Documents detail the death of Conley Fitchett

Ed Fitchett, 57, faces charges connected to his father's death

Conley Fitchett, left in an undated photo, and his son Ed Fitchett, who faces multiple felonies surrounding his father's death, February 17, 2017 (Marion County Sheriff's Office/KOIN)
Conley Fitchett, left in an undated photo, and his son Ed Fitchett, who faces multiple felonies surrounding his father's death, February 17, 2017 (Marion County Sheriff's Office/KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Conley Fitchett, the 87-year-old man whose body was found in a freezer at his son’s home more than a year after he died, died of natural causes.

The Marion County Medical Examiner’s office revealed that information after completing an autopsy.

His son, Ed Fitchett, was arrested February 16 and charged with 1st-degree theft, 1st-degree criminal mistreatment, 1st-degree identity theft and abuse of a corpse.

Memorial service for Conley Fitchett: 11 a.m. March 4 at Faith Baptist Church in Burns

A plea hearing is set for March 3 in the case.

The probable cause document

Investigators said in a probable cause document released Friday that Ed Fitchett’s stepson called police on January 29 after “getting a confusing story” from Ed about where Conley was.

Ed told his stepson Conley was with Ed’s brother John. The stepson called his mother’s previous caregiver, who said Ed said Conley went to live with his other son, John, in La Grande.

But John told police he hadn’t seen Conley for 3 years and last spoke with him in late 2015.

Investigators also spoke with the landlord of the mobile home park where the Fitchetts lived and saw a note from Ed that said Conley left to live with his other son, John, in March 2016.

Ed was in charge of Conley’s money, including about $2000 per month in PERS and Social Security payments. Ed eventually admitted to police he was using some of that money to buy things on Amazon and for bills.

On February 16, investigators searched Fitchett’s mobile home and found the elderly man naked inside a vacuum-sealed bag in the freezer. Ed allegedly admitted he put his father’s body in the freezer but didn’t provide other details.

A makeshift memorial includes the scooter Conley Fitchett used as he sat and waved at passing traffic outside his home in Aurora, February 24, 2017 (KOIN)
A makeshift memorial includes the scooter Conley Fitchett used as he sat and waved at passing traffic outside his home in Aurora, February 24, 2017 (KOIN)


Conley ‘seemed to be a pretty good guy’

Outside the home where Conley lived for 14 years with his son, Ed, a makeshift memorial to the elder man was set up. It included the power chair he used to sit in and wave to people as they passed along the road.

About Conley Fitchett
> Born July 29, 1929
> Grew up in Harney County
> Graduated Crane Union High
> Earned mechanic’s degree from OIT
> Married Jewell Howard in 1956
> Had 2 sons, Edward and John
> Always had time for kids and grandkids
> Loved music and dancing, could yodel
> Played the drums and harmonica
> His final job was with ODOT
> “A special man. Not perfect, but real”
— Information: John Fitchett

People around Aurora remembered Conley Fitchett sitting in his motorized power chair sitting along the side of the road and waving to people.

Michelle Bryan, who’s a bartender at the Hubbard Inn, said Conley would come in for a burger and cranberry juice.

“A lot of people really liked seeing him there and it made them smile,” she told KOIN 6 News. She described him as a “very quiet, very nice guy” whose death was “awful, shocking.”

Mike Zulaski said Conley would go to the Donald Tavern in town.

“We kind of all watched over him. There was a bunch of us get together, he’d be in his wheelchair trying to get around and we’d have to move tables and chairs and stuff,” Zulaski said.

He said it never occurred to him that “anything like that could happen.”

“It’s just shocking, especially that someone could do that to their father. Man! Terrible.”

‘Remember my dad for who he was’

John Fitchett told KOIN 6 News he wants 2 things: one for people to remember “my dad for who he was and not as the ‘Missing Person’ poster,” and that he wants “to see Edward punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

He also said what people should learn from this is: Whether or not you’re angry at your siblings, check on your parents.

A memorial service for Conley Fitchett is set for 11 a.m. March 4 at Faith Baptist Church in Burns, Oregon.

‘Caregiver stirred everything up’

Ed Fitchett willingly spoke with KOIN 6 News on February 14. On that day he told the tale of how his father left with his girlfriend for Estacada in September 2016.

Ed Fitchett, whose 87-year-old father Conley Fitchett, has been missing for months, February 14, 2017 (KOIN)
Ed Fitchett, whose 87-year-old father Conley Fitchett, has been missing for months, February 14, 2017 (KOIN)

Ed also claimed his dad and the mystery woman stopped by about 2-and-a-half months ago to pick up a blue suitcase with underwear and toiletries — and then left again.

He also said his wife’s caregiver “got ahold of my brother through Facebook and stirred everything up.”

Asked if his dad had any money or anything the mystery woman would want, Ed told KOIN 6 News, “I’m in charge of his money. Can’t see anything going on there that she’s helping him do that or helping.”

Two days after Ed Fitchett willing spoke with KOIN 6 News and said he didn’t know where his father was, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office searched his home and found the body of Conley Fitchett in a freezer.

Marion County District Attorney Walter Beglan said in documents that Ed Fitchett “unlawfully and intentionally remove or carry away a corpse” between December 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015 — more than a year ago.

The succeeding charges of 1st-degree theft cover each month of 2016 — accusing Fitchett of stealing money that came to his father.

Fitchett was deemed a danger to the community and bail was set at $280,000.