Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Addicted to Murder: The True Story of Daniel Conahan Jr.

A Suspect Emerges

On May 8, 1996, 34-year-old David Allen Payton, an inmate at Glades Correctional Institute, in Moore Haven, Florida, contacted investigators. Payton told law enforcement officers that he knew who was committing the murders in Charlotte County. State Attorney Investigator Brian Kelly and Lt. John Brock went to the prison to interview Payton.

According to reports in The Sun Herald, Payton informed Kelly and Brock that he had previously told his story to Fort Myers Police in March, but they refused to believe him. He then went on to describe the events that led up to his arrest.

Daniel Conahan
Daniel Conahan

Payton stated that on March 5, 1995, he was on his way home from DJ's bar on US Route 41, in Fort Myers, Florida. It was a blistering summer day and he was feeling the effects of the alcohol he had consumed. He made his way to a local bus stop and decided to sit down in the shade and sober up. Shortly after sitting down, a blue Mercury Capri pulled up. The man driving the vehicle asked him if he would like to drink some beer and smoke some pot. Payton said he agreed and got into the man's vehicle.

The man identified himself as Daniel Conahan and gave his new friend beer and a Valium tablet, a prescription tranquilizer. As the two men traveled down Zemel Road, in Charlotte County, Conahan asked him if he would pose for nude photos. Payton replied that he was not interested and turned down a hundred dollar bill Conahan offered him.

Payton stated that Conahan's actions were unsettling to him and he started to get anxious when they turned onto an isolated dirt road. As Conahan traveled down the desolate road his vehicle slid off to the side and became stuck in a mud hole. Urgently wanting out of the car, Payton offered to get out and push. Conahan turned down his offer and instructed him to stay in the car and steer, while he pushed. However a four-wheel-drive truck soon appeared and the driver helped Conahan free his vehicle. Payton sat alone in the car as Conahan spoke with the driver of the truck and decided to speed off and leave Conahan behind. The drugs and alcohol made him sleepy, and the next thing he claimed to recall was waking up in Fort Myers, where he was arrested for auto theft. The car he was accused of stealing belonged to Daniel Conahan Sr., who reported it stolen while his son was driving it. Payton was then sent to prison for the theft of the vehicle. The task force wanted to believe Payton's story and requested that he take a lie-detector test. Payton agreed, and on May 9, 1996, he passed the test.

Sketch of suspect by police
Sketch of suspect by police

Not long after interviewing Payton, two other witnesses, Charles Bateman and Robert Beckwith came forward. Bateman and Beckwith had both been acquainted with Montgomery. They described a man who looked like Conahan as a "dude" who had propositioned them. However, when presented with a three-year-old driver's license photo of Conahan, the two could not positively identify him. Investigators decided to drive Bateman to a parking lot near Conahan's home. Once there, the witness spotted Conahan Sr.'s blue Capri and identified it.

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