The defense rested its case Feb. 18 in the Clay Conaway rape case after a full day of testimony that included testimony from his parents.
Conaway is charged with strangulation and attempted second-degree rape in connection with a November 2017 incident in which a University of Delaware student said he attacked her while the two were in his bedroom. In earlier testimony, the woman described Conaway’s room, said he left marks around her neck, and told the jury he was wearing a UD baseball uniform during the attack. Conaway was a pitcher for the UD baseball team at the time of the alleged attack. Both the woman and her mother testified that there were signatures of baseball players on Conaway’s wall, including the signature of Chad Kuhl, a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Conaway’s father, who was a pitcher at UD in the mid-1980s.
Conaway’s father, Timothy Conaway, took the stand first for the defense, drawing a diagram of the room for the jury that showed a staircase leading up to the room, which had a futon couch, a queen-sized bed, a mini-fridge and a dresser. He said Conaway had a fish tank on top of the dresser and a hamster cage on the fridge. Clay, 23, of Georgetown, visibly smiled as his father discussed the hamster, named Noise for how loud it was when running on a wheel.
Timothy Conaway described Clay’s bed as a queen-sized “bed in a box,” which consisted of a mattress with a metal frame that lifted the bed off the ground allowing for storage underneath. “There was no headboard,” he said. Timothy Conaway said he and his wife had spent the night in the room in 2018 during a visit, and he had visited the room more than a dozen times while Clay was attending University of Delaware.
Timothy Conaway described the University of Delaware’s baseball uniform and practice attire, and he said players usually get their uniforms before game day, and usually leave their practice gear in their lockers or hand them off to be washed before changing into their street clothes to go home. The victim had previously testified that Clay and his roommates, also UD baseball players, had their practice gear on the night of the incident.
The victim had previously testified that Clay Conaway had picked her up and slammed her on the bed, hitting her head on the headboard. She testified there were no animals in the room, and it was decorated with Clay’s trophies and awards.
When asked by defense attorney Diane Coffey whether Clay had high school or college baseball trophies in his room, Timothy Conaway said no, but he did have a sizable collection of sneakers. “It’s kind of corny bringing your high school trophies to college,” he said.
Coffey also brought up Clay’s taste in music; the victim had testified that Clay said he did not like female country singers. Timothy Conaway said Clay liked country music, among other styles, and had female country singers on a playlist.
Regarding Clay’s baseball practice uniform, Timothy Conaway testified that practice uniforms were typically left at the field house after practice. He said he did not recall seeing any uniforms at his son’s house.
Timothy Conaway was also asked about his son’s fingernails, after the victim said during a video of an interview with Newark police that Conaway left marks on her neck. Coffey asked the elder Conaway about trying to teach his son a “spiked curveball,” another name for a knuckle-curveball in which the fingers are dug into the ball like a knuckleball but the ball is thrown with the same arm motion as a curveball. Timothy Conaway said he grew frustrated at trying to teach the pitch to his son because’s Clay’s fingernails were not long enough to dig into the ball properly. He said Clay has been biting his fingernails since he first started sports at age 4.
Beth Conaway, Clay’s mother, testified that Clay began biting his nails in pee-wee wrestling and did all the way into adulthood. She said she used a product that tastes bad to make him stop biting his nails, but it never worked.
“He would still bite them off, down to the quick,” she said.
She backed her husband’s testimony about where they bought the futon, the metal-framed bed they purchased for Clay, that Clay’s bed did not have a headboard, the presence of Noise the hamster and that Clay had lots of shoes on his shelves, but no books.
“I wish there were books,” she said.
On cross-examination, Deputy Attorney General Casey Ewart asked about additional details of Clay’s room, which was the master bedroom of the house. Ewart asked about the number of windows in the room, whether there were curtains, whether there was any memorabilia in the room and about the fate of the hamster - Tim Conaway said Noise died after Clay came home from school after the 2018 spring semester.
Ewart also showed a bulletin board signed by Timothy Conaway after he pitched a perfect game for UD. It was hanging on a wall, but Conaway was not sure where it was located.
When Ewart asked about whether Clay had any political signs or decorations in the room, questioning was abruptly stopped, and Judge Richard F. Stokes broke for an extended lunch period. After the break, both Stokes and Coffey told the jury there was a political sign in the room as cross-examination wrapped up.
After his testimony was finished and he was formally excused from the stand, Timothy Conaway wished to remain in the courtroom. Since his wife was set to testify next, Coffey advised him against that and escorted him out until Beth Conaway had completed her testimony.
During their cross-examinations - Ewart of Timothy Conaway and Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Anderson of Beth Conaway - the prosecutors asked whether they were at UD every day or monitoring all of Clay’s activities. Both parents said no. When asked by Anderson if there were any political signs in Clay’s room, Beth Conaway said she did not know.
Defense Attorney Joe Hurley brought up Detective Paul Kelb as his last witness asking him whether there was witness taint when he interviewed the victim with her mother in the same room. “You didn’t do anything to prevent that,” Hurley said.
The mother is an attorney, and during the video recording of Kelb’s interview, she interjects several times and answers questions the detective poses to her daughter. Kelb said he often allows victims of sexual assault to be accompanied by parents, and he did not see this case any differently. “I got the feeling [she] would feel more comfortable with her mother in the room,” he said. Kelb said the mother interjected, but he did not believe she was driving the interview.
This is the second of six trials Conaway faces on various sexual assault charges, stemming from incidents that took place from 2013 to 2018. This trial is taking place in Delaware Superior Court in Wilmington because the crime is alleged to have taken place in New Castle County. The prosecution originally sought to try all six cases together, but Stokes, who also presided at the first trial, sided with the defense and called for six separate trials.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the woman stated during her interview with Newark police that Conaway left marks around her neck from his fingernails.