Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Aileen Conway

Real Name: Aileen Ann Conway
Nicknames: Aileen Anderson (maiden name)
Location: Lawton, Oklahoma
Date: April 29, 1986


Details: At 10:40am on April 29, 1986, a farmer in rural Oklahoma noticed an ominous plume of smoke rising from a nearby road. He called the authorities, and twenty minutes later, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol arrived at the scene. They found a burning car embedded in a deserted bridge. The heat was so intense that the car had actually melted into the metal guardrail into which it had crashed. Highway patrol officers discovered a body inside the car behind the front wheel. However, officers were unable to get to the body initially because of the fire. By the time the flames subsided, the body was burned beyond recognition. Skid marks indicated that the car's speed at impact was fifty to sixty miles per hour. To the officers, it seemed like just another senseless accident.
A computer check revealed the car belonged to Pat Conway, who lived with his family in Lawton, Oklahoma, fifteen miles from the crash site. The next day, the victim was identified as Pat's wife of thirty-three years, Aileen. She was fifty at the time of her death. The couple had seven children. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol ruled her death as a one-vehicle fatality accident. Within hours of the crash, however, a number of mysterious discrepancies emerged, which led Pat to believe that his wife had, in fact, been the victim of foul play.
Pat is now certain that Aileen was murdered and wants to find those responsible. He first became suspicious when he returned home a few hours after the accident. The patio door was wide open. Aileen's purse, which she always carried with her, was sitting by an arm chair. Her driver's license and glasses were still in it. An ironing board was set up, and the iron had been left on. Water from a garden hose was running into the backyard swimming pool. Most significantly, in the master bathroom at the back of the house, the tub was still full of water and the phone was off the hook. Pat believes that Aileen attempted to make a phone call, possibly to the police department, and was interrupted.
Another disturbing detail nagged at Pat. What was Aileen doing out on that lonely country road? Neither of them had ever been in the area, and there was certainly no reason for her to be there by herself. Nothing about her death made sense. He contacted Ray Anderson of the district attorney's office. Anderson's first impression of the case was that Pat was a grieving spouse that was unable to grasp what had happened and wanted it to be something other than an accident. However, when he started looking at the extenuating and surrounding circumstances, such as the way she left her house, it led him to believe that foul play may have been involved.
A few days later, Pat and Anderson went to the crash site, looking for any potential clues. 200 feet from the bridge, they found a church bulletin in the grass. It belonged to the church the Conways attended. Pat had last seen it on the car's dashboard. Interestingly, Aileen always drove with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning turned on. The bulletin could not have flown out of a moving car; the car would had to have been stopped. Anderson believes that someone else was with her that day. He believes that they opened the door, set the accelerator, and slammed it into drive, hoping to run her and the car off into the creek and make it appear as though it was an accident.
As a result of Anderson's investigation, the Lawton district attorney changed the official cause of death from "accidental" to "unexplained". The DA then asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the state Fire Marshal to evaluate the likelihood of arson. Sonny Sansome of the Fire Marshal's Office first became suspicious when he looked at the accident scene photographs and saw a large amount of fire damage inside the car. In fact, it was completely burnt and destroyed. He thought that the burn was similar to what one would see when gasoline is used to set a fire. Another thing that made him suspicious was the fact that the gas cap was missing from the car. He noted that in most arson cases where a vehicle is involved, the gas cap is removed. This is usually done to help spread the fire.
Informal burn tests on dashboard and upholstery samples from a car similar to Aileen's suggest that the inside of her car may have been doused with gasoline. Sansome took the material and applied a blow torch to it. He set fire to the material and then removed the torch. Immediately, the fire went out; this is consistent with a flame-retardant type material. Then, he soaked the material with gasoline. When a lit match was placed on it, it was completely destroyed. He believes that, without an accelerant like gasoline, the car fire would not have burnt as bad as it did.
If Aileen was murdered on the bridge that day, one question still remains: why? Paul Renfrow of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation states that they do not know why she was there that day. However, several theories have floated around. One is that she interrupted a burglary. Renfrow discovered that there had been reports of burglaries in her neighborhood in the weeks and months prior to her death. Pat believes this theory. He believes that the assailant(s) did not know that she was home. When they came in and found her, they did not want to leave her in case she could identify them.
Anderson believes that the case can be solved if someone talks and admits their involvement in it. No one knows what exactly happened to Aileen on the remote country bridge that day. Pat is still searching for answers. Her death is constantly on his mind, day and night. He will not stop looking into it until it is solved.
Suspects: Authorities believe that Aileen's death may be connected to several burglaries in her neighborhood. They suspect that burglars planned to hit her home, assuming that nobody was there. They believe that when she walked in on them, they abducted and killed her. According to one article, some jewelry was missing from the home, which supports the burglary theory.
There has been some speculation that Aileen may have suffered from a serious medical emergency or brain ailment that caused her to leave her home in a hurry and crash her car. However, this has not been confirmed.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on Special #4 on November 29, 1987.
  • Some sources spell her first name as "Aeileen".
  • It was also featured as the first episode in the podcast, The Trail Went Cold.
  • OSBI investigator Paul Renfrow was also interviewed for the Dwayne McCorkendale and Michael St. Clair and Dennis Reese cases.

Results: Unsolved. Sadly, on August 20, 2013, Pat passed away at the age of eighty-one without ever learning the true circumstances behind Aileen's death. In 2018, their son, Fred, passed away at the age of fifty-six. A reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction in this case.