INDIANAPOLIS — Monica Conley wasn’t thinking about her ex-husband as she loaded winter clothing into bags to put in storage.
It was late in the evening on April 3, 2021. Her kids and their cousin were downstairs listening to music, turned up loud in the east-side apartment.
The mood was festive. Easter was approaching. Conley felt she could relax. She was not thinking about her ex, Lamar Pittman, and those threatening text messages and phone calls.
Pittman had been stalking Conley for more than a year, according to court and police records. It seemed nothing would make him stop. Even when he was locked up for intimidating Conley, records show Pittman called her from a jail phone.
On that evening in April, Conley turned around from the closet and there stood Pittman. He was in her bedroom, yelling and moving his body as if he was going to hit her, Conley said.
Pittman had his hands in the pockets of his hoodie, Conley said, and she wondered if he had a gun.
She remembered her own gun, in the bedroom just a few feet away.
“I look over and the gun is just there, and I felt like he would end up getting it,” Conley said.
Conley has never been publicly identified in connection with the shooting that killed Pittman nearly a year ago.
She could have remained anonymous but is speaking to WRTV because she said she hopes telling her story will pressure law enforcement officials to do more to protect people who are being stalked.
She’s angry at a justice system that she says didn’t protect her, despite the recorded calls, text message threats and constant fear.
“They definitely dropped the ball,” Conley said. “If they would have filed those charges like they had told us, Lamar would not have been out of custody to end up in my house that night.”
A sudden marriage
Conley met Pittman in 2018 when he was working at a storage facility. She wasn’t sure about him at first, but he was “super persistent.”
He’d call and text frequently, she said, asking her to hang out or go to dinner.
“I’d be bored and just give in.”
She quickly noticed how close Pittman was to his family. Family has always been important to her too.
They started dating, and Conley started thinking that Pittman might be the right partner.
But she wasn’t quite ready in March 2019 when Pittman abruptly said to her: “Let’s go get married.”
Conley said she was certain Pittman was joking, but he took her to the City-County Building and they got a marriage license.
Conley said the whole time she was thinking it was fun and cute, but it couldn’t be real.
It stopped being fun, Conely said, once Pittman found someone downtown who could perform the marriage on the spot.
That’s when reality hit her.
“I was like ‘this is not right,’” Conley said. “This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”
Conley said she didn’t want to do it, but didn’t want to disappoint Pittman. They were legally married that day, March 26, 2019.
Pittman lived in his own apartment for a short time, but he soon moved in with Conley and her two children.
“And all hell broke loose,” Conley said.
Pittman arrived and started ordering everyone around, she said. He was trying to change everyone’s routine to suit himself.
“He started being controlling and didn’t want me hanging out with friends, family,” Conley said.
It took only a few weeks for Conley to know the marriage was not going to work. After just three months as husband and wife, Conley filed for divorce.
Pittman refused to move out of the apartment.
Conley got a restraining order.
One day while Pittman was at work Conley had the locks changed and dropped off his belongings at his grandmother’s house.
The divorce, she said, only made things worse.
Threats, texts and voice messages
Pittman would not let her go. He was texting, calling and threatening, Conley said.
Conley says she wanted nothing to do with him but also needed him to sign divorce papers. Pittman eventually did so after Conley went to police and threatened to have him arrested for harassment and stalking.
The divorce was final on Jan. 17, 2020. Conley was four-months pregnant at the time with Pittman’s daughter.
Conley said Pittman kept calling and texting.
The harassment went on for months, police and court records show. Pittman is a suspect in at least six police reports from 2019-2020 in which he harassed, intimidated, or stole a cell phone from Conley.
On May 5, 2020, records show Marion County prosecutors charged Pittman with intimidation. He went to jail when his bond was revoked because he kept calling and threatening Conley. The case dragged on, delayed by the pandemic.
In August 2020, prosecutors told a judge that while he was locked up Pittman used a Marion County Jail phone to call two other people and ask them to contact Conley. He also called Conley himself from a jail phone.
The judge ordered Pittman to be held in “deadlock” without phone privileges.
On Aug. 21, 2020, court staff added a note to the file: “State is going to up file charges.”
But there were never any new charges.
“The public doesn’t know all the emails, texts, phone calls and in-person meetings between me, my lawyer and the prosecutors,” Conley said. “They promised that they would file charges and that he wouldn’t be released.”
Prosecutors’ empty promise
Conley understands the criminal justice system. She is a paralegal who has worked for Indianapolis defense attorney Denise Turner since 2019.
Both Conley and Turner say prosecutors should have done more.
Conley said she and Turner communicated often via email, text and phone with two deputy prosecutors, Erin Warrner and Katharine Melnick, to discuss new charges against Pittman.
The four also met in person once while Pittman’s intimidation case was pending, and Conley said the deputy prosecutors promised they were preparing a new case against Pittman.
At the time, Warrner and Melnick were supervisors who handled domestic violence and sex crimes cases. The case was handed off to Deputy Prosecutor Dan Cicchini when the office reorganized in the fall of 2020, Warrner said.
In the end, Pittman never faced additional charges.
“It’s such a sad situation,” Warrner, who now works as an immigration attorney for the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, said in a phone interview. “It’s just a horrible, horrible, horrible thing to happen.”
While he was jail, Pittman sent letters to the judge, begging to be released from deadlock.
“I have truly learned a valuable lesson and been humbled by my experience,” Pittman said in one letter filed Oct. 8, 2020. “Never will I break or disobey any laws in my life again.”
The judge denied his numerous requests.
Pittman was in jail for nearly six months by the time he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served on Jan. 28, 2021.
Harassment turns deadly
Despite his hand-written promise to the judge, Pittman was calling and texting Conley soon after his release.
“I talk to God he said I can have u,” read one text she received at 10:42 p.m. on March 1, 2021.
On April 3, 2021, Pittman called Conley at about 3 a.m. He was ranting and threatening, she said. She called 911 on another phone so dispatchers could listen. Officers arrived at her apartment and were present for the phone conversation.
WRTV requested copies of the body camera video, 911 calls and other evidence in the case. Officials have not yet provided those recordings.
That day, Conley said she and her attorney Turner communicated with Cicchini, the supervisor in the prosecutor’s office.
Cicchini, Conley said, told her that officers would be watching the apartment in case Pittman showed up again.
WRTV called and emailed Cicchini seeking comment but he did not respond. A spokesman for Prosecutor Ryan Mears declined to talk about the case.
Conley said she felt safe for the first time in months. That feeling turned to terror when Pittman unexpectedly showed up in her bedroom that night.
“I had this horrible feeling like he’s gonna kill me and my kids and my niece.”
That’s when Conley grabbed her revolver.
“I reached over and grab the gun and I fired one shot.”
The gun flew from her grip, Conley said. She rushed past Pittman and out the bedroom door. She saw him clutch his shoulder but didn’t see him fall.
Conley said she called 911. She didn’t know Pittman was dead until later when a police detective questioned her.
Conley said she just wanted Pittman to leave her alone; she didn’t want him to die.
She wanted help. They promised to help. The justice system did not do enough to protect her, she said.
A year later, Conley has not been arrested or charged in the case. According to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, she hasn’t been officially cleared either.
The Indianapo0lis Metropolitan Police Department closed its investigation last summer, a spokesman said.
Detective Gary Toms, the lead homicide investigator, told Conley’s lawyer just days after the shooting that this appeared to be a case of self-defense.
“I guess his (Pittman’s) family is under the impression that charges are going to be filed,” attorney Denise Turner wrote in an April 5, 2021, email exchange with Toms. “As you can imagine, Monica and her family are having a difficult time. (I’m) doing what I can to try to put their minds at ease a little.”
Toms replied about 90 minutes later.
“If they are telling people she’s going to be charged after (the) meeting, they didn’t listen to anything I said,” Toms wrote. “I told them I would have to find some incredibly damning evidence and the likelihood of that is small …”
“I don’t believe I will find anything, but I do have to investigate,” Toms wrote.
WRTV contacted Pittman’s sister, who said she and the family declined to comment.
IMPD records show that the homicide branch considers the investigation “exceptionally cleared” as of June 2021, which means police have solved the case but the suspect can’t be arrested for reasons outside the control of law enforcement. Often, this is used when a suspect has died.
“The evidence currently suggests the incident was self-defense,” Lt. Shane Foley said in an emailed statement to WRTV. “However, this can be updated based upon additional evidence coming to light or a determination by the (Marion County prosecutor’s office).”
But according to Michael Leffler, spokesman for Prosecutor Ryan Mears, the homicide “remains under investigation.”
Leffler said the probable cause paperwork was not handed over to the prosecutor’s office until sometime the week of March 14 this year.
When asked why it took so long to file the probable cause, Foley said there was a “delay in the internal review process.”
‘Cover its ass’
Turner, Conley’s attorney, said she thinks Mears’ office is looking into the case now to avoid public criticism.
“I think at this point the prosecutor’s office is trying to cover its ass,” Turner said, “because for two years they did nothing.”
By failing to file new charges, Turner said prosecutors allowed Pittman to continue to harass and stalk Conley until the night he entered her home uninvited.
“This falls squarely on his (Mears’) shoulders,” Turner said. “They are telling us they are going to file stalking. They are telling us they are going to protect her and they don’t.”
Mears, through a spokesman, declined to comment because the investigation remains active.
How he got in
Conley discovered later that her daughter heard a knock and opened the door that night, expecting it to see another relative.
Instead she saw Pittman. He pushed past and went straight to Conley’s room.
Conley was in her closet, sorting clothes. She didn’t hear Pittman enter. She turned and looked at him. He was yelling about her messing around on him.
She didn’t want to shoot him, she said. She wanted him to leave her alone. She didn’t want to kill him. She wanted to get out. He was blocking the door. In that moment, she said she was terrified.
“Eventually I’m like ‘you gotta do something,’ like ‘you’re gonna die anyway.'”
Domestic violence resources:
If you, a friend or loved one need help leaving a partner, email [email protected].
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at [email protected] or on Twitter: @vicryc.