Daniel Owen CONAHAN Jr.
A.K.A.: "Hog Trails Killer"
Classification: Serial killer?
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Homosexual torture murders - Amputation genital
Number of victims: 1 - 6
Date of murders: 1994 - 1996
Date of arrest: July 3, 1996
Date of birth: May 11, 1954
Victims profile: Transients, hitchhikers and hustlers
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Charlotte County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on December 10, 1999
Florida's "Hog Trail Murders" suspect convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death penalty
By Latoya Hunter - CourtTV.com
December 21, 1999
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (Court TV) — Despite repeatedly insisting on his innocence, Daniel Conahan, a suspect in a string of murders that have become known as "The Hog Trail Murders, was convicted by a judge of first-degree murder in the gruesome slaying of 21-year-old man. A Florida jury then recommended the death penalty for Conahan, who was formally sentenced Dec. 10.
The murder of Conahan's victim, Richard Montgomery, was so grisly, the trial was described as "not for the squeamish." Conahan was accused of luring his alleged victim into the woods. He allegedly told Montgomery that he would pay him for nude bondage photos. Montgomery agreed, prosecutors say, but he did not know that he was helping set up his own brutal murder. Conahan was accused of raping Montgomery, strangling him, then removing the young man's genitals to prevent a DNA trace.
Montgomery was found in the woods after two men checking wild hog traps in a remote area of the woods found a human skull and called the police. Montgomery's body was then discovered — he was wrapped in carpet padding. An examination of the victim's body revealed that he had been bound to a tree and then strangled. With surgeon-like precision, his genitals had been removed.
The state believed this scenario is part of Conahan's alleged sick, sexual fantasy that involved tying a man to a tree, raping him, and then killing him. Prosecutors claimed Conahan preferred young, lean, blonde white males like Montgomery.
The prosecution's theory was supported by Stanley Burden, a convicted pedophile who claims he was also assaulted by Conahan. Burden claims his assault was similar to Montgomery's attack but he was lucky enough to get away. Prosecutors said Burden resembled Montgomery. Burden claimed he met Conahan in Ft. Meyers when Conahan offered him $150 dollars to pose nude while being tied to a tree. Burden said he agreed to this nude modeling and accompanied Conahan to the woods where his photo session turned into an attempted rape and murder.
The state also introduced evidence from two undercover officers who posed as gay men claim they were also asked by Conahan to pose for nude photos. Prosecutors pointed out that the officers also bore physical resemblance to what they believed was Conahan's "fantasy man."
The prosecution also tried to prove that there wsa physical evidence that linked Conahan to the scene of the Montgomery's murder. Fibers found on the victim's body matched fibers found in Conahan's car and bedroom. Also, a single paint chip recovered from Montgomery's pubic hair matched the paint on a car registered to Conahan's father. The paint chip is unique because it is composed of four layers of paint.
Conahan's defense tried to prove that other people attacked Burden and Montgomery. In Burden's case, the defense suggested that his attacker was a homosexual man whom Burden lived with. In Montgomery's case, the defense suggested auto-erotic, or self-inflicted, asphyxiation.
Though Conahan was tried for only the murder of Montgomery, this was not the only disturbing murder he is suspected of committing.
There were a string of murders committed in Florida, known as "The Hog Trail Murders" that involved similar crime scenes. Police believe these six murders can be linked to the same person — Conahan. Between 1994 and 1997, the bodies, including Montgomery's, were found within the same area. The victims were all found nude with no identification. They were found in similar positions and decomposition was more advanced around the neck and genitals.
Police suspected Conahan of the murders after getting a tip from an inmate, David Payton. Payton claims he, like Burden, was a potential victim of Conahan.
Investigators put Conahan under 24-hour surveillance but they were not able to link him to the crimes. However, when Burden came forward and told police about his alleged encounter with Conahan, police were able to arrest Conahan for attempted murder in 1996. The state later dropped the attempted murder charge but will use Burden's testimony to prosecute Conahan for Montgomery's murder.
Conahan opted for a bench trial because, his attorney claimed, he was afraid of being convicted by a conservative jury because he is a gay man who admits to being fascinated by bondage.
If convicted, Conahan faces the death penalty.
Hog Trails Killer Sentenced to Die
December 10, 1999
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (APBnews.com) -- Mary West drew a quick breath the moment Daniel O. Conahan Jr. was sentenced to death today for killing her son.
"May God have mercy on his soul," said Chief Circuit Judge William Blackwell after delivering his decision on Conahan's punishment for the April 16, 1996, dismemberment, strangulation and murder of 21-year-old Richard Montgomery.
"It was an indescribable feeling," said West, Montgomery's mother, who witnessed the sentencing from the front row of the Charlotte County, Fla., courtroom. "How dare he kill my son and sit there like that?"
Shackled at the wrists and ankles, Conahan barely reacted, except to shed a tear and take a hard swallow when he heard the sentence.
Mitigating factors not enough
During his deliberations, Blackwell considered some mitigating factors, such as earlier testimony that Conahan is polite, appreciative and considerate. They were not enough to spare his life.
In August, after waiving his right to a jury trial for the murder, Conahan was found guilty of first-degree murder in Montgomery's death. The prosecution contended Conahan lured Montgomery to a wooded area by offering him money to pose nude in progressive stages of bondage. Montgomery's genitals were surgically removed after his death.
A charge of sexual battery was dropped because of a lack of evidence.
"It is obvious that during this ordeal, Montgomery was confined or imprisoned against his will," Blackwell read from a document. "Such confinement against his will was for the obvious purpose of inflicting bodily harm upon the victim or terrorizing him."
Mother heard extent of injuries
The crime was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel, Blackwell said. Two medical examiners testified that many of Montgomery's wounds were inflicted before he died.
"I hope he didn't suffer too much," West said. "I trust God wouldn't have let it go on too long."
Before today, West did not know the extent of her son's injuries. She was a witness during the trial and only brought in to testify.
Conahan received the sentence he deserves here on earth, she said.
"It's an answer to prayers -- I thank God for directing this," West said. "It's a miracle my son's body was even found."
West said she hopes the families of several other murder victims can get the same closure. Conahan is suspected of murdering five other young men found nude, strangled or stabbed in southern Sarasota and northern Charlotte counties. He has not been charged in any of the other deaths.
West said she was worried about the people her son hung out with.
"I had a feeling, a dream or something," West said. "Richard was working at getting his life back together. He was going back to school. He wanted to join the Army, and to do that he needed to get his high school diploma.
"He was my baby, but he didn't like for me to call him that."
Mother thanks prosecutors
The night Montgomery disappeared, he told a friend he was going to make some money.
During Conahan's trial, West testified that Montgomery told her he had a new friend named Conahan. He also told her that someone had offered him money to pose nude, but he didn't specify it was Conahan.
"He never said it was Dan who offered him the money," she said. "He was very secretive about these things."
Montgomery had been living with his sister because he could not follow the rules in his mother's house, West said.
West complimented defense attorneys Mark Ahlbrand and Paul Sullivan, Assistant State Attorney Robert Lee and Rick Hobbs, the lead investigator in the case for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.
Hobbs said that, after more than three years of gathering evidence against Conahan, he is glad it is over and pleased with the sentence. Lee said he never had any doubt Conahan was guilty, even before he was arrested. He did have some doubt as to the evidence, he said.
"I'm never pleased when a death sentence is ordered," Lee said. "It is not a happy event; it is a sad one. In some cases it is appropriate, and this is one."
Buried in his cowboy boots
West, who once lived in North Port, now lives near Orlando. She had to move, she said, because everywhere she went brought forth memories of her son. She described Richard as fun loving and good hearted.
"He always gave his things away -- his clothes, his food, everything but his cowboy boots," she said. "And I buried him in them."
Richard Montgomery is buried in Royal Palm Memorial Garden.
As for Conahan, West said she hopes he meets God.
"If he truly believes, he has a right to walk in heaven with God's faithful," she said. "He's one of God's children, too."
Conahan has 30 days to appeal. Blackwell would not consider a motion by Conahan to stop his attorneys from representing him on the appellate issues.
Suspected serial killer Daniel Conahan is believed to be responsible for five homosexual torture murders in Central Florida.
Charged with the murder of Richard Montgomery, Conahan told a Florida jury he had never met the victim. But Robert Whittaker, Montgomery's former roommate in Punta Gorda, testified that Conahan came looking for Montgomery about two months before the 21-year-old's body was discovered in the woods.
Montgomery's brother-in-law said he saw Montgomery walking toward Cox Lumber April 16, 1996 -- the day he disappeared and a day before his body was found in the woods of northern Charlotte County.
Prosecutors say that same day, Conahan bought rope, cutting pliers, a razor-sharp knife and Polaroid film at a Punta Gorda Wal-Mart. Then he picked Montgomery up by the lumber yard and took him for a drive. Conahan allegedly offered to pay him about $100 to engage in a nude photo shoot that included progressive bondage.
Once in the woods of northern Charlotte County, they said, Conahan tied Montgomery to a tree, raped and strangled him. Though Conahan had agreed to pay Montgomery $100 for the photo shoot, but Lee said Conahan only withdrew $40 from an ATM that afternoon.
The next day, two Charlotte County workers, taking a break from inspecting roads, went off looking for good spots to hunt hogs and found a human skull. Detectives cordoned off the area looking for the rest of the remains, later identified as Kenneth Lee Smith. Nearby, they found a carpet with a body hidden under it. It was Montgomery's day-old corpse.
Rope grooves were found on a nearby tree. Conahan is on trial only for Montgomery's death, but he is a suspect in Smith's murder and the murders of at least three other men whose remains have been discovered since 1994 in the woods of Florida's Charlotte County and North Port.
Charlotte County Medical Examiner R.H. Imami testified that Montgomery was strangled to death and that he had ligature marks on his body. However, Imami said the ligature marks on the body appeared to have been inflicted after death. Conahan's attorneys say whoever killed Montgomery tied him up after his death. Prosecutors say Conahan, an unemployed nurse, cut off Montgomery's genitals because he knew if he left them, authorities would trace his DNA to the body through saliva.
Investigators said Conahan, an unemployed nurse at the time of his arrest, had a penchant for picking up drifters to take nude photographs and a proclivity for sexual violence. He allegedly offered transients money to take nude pictures in the woods near Fort Myers, then tied them to trees and killed them. All of the victims were male; most were found naked, with strangulation marks around their necks.
Less than three months after Montgomery¹s body was found, Conahan was arrested, but only on charges that he attempted to kill a Fort Myers drifter, Stanley Burden, two years earlier. Burden later identified Dan as Conahan. He testified that he realized the agreement he made with Conahan to pose nude with progressive bondage scenes was a mistake when the ropes tightened around his neck. Burden said he finally escaped after Conahan gave up trying to strangle him after about 30 minutes.
Conahan took the stand in his trial and admited that he solicited Burden for oral sex in 1994, but denied that he tried to strangle him. He also denied ever meeting Montgomery. "I have fantasized about bondage," Conahan said. "But that is not my only fantasy."
Conahan, who faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder, denies everything. His defense attorney, Mark Ahlbrand, claims a bad back made Conahan incapable of committing the crimes. Investigators said the murders started in February 1994. The last body was discovered April 17, 1996, in Charlotte County when a government employee found a severed human head and Montgomery's body in the woods.
Conahan was discharged from the Navy at Great Lakes, Ill., in 1978, a year after he enlisted, under the threat of court martial for several counts of sodomy and physical assault. Prosecutors described Conahan as a gay, sex-driven killer who fantasized about raping, photographing and strangling young men. Defense attorneys argue that he¹s being falsely targeted for his openly gay lifestyle.
In his trial forensic scientists testified that fibers from Conahan's car, his father's car and his home were discovered at the murder scene in northern Charlotte County. A metallic blue paint chip ‹ identical in nature and color to a chip missing from his father's Mercury Capri ‹ was found in Montgomery¹s pubic hair. Conahan showed little emotion throughout the trial, although he cried at one point last week when his ex-lover ‹ who has AIDS ‹ testified of the accused¹s bondage fantasy.
On August 18, 1999, the suspected torture killer was found guilty in the death of transient Richard Montgomery. Sentencing was scheduled for September 13.
Investigators knew they were in search of a twisted serial slayer by 1997, when the sixth body of a young male was discovered in the dense woods of southwest Florida. The corpses had been found in varying stages of decomposition, some still bearing evidence of ligature and strangulation. All were found nude and had been stripped of identification. The remote locations of the bodies led pursuers to dub the series the "Hog Trail Murders".
Authroities finally located their man, Daniel Conahan from Punta Gorda, after two potential victims went to police to tell their stories. One in fact, related how he had been offerred money to pose nude by Conahan in 1994. The two had driven to a wooded area where the unkowing man agreed to be tied to a tree for the snapshots. Conahan then attempted to rape and strangle him, giving up after a time when his victim put up too great a fight.
Arrested for attempted murder (though the charge was eventually dropped) police moved to prove a case against Conahan in the 1996 slaying of Robert Montgomery, who was discovered sans testicles along with a skeletonized victim only a day after he went missing. Because his body had been out in the elements for a short time, more physical evidence remained than in the other five obviously related cases and Conahan was arrested for the Montgomery slaying.
Conahan openly admitted his homosexuality and fascination with bondage, though he has never admitted guilt in the string of murders. Based on the two surviving victims' testimony and evidence linking paint and fibers from Conahan's car and home to the Montgomery crime, the gay serial killer was convicted in a bench trial, for all intents and purposes solving all six murders. Electing to have a jury decide his sentence, Conahan had no better luck and he was officially put out of business on December 10, 1999, when he recieved the death penalty for his crimes.
The Florida Hog Trails Killings
June 28, 1999
Brutalized Bodies of Six Men Found in Isolated Wilds
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (APBnews.com) -- Just before he died, William John Melaragno ran through the woods naked, panicked enough to race barefoot over sharp rocks and blindly hurl himself through tangles of underbrush that slashed his upper torso.
Melaragno's body also bore ropelike marks, suggesting he had been tied up during part of the ordeal that ended his life in a remote, wooded area of southwestern Florida. His attacker stabbed him four times, posed the body in the shape of a cross on the ground and amputated the dead man's genitals, according to authorities.
The February 1996 killing was the third in what investigators believe is a cluster of at least six slayings by the same person. As a group, the incidents might well be thought of as the Hog Trail Killings. Most of the victims were slain in isolated, densely wooded areas crisscrossed by wild boar paths in Charlotte and Sarasota County, just inland from the Gulf Coast.
There, the major highway artery -- U.S. 41 -- suddenly ceases to be a commercial corridor of strip malls, gas stations and motels and takes on a much more rural, forested look. Smaller roads spider out sideways into the trees -- all part of a grid intended to service housing developments that have yet to materialize. The result is a broad expanse of wilderness quickly accessible by car or truck -- an almost perfect place to commit a methodical murder without fear of being heard or disturbed.
Six bodies found
Between 1994 and 1997, six bodies were found within a 10-mile radius. All were male and nude. At least four were posed on their backs in similar positions. Two of them had their genitals amputated. All were transients, day laborers or "street people," according to police. Ropelike material was involved in at least three of the killings. Two victims had the same angle of ligature marks on their legs. One body was completely dismembered, and its parts scattered for a hundred yards through the trees.
Five law enforcement agencies -- the State Attorney's office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, the North Port Police Department and the Fort Myers Police Department -- formed a task force to investigate the killings.
Lead investigator Detective Rickey Hobbs of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office said investigators believe that a single individual is responsible for all six killings.
And that individual, authorities believe, is Daniel Conahan Jr., a 45-year-old Punta Gorda resident currently incarcerated in the Charlotte County Jail.
50 days of surveillance
Conahan was arrested in July 1996 after being under surveillance around the clock for 50 days by the multi-agency task force -- an operation that included wired undercover officers posing as gay transients and mock homeless camps set up in the woods.
He is currently charged with only one of the Hog Trail Killings -- that of 21-year-old Richard Montgomery. Conahan is scheduled to stand trial in August in Charlotte County Circuit Court. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
In a handwritten statement to APBnews.com, Conahan denied he committed the crimes and said, "This is not a case of a serial killer but a corrupt criminal [justice] system." He charged that "the police and State Attorney are big on talk but short on proof."
Hobbs said authorities are looking into other unsolved homicides with MOs similar to those of the Hog Trail Killings that occurred prior to 1993 in the Chicago area, where Conahan lived before moving to Florida. Authorities declined to provide further details about those Illinois incidents.
An arrest affidavit filed by the Florida State Attorney's Office in county court alleges that Conahan once told a homosexual lover in Chicago that his "main" sexual fantasy "was to cruise around, pick up hitchhikers or vagrants, take them to the woods, tie them to a tree and 'screw' them."
Authorities allege a 'murder kit'
Florida authorities allege that Conahan, who is gay, cruised the trailer parks, charity services, panhandling areas, and gay pickup parks around Charlotte County and Fort Myers with a "murder kit" -- a knapsack filled with a knife, rope, tarp, gloves and a Polaroid camera.
He's accused of picking up transients, hitchhikers and hustlers for sex and nude bondage photos; plying them with alcohol and drugs, taking them into isolated wooded areas, where he'd bind them to trees before killing them; and then posing and mutilating the corpses on the ground. Authorities speculated that Conahan, who once worked as a nurse, may have gotten rid of amputated body parts and other evidence via hospital biohazard disposal bags.
The bodies of all six victims were found just across the Peace River, all within 10 miles from where Conahan was living in a condominium with his elderly parents.
Conahan's defense attorney, Mark Ahlbrand, said the prosecution has a collection of unreliable witnesses and no biological evidence. He painted a portrait of a small-town police force that so badly wants closure on the case that they are trying to pin six murders on his client.
"The only thing you have at this point is a gay person who has admittedly been attracted to picking up people like Montgomery, having casual sex with them and soliciting them for, in some instances, bondage," Ahlbrand said. "There is almost no evidence at this point with the exception of one witness who can even put the two of them together," said Ahlbrand, adding that he believes the one witness is lying.
Evidence: paint chips, leather, fibers
Assistant State Attorney Bob Lee, the prosecutor in the Montgomery murder case, wouldn't comment on any evidence, but based on court documents and interviews there are several pieces of physical evidence that prosecutors may try to use against Conahan: a paint chip found on Montgomery's body that may have come from Conahan's car; tufts of leather found on the bark of a tree at the crime scene that may match gloves Conahan purchased; and a number of fibers at the crime scene that match fibers from Conahan's car and apartment.
Police say they have at least one witness who said she saw Montgomery talking with a man who matches the description of Conahan on the day he was killed. She also described seeing the man driving a car that matches the description of Conahan's car.
Montgomery's last day
In court documents, the 21-year-old Montgomery was described by numerous witnesses as a good-hearted, friendly man who was a heavy drinker, drug user and transient, and as somebody who "would do anything if beer or money were involved."
On the day he was killed, Montgomery was seen just south of Punta Gorda visiting a trailer park. It is a fairly isolated area off Highway 41, with trailers scattered along railroad tracks and trees posted with Keep Out signs. A recent visit found one of the trailers Montgomery frequented plastered with beer stickers, its screen door broken, windows smashed and debris piled everywhere. A stray Kenny Rogers album stuck up out of a box inside.
Montgomery associated with a number of people in the trailer park, some of whom were involved in criminal activities.
Gary Mastin, 21, who lives in a nearby trailer, said in an interview that on the day Montgomery was killed he saw him in the trailer of Robert Whittaker, where Montgomery once lived. Mastin said Whittaker's trailer was a gathering place where people came to hang out, drink and play Dungeons and Dragons.
"We'd sit around and just play the game all night long," Mastin said.
According to authorities, a man who supplied marijuana to Conahan once lived in Whittaker's trailer as well, and Conahan admits visiting him there but denies ever meeting Montgomery.
Mastin recalled that about 2 or 3 in the afternoon on April 16, 1996, Montgomery came into the trailer and said he was going to make "$300 or something like that in half an hour and that he'd be back." Mastin said Whittaker asked Montgomery "if it was legal," and Montgomery made a jokingly sarcastic reply. "He had a big ass smile on his face," said Mastin. "He took off, and that was the last time we saw him."
In court documents defense attorney Ahlbrand accused Whittaker of making contradictory statements to police about seeing Montgomery and Conahan together. In a deposition, Whittaker said his words were taken out of context and that "not everything is straight and clear in my mind."
Whittaker has never been accused of any wrongdoing by authorities, but early in the investigation they had Whittaker's brother, a police officer in a nearby city, wear a wire to question him secretly.
No one answered the door at Whittaker's trailer, and he didn't respond to a number of APBnews.com requests for comment.
Purchase of knives, rope, film
Conahan said he doesn't remember where he was or what he was doing on the day of Montgomery's murder. He does admit to making four separate purchases of knives, one on the day of Montgomery's murder. He said he was buying the knives because he was planning someday to move into a new apartment and, because money was tight, he was trying to gradually accumulate a set for his kitchen. Conahan also said he purchased clothesline and film on that day.
Hobbs, the lead investigator, said none of the knives -- purchases which police said they traced through Conahan's credit card receipts -- were found when police searched his apartment. Conahan insists the knives were in his apartment during the search but that police missed them. He said they're now sitting in a box in his lawyer's office. Hobbs said that's the first he's heard of this.
Ahlbrand said there is no way that those knives could be used to perform the scalpel-like removal of Montgomery's genitalia. He also said Conahan told him that he never purchased any knives, that he got them for free from coupons from other purchases.
Montgomery's body discovered
On April 17 in the wooded hog trail region north across the river from Punta Gorda, county maintenance workers discovered decomposed body parts of a dismembered male whose identity was later determined to be Kenneth Smith. The 25-year-old was the fourth Hog Trail Killings victim. As police scoured the area to locate the rest of Smith's body parts, they stumbled upon the fresh corpse of Richard Montgomery.
Montgomery, who had been strangled to death by ligature, was naked and lying on his back. There was a large gaping hole between his legs where his entire genitalia had been cut out. His back and buttocks were badly scratched and there were rope marks all over his body.
Ahlbrand said the medical examiner's opinion was that Montgomery had been tied up after he was already dead.
Hobbs said the task force began putting undercover agents on the streets posing as homeless men within two weeks of the discovery of the bodies. Almost immediately, the task force began receiving information that somebody in the area was trying to pick up men for nude photographs in the woods.
Wanted to tie him to tree for photographs
A man named David Payton was the first person who mentioned Conahan to the police. He said he was picked up by Conahan in Fort Myers in March 1995 and that Conahan supplied him with marijuana, beer and Valium. They drove to a deserted area, and Payton said Conahan asked if he could tie him to a tree and photograph him.
But Conahan's vehicle got stuck, and they were assisted by another motorist. According to court documents, Payton said he became frightened because Conahan's demeanor changed when they encountered the other vehicle. Payton later told police he also saw a knife in the car. With Conahan out of the car helping to push, Payton drove off, leaving Conahan behind. Conahan and his father picked up the car the next day after police recovered it.
Payton pled guilty to car theft and went to prison.
In response to news reports about Montgomery and Smith's deaths, Payton, while still in prison, contacted authorities and told them that they should investigate Conahan, according to Hobbs. Payton later cooperated with police in a sting operation in an attempt to try and get information out of Conahan. Payton was since released. According to court documents and officials involved in the case, Payton's current whereabouts are unknown.
Soon after they received Payton's information, police began monitoring Conahan, and a mobile tracking device was placed on his vehicle. "Every time he left his house they had six cars bracketing him; they had overhead aerial surveillance; they had his house under 24-hour surveillance with video cameras," Ahlbrand said.
"During our 50 days of surveillance on him, we did have two separate instances where we had undercover detectives who posed as homeless men, who stood on the side of U.S. 41. And while they were wearing a wire, he actually did approach two of these men about going to have them pose nude in the woods," said Chuck Ellis, spokesman for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office
Police officers in the trees
Hobbs said at one point Conahan and an undercover officer were in the woods negotiating sex while officers were on the ground and in trees pointing guns at his head. The purpose of the undercover operation was to establish Conahan's MO, Hobbs said, rather than to catch him in an attempted assault.
"If there was an attempted murder, we wouldn't be sitting here. There would be no trial," Hobbs said, indicating that officers would have killed Conahan if he had made any move to injure the undercover officers.
On at least one occasion Hobbs said authorities sent in a marked police car to break up a liaison Conahan was having with a John in an isolated area because they feared for the man's safety.
At the end of May 1996 police stopped Conahan on a vehicle-related police matter and took him to a hotel room they had set up for a videotaped interrogation. While police were questioning him, they were executing a search warrant for his apartment as well as his vehicles.
On the tape Conahan, in a polo shirt and aviator shades, is chain smoking and responding to police questions with answers like, "Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh. ... Why me? What brought you to me?"
When a detective told Conahan, "Right now you're a suspect," Conahan responded, "Wooow."
After three hours he left. Police arrested him on July 3, 1996.
Daniel Cohahan was arrested after a 50 day round the clock surveillance ended. Begining in 1994 the naked bodies of 6 men have been discovered in wooded areas of Punta Gorda on floridas gulf coast. Police believe that the victims may have allowed themselves to be tied up for photography sessions involving bondage scenes.
All would be dead before the sessions ended except one Stanley Burden......who is a key wittness to getting a conviction against Daniel Cohahan pictured above who is scheduled to go on trial for the murder of Richard Montgomery 21, one of the victims found in the densely wooded jungle like area of Puntza is less than a credible witness as he is serving 10 to 25 for child molestation and his accounts of that days events change from time to time.. While living in Fort Myers Burden says Daniel Cohahan approached him offering $150.00 for nude bondage photos.
Burden agreed and the 2 drove to a densely wooded area where he allowed Daniel Cohahan to tie him to a tree. As the photo session progressed Daniel Cohahan while rearranging some rope then tried to strangle him and failed when Burden wouldn't die.
Burden states that he was also sexually assaulted and offered money to forget about the incident. Daniel Cohahan denies this happened, He admits to having sex with Burden for which $20.00 was exchange. Cohahan admits to picking up men and taking them to wooded areas for sex and photo sessions but says he never tied up anyone or killed anyone.
Cohahan has no criminal recoed except for a administrative discharge from the navy for a fight resulting from an attempt to seduce a navy man in 1978 He dinies these chages and was never prosecuted. The Florida Hog Trails victims were all found within a 10 mile radious of one another, All were transients, 4 were posed on their backs, 2 had missing genitals, 1 was dismembered and scattered.
Police believe that Cohahan May have gotten rid of body parts in hospital biohazard pages he obtained while working as a nurse. All the bodies were found within 10 miles of Cohahan's home where he lived with his parents. Paint chips, Leather, & Fibers have been submitted into evidence against Cohahan.
CONAHAN, Daniel (W/M)
Twentieth Judicial Circuit, Charlotte County, Case #97-166
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable William L. Blackwell
Attorney, Criminal Trial: Paul Sullivan, Esq.
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Paul Helm – Assistant Public Defender
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: William Hennis & Celeste Bacchi – CCRC-S
Date of Offense: 04/16/96
Date of Sentence: 12/10/99
Circumstances of Offense:
Daniel Conahan was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and premeditated murder of Richard Montgomery.
Richard Montgomery was last seen by his friends on 04/16/96. Montgomery said that he was going out to make a few hundred dollars and would return shortly. When asked if whether this money-making activity was legal, Montgomery smirked and said nothing.
In a previous conversation with his mother, Montgomery told her that someone offered him $200 to pose for nude pictures, but declined to tell her who made the offer. In the same conversation, Montgomery told her he met a new friend, Daniel Conahan, who was a nurse living in Punta Gorda.
The next day, two Charlotte County Utility Engineers discovered a human skull in a wooded area off Highway 41. Police officers called to the scene discovered the nude body of Montgomery. His body displayed neck, wrist and waist trauma consistent with ligature or bondage marks. Also, Montgomery’s penis had been amputated postmortem.
Crime scene investigators collected a rope, a carpet pad used to cover Montgomery’s body, a skull and torso (belonging to another individual), a gray coat and numerous combings. A K-9 dog, trained to detect human scent, was called to the scene and showed particular interest in a palm tree, which was flattened or otherwise damaged on one side. Autopsy reports concluded that Montgomery died as a result of strangulation and the ligature marks covering his body were consistent with being tied to a tree.
Due to the unique modus operandi of this case, police reviewed a similar assault reported two years earlier. Stanley Burden reported that Daniel Conahan offered to pay him $100 to $150 to pose for nude bondage photographs. Burden agreed and Conahan drove the two of them to a wooded location.
After taking several pictures, Conahan pulled out a rope and tied Burden to a tree. While restrained, Conahan performed oral sex on Burden and attempted to have anal sex with him. Burden resisted by positioning his back side up against the tree. Conahan placed the rope around Burden’s neck and unsuccessfully tried to strangle him for half an hour.
Conahan asked Burden why he would not die and Conahan finally gave up. Burden freed himself and reported the incident to the police. The police located the crime scene and found a tree with markings that corroborated Burden’s injuries and story. At that time, police began an undercover investigation of Daniel Conahan.
Following his arrest, Conahan was indicted for the kidnapping, sexual battery and murder of Montgomery. Conahan waived his right to a trial by jury. During the guilt phase, the State presented evidence that, on the day of Montgomery’s disappearance, Conahan’s credit card was used to buy rope, Polaroid Film, pliers and a knife.
A Motion for Change of Venue to Collier County was granted for the penalty phase.
02/25/97 Defendant indicted on the following:
Count I: First-Degree Premeditated Murder
Count II: First-Degree Felony Murder
Count III: Kidnapping
Count IV: Sexual Battery
08/09/99 Defendant adjudicated as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Premeditated Murder - Guilty
Count II: First-Degree Felony Murder – Nolle Prosse by State
Count III: Kidnapping - Guilty
Count IV: Sexual Battery – Acquitted
11/01/99 Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the imposition of the death penalty.
12/10/99 The defendant was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Premeditated Murder – Death
Count III: Kidnapping – 6 years, 8 months
Conahan filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 01/24/00. In that appeal, he argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion for acquittal because the State’s circumstantial evidence was legally insufficient. Conahan also claimed that the trial court erred in its consideration and application of aggravating circumstances. Lastly, Conahan contended that the prosecutor violated his right to a fair trial by making improper comments in his opening and closing remarks of the penalty phase. The Florida Supreme Court agreed that the prosecutor did improperly comment upon evidence at the penalty phase, but concluded that the error was harmless. As such, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed Conahan’s convictions and sentence on 01/16/03.
The court issued a revised opinion on 04/24/03, again affirming the convictions and sentence of death.
Conahan filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on 07/03/03, which was denied on 10/06/03.
Conahan filed a 3.851 Motion with the Circuit Court on 10/01/04 that is pending.