‘Savage and cowardly’: Logan man jailed for murder of random stranger

A Logan man has been jailed for life over the savage murder of a “much loved” grandfather, who was a complete stranger, on a suburban street south of Brisbane.

Feb 09, 2023, updated Feb 09, 2023

Paul John Conoley, 44, of Logan, faced Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday for sentencing after last year pleading guilty to murder.

Steven Church, 50, was on an early morning walk to buy cigarettes and coffee on April 26, 2019 in the Logan suburb of Woodridge when Conoley unleashed what Justice Declan Kelly described as a “random, unprovoked, savage, cowardly and sustained physical attack”.

“(Church) was entirely innocent and unsuspecting. You did not know him, you would later remark that you ‘didn’t have a clue’ who he was,” Justice Kelly said.

“The deceased was a much loved father, grandfather and brother. His death has left a huge hole in the lives of his family members which can never be repaired.”

Crown prosecutor Mark Green said Church appeared frail, weighed 62 kilograms and walked with a limp in the weeks leading up to the murder.

Conoley punched and kicked Church while he was on the ground, and stood and bounced on his neck.

A witness approached the scene in his car, initially thinking Conoley was carrying a mannequin.

Conoley said he was “just taking the trash out” before trying to place Church’s body in a garbage bin.

Paramedics arrived but had to stay back until police arrived to apprehend Conoley.

After 20 minutes of attempting to resuscitate Church, he was taken to hospital and pronounced dead with a range of serious injuries, including a fatal impact to his brain.

The court was shown police video of Conoley’s arrest, during which he said “I killed old mate” and “he was walking down the road. I f***ing wrecked him”.

Church’s daughter Theresa’s victim impact statement said he had started taking better care of himself so that he would have more years of life to spend with his grandchildren.

“Not a day goes by that I am not affected by my dad’s murder – some days life seems pointless to me,” Theresa said.

Conoley’s barrister Lars Falcongreen said his client had become addicted to methamphetamine following the “rapid destruction of everything he considered important” as his businesses and marriage failed.

Justice Kelly said Conoley had been under the effects of drug-induced psychosis at the time of the murder but it was no defence.

“Accept today that you are genuinely remorseful and have limited insight into distress you caused to (Mr Church’s) family,” the judge said.

Conoley was sentenced to life imprisonment with the minimum 20 year non-parole period with nearly four years on remand as time served.

Conoley was also jailed for 15 months for seriously assaulting a police officer by spitting in their eye.

Speaking outside court, Church’s brother Christian said a life sentence could never replace his brother.

“I can’t say whether it will or it won’t (help the family move on), hopefully it does,” he said.

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