It was cold the day police entered the little house on Marquette Street in Oceanside. They’d been called to Cindy Conaway’s home because her friends became concerned when they couldn’t reach her for several days, starting in mid-January 2012.
Conaway’s closest friends knew she was a prostitute and that she brought clients to her rented house. It was only a mile or so from the coast, a tiny place, 630 square feet. One bedroom, one bath.
Oceanside police knocked and called out but got no answer. The doors and windows were locked. The landlords, a married couple, lived nearby, and they were able to let police in. Later, investigators became suspicious. The landlords seemed aware too soon that a computer system and other items were missing from Conaway’s rental home.
Police noted the surveillance camera outside, attached under the eaves. But when they entered the home, they could see that the monitor was missing from its wall mount.
Conaway was found dead in her bedroom. There was obvious trauma to her body. A homicide team was called.
Detective Marilyn Johnson collected Conaway’s little black book from the bedroom. “The journal was found on a bedside table,” she recalled. Inside the book were many names and phone numbers. “There were over five hundred entries.” From these, Detective Johnson saw that the victim had used names other than “Conaway.”
The detective noticed that “the toilet seat was up.”
A medical examiner was requested on scene to inspect the body as it was found.
The Medical Examiner
Dr. Jonathan Lucas said of Conaway: “She was face down, wearing only a shirt.” The body lay on the bed, naked below the waist. The doctor found obvious blunt-force trauma to the head and defensive wounds on the back of one hand. From the blood evidence, he surmised that the victim had been beaten to death.
The victim wore a wig on top of her own hair, and Dr. Lucas said that this had blunted the force of the killing blows. The extra cushioning also affected the shape of the wounds, making it more difficult to deduce what kind of weapon had been used in the beating.
Dr. Lucas said that Conaway had started life as a man. “Yeah, that’s correct. Genetically, she was born a male. Both testicles were removed surgically. What we call an organ-ectomy.” Conaway still had a penis. And breast implants.
It was difficult for Dr. Lucas to determine the exact time of death. It had occurred a minimum of four days earlier, perhaps up to seven days. The doctor took into account the recent cold weather. The day police found the body, January 21, 2012, it was raining in Oceanside.
Detective Johnson found a safe in Conaway’s bedroom closet. Inside the safe were costume jewelry and video recordings of Conaway with customers. From the videos, police could see that Conaway had at least three different cameras set up to secretly record her encounters. Conaway was seen on her knees or seated in a chair in her living room, with customers. Detective Johnson said that “numerous different men” had been recorded.
The detective reviewed 20 clandestine recordings and concluded that at least six male customers had been videotaped.
Too Many Suspects
Investigators discovered that Conaway had several safes around her house, perhaps as many as six or seven. One large safe was noticeably missing, the one that usually sat on the floor by her bedroom door.
Detective Johnson spoke to friends of the deceased. Some said they had worked as prostitutes, too, at some point in their lives. Forty-one-year-old Dora said she’d known Conaway since she was a teenager. Conaway had showed her how to survive. She said that Conaway did not use drugs or alcohol herself, but supplied those things for her customers. Cops were aware of Dora’s criminal history, and they suspected that Dora may have been supplying drugs to Conaway, who then resold them.
Dora seemed to be the only one who knew that a certain small safe was missing from Conaway’s home.
Investigators followed a tip that led them to interview a white male who admitted he’d seen Conaway about a week earlier. He was “just friends” with Conaway; he “bought drugs” from her. The last time he’d seen her, she was getting dressed up to go out, putting on a skirt and boots. It was about 7:00 p.m. on Friday night, January 13; the man said he’d left around that time. Conaway’s little dog was there, and Conaway’s gold Mustang was parked outside. Police later looked hard at this man’s sister, who’d pawned jewelry in the days after Conaway was killed.
Conaway’s friends told cops that she was careful and safety-conscious; she would not allow people to drop by unannounced; she had deadbolt locks installed at her home. Conaway told friends she was worried about a certain black Marine who was threatening her.
Then again, everyone seemed to agree that Conaway was a compassionate person. She was known to pick up strangers, or “strays,” and bring them home, feed them, and let them take a hot shower.
There was a friend who lived in the same neighborhood who told cops that Conaway “absolutely did not” loan out her car to anyone. This person said she noticed that the Mustang had been missing from its usual parking spot in front of Conaway’s home “for several days.” She told cops that Conaway had a man’s strength; the friend was sure the killer must have been somebody Conaway knew and trusted, to be able to overpower her and catch her off guard, right there in her own bedroom.
Cops found Conaway’s Mustang parked about four miles away, in the parking lot of a huge apartment complex, also in Oceanside. It was parked at the farthest, easternmost corner of the lot, in space number 99.
Conaway’s Black Book
Detective Johnson reviewed the names and phone numbers in the little black book she’d collected from Conaway’s room. She connected phone numbers with addresses; she was looking for persons who lived nearby. One of the names that Johnson came up with was Tyree Paschall.