Sole Survivor Among 5 Struck by Car Testifies at Manslaughter Trial

Times Staff Writer

Twelve-year-old Billy Cramer said he saw the car speeding toward him, his mother, sister and two friends. But he didn’t have time to warn them before the car hit the traffic island where they were standing. He threw himself flat, taking his bike with him.

When it was over, his companions were dead and he was engulfed in dust.

“I started to run and scream,” Cramer testified Friday in Glendale Municipal Court. “For my mom. I was yelling, ‘Mom!’ ”

Cramer was one of 14 witnesses called to testify during the first day of the preliminary hearing for William K. Conway, 27, a part-time maintenance worker for the Glendale parks and recreation division. Conway is charged with four counts of manslaughter and one count of causing an accident with injuries while driving under the influence of alcohol July 13. If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison for a maximum of 17 years and eight months.


Police said the accident occurred while Conway was driving south on Canada Boulevard near Verdugo Road. The pedestrians were waiting on the traffic island to cross the street.

Valerie Cramer, 32; her daughter, Brianna Cramer, 9; Patricia Carr, 36, and her daughter, Karen Carr, 6, all of Glendale, were killed. Billy Cramer suffered a broken finger and an injured knee.

At the hearing, Cramer testified that the car that hit his mother and sister was driving “fast, real fast.” Cramer had told police the day after the crash that it took Conway’s car 10 seconds to travel from the north end of the traffic island to where he and his companions were standing.

At the hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. James E. Rogan conducted an informal experiment. He asked Cramer to shut his eyes and imagine when the car was at the north end of the island and then indicate verbally when the car hit his companions. The test was performed twice, and each time Cramer indicated a one-second interval.

Tries Experiment Again

Asked to try the experiment again by Conway’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Michael Allensworth, Cramer timed it at two seconds.

Conway, gaunt and dressed in jail clothing, sat with his head down, clasping and unclasping his hands. He is being held in Los Angeles County Jail on $200,000 bail.

Conway’s mother and sister, several accident witnesses, police officers, coroners and a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department criminologist also testified.

Witnesses estimated that Conway’s car was traveling between 55 and 65 m.p.h. when it struck the families.

“My ears will remember always the thud, then the dust and the cry of the boy, ‘Mommy, where are you?’ ” said Elaine Dueker, who was traveling north on Canada Boulevard when she saw the accident. “The car was way out of control, that was my perception. It terrified me.”

Conway’s sister, Louise, testified that she had called her brother for assistance from a pay phone outside Mike’s Verdugo Room, a bar in the 3500 block of North Verdugo Road, earlier that evening. He came and helped her fix a flat tire on her car, she said. She said she left about 5:15 p.m. after declining to join him for a drink in the bar.

The accident occurred about 8:30 p.m.

Blood-Alcohol Level

Rogan said he intends to prove that Conway left the bar intoxicated and that his blood-alcohol level was dangerously high when his car struck the two families.

Louise Conway testified under cross-examination that the car her brother had been driving had performed badly the week before. She said she suspected then that the car might be defective.

“The week before, I drove it; it had some problems on the freeway,” Louise Conway said. “It swerved, kind of like you were driving on ice. It went back and forth and I sort of lost control a little bit.”

Louise Conway said her brother was unaware of that incident when he asked his mother if he could borrow the car.

Glendale Municipal Court Commissioner Joseph F. De Vanon is expected to rule Monday whether sufficient evidence exists to prosecute Conway. If he rules in favor of the prosecution, Conway will stand trial in Pasadena Superior Court.