Missouri man pleads guilty to killing three at Texas farmhouse

Thursday, September 3, 2009 | 5:11 p.m. CDT; updated 6:33 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009

LUBBOCK, Texas — Robin Doan awakened to her mother's screams and gunshots as she lay in bed inside her family's Texas Panhandle farmhouse. A few moments later she saw a bright flash. A man had fired an AK-47 at her bed, but somehow the bullet missed her.

"I pretended I was dead the whole time," she told a dispatcher during a frantic 911 call Sept. 30, 2005. "I'm 10 years old and I don't know what to do. I'm scared."

A tape of the call played publicly for the first time Thursday as a jury considered whether Levi King, 26, should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole for killing Doan's pregnant mother, father and 14-year-old brother.

King pleaded guilty earlier in the day to capital murder in the deaths of Michell Conrad, 35, her husband Brian Conrad, 31, and her 14-year-old son, Zach Doan. Michell Conrad was six months pregnant.

Family members in the gallery sniffled and wiped away tears as they listened to their young relative's frightened voice on the tape.

"I so hope my mom is not dead," Robin told the dispatcher between sobs. "I want my mommy. I want my mom."

It was not clear whether the girl, now a teenager, would testify.

When she believed the intruder had left a few hours later, Robin grabbed the family's cordless phone and ran outside to her stepfather's pickup. It was a cold, fall morning and Robin feared the worst.

"I think I'm the only one alive," she told the dispatcher.

The 911 tape provided the first real glimpse of the case Texas investigators have built against King since a two-day killing spree in September 2005 that took him from Missouri to Texas.

Last year, King pleaded guilty to the shooting deaths of Orlie McCool, 70, and his 47-year-old daughter-in-law, Dawn McCool in rural Pineville, Mo. Authorities said King drove Orlie McCool's pickup truck from Missouri to the Conrads' home in Texas.

King was caught the same night trying to re-enter the United States at the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas.

On Thursday, one of King's two court-appointed attorneys, Maxwell Peck III, told jurors in his opening statement that King grew up in poverty and was emotionally neglected by both parents, who used drugs regularly. They even introduced them to King and his siblings, Peck said.

King told the judge earlier that he'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia; he also has been told he was psychotic. Peck said King has been suicidal.

King's long-simmering anger went out of control when he killed the Conrads and their son, Peck said.

"Levi King is the stranger who entered the Conrads' home and murdered this family," Peck said. "He was just 23. He was on the run. He was full of rage. The rage was out of control."

Prosecutor Lynn Switzer focused her opening statement on the family, telling jurors that their home was a peaceful place they had no reason to believe was anything but safe and secure.

"They had no idea what was fixing to happen them," Switzer said.

She described how King, dressed in black and toting the AK-47, broke in through the back door and immediately went to the master bedroom. He shot Brian Conrad three times, and killed Molly, the family's dog, before turning to Michell Conrad, who began screaming, Switzer said.

"Her screams were cut short because the defendant put five rounds into her body," Switzer said. "Can you imagine what it would be like to be awakened like that?"

King then went to Robin's room and fired before walking to Zach Doan's room and shooting three times.

King was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole for the McCool killings, but the Texas punishment will take precedence under an agreement with Missouri.


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carla page September 3, 2009 | 11:23 p.m.


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