Written by CPMS Director Cassandra Hetherington
For the past sixteen years, Hanife Conry has worked at the Cleveland Park library as a technician. She has assisted countless people with obtaining their library cards, provided customer service, and performed the sisyphean but meditative task of reshelving books. She was at a different branch when the library was under construction, worried she wouldn’t like the renovated building, but now marvels at how open, light and airy it is now. She remains dumbfounded that this iteration of the library has the same footprint as the old one given how much bigger it feels.
Hanife lived in Brookland with her husband, Executive Chef Trent Conry, and their three children, all close in age. When Hanife was pregnant with their middle child, she began to feel an odd connection with their distant relative William Jennings Bryan and was compelled to name their son William Jennings. Willy was “a typical boy,” into everything, energetic and particularly drawn to skateboarding which he was determined to master. Much like his namesake, he loved talking. Additionally he was extremely bright, handsome and generous. He had a strong interest in business which began on a hot summer day when he was eight and Hanife suggested they sell lemonade under the tree in front of their house. As a second grader at Oyster Adams, he tested into John Hopkins Gifted and Talented program but the family did not have the financial means to take advantage of this opportunity.
While in Alice Deal Middle School, Willy unprompted and independently researched the admission requirements for the highly competitive School Without Walls, applied and was accepted. Although he began his high school career at Walls, he transferred to Wilson High School to be with friends. Willy lived for his friends and befriended people from all walks of life. Hanife said he was the first to reach out to new children who moved into the neighborhood and fondly remembers her house felt much like a sleepaway camp. After high school graduation, Willy actually let two of his friends who had completed their military service but had no place to live sleep in his bedroom for a few months unbeknownst to his parents. They would enter and exit the house while everyone was asleep and Willy would sneak food into his room.
For many years, his father Trent’s health was declining and worsened when Willy was in his twenties. It was Willy who found his father unresponsive on the night of December 26, 2019. Like many people, Willy felt lost in his twenties and his father’s death traumatically impacted him. During all of this, Hanife was diagnosed with cancer and continues to go through treatment. Despite all of this, Hanife continued to provide excellent customer service to her beloved library patrons.
Nearly two years after Trent’s death, the remaining Conry family was told that Willy had been shot in the heart at close range while sitting in Hanife’s car in the 3400 block of Park Place NW in the Parkview neighborhood. He was only twenty-eight years old. Three other people were shot to death that night in unrelated incidents and Willy’s death received only a passing mention in the Washington Post.
The pain of losing first her husband then her son has left Hanife numb yet grateful for friends and colleagues who have steadfastly supported her. Willy’s funeral was well attended by over 250 people – friends from all walks of life who had been touched by his loyalty, kindness, and generosity. So far the Metropolitan Police Department has not been able to provide a motive, suspect or much information at all regarding the murder of William Jennings Conry. In the meantime, Hanife hopes one day to find justice for her son. For now she hopes that by telling the Cleveland Park community about her beloved son, he will be remembered.
The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone that provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for each homicide committed in the District of Columbia. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the police at 202-727-9099. Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by sending a text message to 50411.