PINEVILLE, Mo. — A primary school in McDonald County sits on the ground that was once the scene of a senseless slaughter. It was the beginning of a series of crimes that led to more carnage in a small Texas town.
Levi King is a McDonald County native that by all accounts had a rough upbringing. He was one of seven children that lived in poverty with a violent father who was obsessed with weapons, sometimes killing family pets in front of Levi and his siblings.
Family and friends close to the King family gave testimony in court during Levi’s trial stating his childhood home was unkempt and there were exposed wires as well as insulation everywhere. A lack of boundaries in the household meant drugs and alcohol were always accessible to the children. Levi’s sister gave testimony citing the horrific acts of violence their father waged against Levi and their mother; at one point she says she witnessed her father, Scott King, hold a gun to her mother’s head. Also, her 13-year-old brother, Spencer, was accidentally shot to death after Scott gave him and his friend a gun. After the funeral, their father made the boys handle guns so they wouldn’t be afraid just because their brother was dead.
A former social worker associated with Levi and his family as he was growing up, went to Texas to give testimony on the stand during Levi’s trial to speculate what led to the crimes Levi committed, noting he struggled with multiple mental disorders, a loveless home with abusive drug-addicted parents, and his own substance abuse from a very young age. One court witness testimony from a friend of the family, recalls seeing Levi smoke marijuana with his father when he was just six years old.
Other testimony given suggested Levi was a compassionate and pleasant child, and over time he remained kind despite his home life. A Sunday school teacher gave a statement saying if only Levi knew he was loved, and his parents thought he was worth the effort, his life would have been different.
At 20 years old, Levi King was sentenced to prison for burglary and burning down his neighbor’s house. Of his 14-year sentence, he served only 17 months before he was paroled for good behavior and sent to a halfway house in St. Louis, Missouri. In the fall of 2005, King fled and headed back to his roots in the southwest corner of the state.
On September 29th, 2005, Levi made his way to his father’s house in Pineville, Missouri. Reports state after an argument his father banned him from the house.
In the A&E documentary The Killer Speaks, Levi says being rejected by his family set him off.
The First Kill
Levi went back into his father’s house where he stole three guns: an AK-47, a 9mm handgun, and a hunting rifle. Levi then fled down the road to 340 Pleasant Ridge Road in Anderson, Missouri. Before this address belonged to present-day Pineville Primary School, it was the site of Orlie McCool’s home.
After seeing Orlie leave the home with his daughter-in-law, Dawn McCool, Levi forced his way inside. When the McCools returned shortly after, Levi shot Orlie in the head, and unloaded multiple rounds into Dawn, killing both victims. It is speculated the residence was a target for their vehicle.
Levi stole Orlie’s pickup truck after the murders, but before heading south to escape his crimes, he says he felt as close to peace as he has ever known. He recounts this experience in the documentary, adding that the anger and fear from the previous years were washed away in an instant.
Family Murdered In Their Beds
Levi made a break for Mexico to escape his crimes. Out of desperation to feel the calm he felt after killing the McCools, he says he pulled into a random Texas home to kill again.
After breaking in, Levi targeted a bedroom where he murdered Brian Conrad and his pregnant wife, Michell. He then fired rounds with the AK-47 into the rooms of the couple’s 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. He also killed the family dog.
“Just before leaving the house, I looked at myself in the mirror. As to where the first of the murders released me from a great burden this one had almost no effect. It left me feeling empty,” he says in the A&E documentary The Killer Speaks.
Unknown to Levi, the 10-year-old survived. She says she pretended to be dead for hours wondering if her family was dead or alive, while Levi rummaged through their house. It wasn’t until King left that the daughter was able to get a phone, exit her home, and wait for the authorities to come. She was the sole survivor and years later she bravely took the stand to face her family’s killer.
Mistaken in Mexico
From the Conrads’ home in Pampa, Texas, Levi King headed to Juarez, Mexico. He mistakenly got turned around in Mexico and found himself stuck in line at the border to reenter the U.S. It’s reported that Levi told border patrol officers he had firearms, leading to his ultimate arrest. Border patrol discovered the vehicle belonged to Orlie McCool and that Levi was under suspicion for the McCool murders. He was arrested and sent back to Missouri where he admitted to killing the McCools and to the slayings of a family in Texas.
Guilty Plea & Death Penalty
Levi pled guilty to the murders of Orlie and Dawn McCool in Missouri on April 18, 2006, and received two consecutive life sentences without parole. Then he was to stand trial in Texas. In October 2008, he pled guilty to the murders of Brian and Michell Conrad and her son Zach Doan. All but one juror held out on the death penalty verdict after nearly eight hours of deliberation, sparing King’s life.
In one interview years after the slayings, King says he uses his past to keep inmates who are going back into society from committing future crimes.