Billy Conn Jr., carries a name in my home community of Franklin County that comes with “notoriety.” I personally heard how he was referenced, always with an edge, growing up in Franklin County.

Billy, born in 1984 was just a year younger than I am, but I didn’t know him from school. He had dropped out his freshman year leaving us unlikely to meet. Until the day we did. Our paths crossed once all those years ago when I was 16 and he was 15 and I remember exactly what I thought when I saw him as a pit was forming in my stomach, “Uh, oh, I am at the same place as Billy Conn. My mom is going to kill me.”

Sixteen year old me was nervous because of the notoriety I mentioned and the nerves were due to that only, because otherwishe, I didn’t know Billy Conn Jr. Sure, I had heard the “wild” and sometimes scary stories surrounding the Conn family, but most was hard to decipher if actual fact or urban legend.

Something else from the night I “met” Billy Conn sticks out in my head and has haunted me for years. We made eye contact once and as our eyes locked, I saw the deep depth of sadness in his eyes. I remember thinking what could be so wrong at our age to make his eyes look like that.

Recently, I have learned a lot of what did, in fact, make Billy’s eyes look so sad 20-years later. I have no doubt the things I have learned about Conn's life will haunt me for another twenty.

From Billy Conn Jr, Dec. 8
Miami Correctional Facility,
Bunker Hill, Indiana,

“God is moving mountains in my life. I couldn't make any of this up if i tried. My life is changing so rapidly. Not my day to day. But yes that too. There is a purpose to my life. Things are changing. I dont know exactly what the outcome will be. I have changed alot over the years. Starting since about 19 years old. First major thing i stopped smoking crack. At 22 i stopped smoking cigarettes and snorting cocaine. At 29 i stopped doing anything mind altering. There were lots of other things. Those were big ones though. Maybe i can say i found a new life at this point in life. Changes have been sort of a snowball effect for me. The more I make the faster that ball rolls and the bigger those changes become. You never know, I could be living in a facility such as one sent ministries in Connersville or who knows where and maybe even open my own someday. I know that doesn’t seem feasible. There is this place called the dream center in Los Angeles. I have a application. Its a two year program. I had applied for it in the county and I wrote them again and still have the application. Not that I see anyway I can get there. For some reason that place keeps coming up in my life. Something keeps bringing it up in my life. I may sound crazy. I just cant explain why some things keep happening in my life. It all just seems very strange. Maybe someday somehow that is my destiny. Helping others. ????”

Billy Conn Jr. doesn’t have notoriety at the at the Miami Correctional Facility because of who he is or who his family is. At the maximum security facility he is just one of 3,150 inmates with not much to lose. Billy will be spending what potentially could be a life sentence inside the maximum security facility of 50 years, which Conn says is realistic. That would make Conn in his eighties before being released from prison.
Any notoriety gained inside those walls is “earned” and it isn’t a picture I ever thought I would imagine taking place in America.

The Indiana Department of Corrections reported a total of 23,978 inmates within the IDOC walls as of Dec. 1, 2020. Billy Conn's story is the story of one of those inmates. Over the next several weeks we will dive into a series surrounding Conn. The case isn’t glamorous and has been tough to approach. I find it is even tougher to talk about with others.

What lead to the fifty-year sentence of Billy Conn Jr.?