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Reasonable doubts over knifing accounts

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002

He was bleeding. Once again, W. Christopher Conrad was bleeding, the victim of a knifing. Once again, there were more questions than answers as to how it had happened.

As a former top prosecutor for Allegheny County, Conrad had to convince juries that defendants were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, he must confront the reasonable doubts his explanations of how he was stabbed twice in the past two years have prompted.

Police today plan to reinterview Conrad, 53, of Upper St. Clair, who told them Thursday he had been slashed while near the University of Pittsburgh campus. He was treated at UPMC Presbyterian.

Conrad's initial version of the event bears several significant similarities to a stabbing the attorney suffered in May 2000:

Both happened on busy city streets, in broad daylight.

Both occurred without any witnesses.

Both involved a mysterious assailant or assailants who vanished without a trace.

Both left some wondering whether the events Conrad described happened.

Police ruled "unfounded" Conrad's claim two years ago that a stranger cut him on the face and arms while he was stopped in his car at a Downtown intersection. While this determination does not precisely mean, "We don't believe you," it was close.

Police had no evidence a crime occurred. Conrad's story was not bolstered by the Downtown retailer who told police he sold the attorney a box cutter-type razor the day of the attack. Conrad denied making the purchase.

The latest attack happened on McKee Place in Oakland, a bustling street with a hotel, gas station, fire station, private high school and hundreds of apartments, most rented by college students. Not much happens on McKee without some scrutiny from someone.

Conrad told police he parked on McKee and was walking to a doctor's appointment when he was accosted by two men and stabbed in an apparent robbery attempt. Yet he reported nothing stolen, and the robbers did not take his new sport utility vehicle — the one with blood inexplicably found in it. And a pair of scissors.

Conrad also can't account for about one hour of the morning. He said he must have blacked out after he was allegedly attacked about 9 a.m. The first 911 calls reporting a man bleeding on a lawn in front of an apartment building at 373 McKee were received about 10 a.m.

Residents of that and nearby apartment buildings noticed nothing unusual during that time. Nor did Julie Merante of the Groceria Merante at the McKee-Bates Street intersection.

"If he had been there during that hour, I would have seen him," Merante said Friday as she stood outside the Italian grocery.

Merante had an unobstructed view of the lawn as she stacked produce outside the small store during Conrad's lost hour. Yet she saw nothing, heard nothing, before going back inside the store shortly before 10.

"He thinks he laid down for an hour after he got stabbed and I didn't see him• None of the college students on their way to class saw him• No one at the school across the street saw him• No one driving by saw him?

"It doesn't add up," Merante said.

When it comes to Conrad's explanations regarding these puzzling incidents, little does.

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