those statements were not mentioned at Tuesday’s hearing.
Despite those incidents, both Lanes said they never knew Conroy to have any mental health issues.
The Lanes testified that after hearing the gunshot, they ran to the master bedroom where Amber had been sleeping and found her suffering from a single gunshot wound to the chest. When David Lane asked Conroy what happened, he said “I don’t know,” according to witness testimony.
Conroy’s attorney, Frederick Fascenelli, focused on statements Andrew made to police shortly after the shooting, which differed from his testimony Tuesday. Andrew initially told investigators that Conroy was sleeping in the same bedroom as him when the gunshot went off, then he found David and Amber inside the master bedroom. Conroy also told Jaeger that he was asleep in a bedroom shared by Andrew when the gunshot went off, the detective testified, but later admitted shooting her.
Andrew Lane also initially said he believed his stepmother might have shot herself, but no longer believes that to be the case.
When asked by Fascenelli why his story changed, he said “I said it because I wanted to protect everyone in the house. I didn’t want what happened, you know, to be true.”
When questioned whether this meant he was protecting his father, he said, “No, I was obviously protecting Brian. I hadn’t known at the time what had happened.”
Conroy, a former Palm Springs High School student who has no prior criminal record in Riverside County, is being held in lieu of $2 million bail. He’s due back in court Nov. 20 for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment.