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  • Mark Rein

Rhode Island Wrath: America's Youngest Serial Killer

Intro

Welcome to Crime Raven; true crimes, real-life stories from law enforcement and issues crime fighters face. This blog highlights crimes researched by retired Detective Sergeant Mark Rein, using publicly available information, court records and personal recollections. Content may be graphic, disturbing, or violent. Listener discretion is advised. Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

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Vicious

Vicious stood in the deep dark, under a copse of trees. He was watching a house, only one trimmed lawn away. It was late, late enough that no one in the neighborhood stirred, despite it being a Saturday morning. The beginning of a long Labor Day weekend. The air was thick. The warmth of summer having only just begun to fade.


As he spied, his gut roiled. Struggling with raw emotion. Anticipation. Excitement, yes, but those harshly tempered by fear. Vicious knew he was standing on a precipice, but he'd been there before.


Two years earlier. He thought back to that time. His emotions had been the same. It was crazy what he had done, but he had gotten away with it. And what he had done had propelled him even deeper into the fantasies that had taken over his life.


Those memories had fueled addiction, and tonight, the promise of new ones broke the impasse. Vicious crept forward from the shadows. The ambient light from a lamp up the street was dim, but he felt exposed nonetheless.


He reached the house and, hugging the wall, he moved window to window, scanning inside and checking the doors. Some windows were clear, others covered by blinds or curtains. What lay inside those, a mystery he was about to dissolve.


At the completion of one orbit, Vicious had not found an unlocked door, but had seen enough to be comfortable with the house's layout. He was drawn back to a kitchen window. Now was the time to move. Swift and silent.


Vicious used his knife to cut open the screen. He popped the window latch and, wasting no time, pulled himself up and through, kicking his shoes off before bringing his feet inside.

He crouched on kitchen linoleum. It was comfortably dark. During the pause, he listened for movement. Sounds of alarm, and hearing none, he stood and slowly moved past the kitchen and the living room and started into the back hall.


The corridor was almost black. Vicious had a plan. Which of them would he visit first? He was trying to orient himself when something bumped into him. He felt the child's hand on his belly just an instant before it pulled away. He sensed more than saw a small figure's retreating movement into the abyss. There was a second of horror and indecision. Then blinding light shocked his eyes.


An instant before a dark mystery, now fully illuminated, Vicious stood in the middle of the hallway. One of the little girls leaning against the wall, her hands still in the light switch. The girl's face was that of a kid who had caught the monster under the bed. Her eyes wide and locked on his mere feet apart. She and Vicious had an eternal breathless moment, recognition, disbelief. Then the girl shifted almost imperceptibly, and the spell was broken. She drew in a breath. Vicious lunged to intercept her scream too late.


The girl's screech echoed through the house as Vicious grab for her. He tried to cover her mouth, desperately trying to put the genie back in the bottle. The door to the mother's bedroom ripped open. The woman in her night closed hair, wild from sleep. Paused in the portal, having the same moment of detachment and disbelief her daughter had experienced just a second before.


Vicious was past that. Adrenaline kicking in, he dropped the girl and tackled the mother hard, driving her to the floor, pummeling her. The mother desperately cried out. To no one. To everyone. Call nine one one! Call nine one one!


Vicious' s rage was growing, but not at the cost of acuity. He was the predator who could eat, while watching his own back. He heard movement down the hall behind him and saw one of the girls moving toward the kitchen.


He jumped off the woman to intercept. There were knives in the sink. Grabbing one as he flew past, Vicious hit the girl with one meaty palm, forcing her to the floor. He began stabbing her on the way down.


There was no time yet to savor. The woman was still behind him. The kitchen knife in Vicious's hand was covered with gore. Swapping it for another, he rushed back to the woman.


He was relieved to find her crumpled, semi-conscious, trying to get up, struggling to crawl down the hallway toward the kitchen, and her daughter. Vicious landed on her, pinning her. The air in her lungs exploding out of her in a reverse gasp.


Vicious was seeing everything through the red hue now. The woman. The girls, one splayed dying on the kitchen floor, the other, he looked around and she was right next to them. Kneeling next to her mother on the hallway floor. She was silent in shock, as if lost in prayer.


Vicious looked at the woman. He had picked her because of the way she had looked at him a few weeks earlier. He had been out on the street. She caught him talking to the little girls as they played in the front yard. She looked at him like a piece of shit she wanted to dis scrape from her shoe. She didn't have to say anything. Her expression spoke volumes.


Vicious had been planning, dreaming about this moment for weeks. It hadn't gone as planned. The bitch had almost ruined it, but he was salvaging that now.


Vicious focused intently on the woman as he pinned her to the floor. Then he began stabbing her, aiming for her neck. He knew from the last time the neck was vulnerable. He liked the feel of the knife as skin and tissue resisted, giving way to being punctured. The blade sliding through flesh. He did it over and over again. And when a blade broke on bone, he went back to the kitchen for another.


When Vicious's rage was spent on the mother, he turned toward the 10-year-old girl. She was still kneeling beside them, quietly rocking and moaning. Her eyes closed, sending a river of tears down her blood-spattered face. Through The Red Haze, Vicious was pleased. This was better than what he had dreamed of. He pulled the girl toward him with one hand as he brought the blade across with the other. Her startled scream broke as the blade entered the side of her throat.


Investigation

In August 1987, police were called to a home on Inez Avenue in the Buttonwood neighborhood of Warwick, Rhode Island, for the report of a dead woman. The call was an unusual one for the quiet middle class neighborhood, which was mostly single-family homes on small lots.


Patrol officers were the first to arrive. They quickly ascertained that the woman inside hadn't just died. She had been Viciously murdered. The police call quickly evolved into a crime scene processing and a homicide investigation.


What the detectives learned was that the location was the home of Rebecca Spencer, a 27-year-old mother of two, an eight-year-old boy, and a four-year-old girl. Rebecca's body had been discovered by her brother Carl, who'd also lived there. He had returned in the morning from an overnight shift as a security guard. Rebecca was divorced from the children's father and mercifully they'd been with him the night before.


The scene was unusual. The house was a rental, and the family was in the process of moving out. Most of the furniture was already gone. What remained was strewn about some items in boxes, some sorted in preparation. Detectives thought they could rule out theft as a motive because there were valuables lying around. A woman's pocketbook was found near the body, seemingly undisturbed.


The killing had been brutal. Rebecca was lying on her side on the living room floor. Her blue nightgown was drenched with blood. Stab wounds to her body were so numerous, at autopsy, they were difficult to count. The official number was 58. Her head, face, neck, torso, and arms had all been targeted with no place on her upper body spared.


She had clear defensive injuries. Several of the wounds would've been fatal by themselves. She suffered damage to her lungs, heart, liver, and major blood vessels. The attack had been done with such ferocity that pieces of the knife had broken off and remained in the body. One surprising result from the autopsy, there was no sign of sexual assault.


Aside from the bloody mess in the living room, the rest of the house was fairly clear of evidence. There were a couple of blood smears that indicated the killer had come and gone through an unlocked back door.


A search of the surrounding yards turned up a kitchen knife in the grass. It was later determined to be the murder weapon. A frying pan was found in some nearby bushes. Both items had been taken from Rebecca's kitchen.


Investigators looked at the victim's life. They found that she was an ambitious woman on the rise. Rebecca worked at a job at a jewelry store and studied at night, having recently received a G E D and had plans to start college courses the following semester.


Rebecca spent the day before her murder, packing and running errands. She had her ex take the kids overnight because the move was in a chaotic stage. According to Becky's brother, Carl, the prior evening had been normal. Becky cooked dinner for Carl and a couple of her friends, who were helping with the move.


When police spoke to them, they repeated Carl's description of the evening. Nothing unusual had happened. The friends left her alive and well around midnight.


As word of the murder spread, the usually quiet neighborhood streets became clogged from residents, media and onlookers as they flowed past. Even the mayor of the city made an appearance.


Investigators were initially confident that they could close the case, but as each successive lead was processed without an arrest, they were eventually left with no viable suspect. The arc of the investigation mirrored the scene. Furious initial activity and a crowd of investigators slowly dwindled to nothing. The sad case of Becky Spencer's death languished as it became an increasingly distant memory.


Fast forward two years to September 1st, 1989. It had been three days since anyone had heard from Joan Heaton, a 39-year-old single mother, living with her two daughters in a house, just a couple hundred yards from where Becky Spencer had been killed.


Joan's mother, Marie Bouchard, was worried as the long Labor Day weekend came to a close

with no word from the family. On September 4th, she dropped by their house to check on them. She was puzzled to find Jones' Car was in the driveway, but no one answered the door. She used her key. Police then received a frantic call from the Heaton residence. Marie Bouchard was reporting a murder.


Once again, patrol officers were the first to arrive. The unfolding call was eerily similar to the one two years before, except for the number of victims. Unfortunately, the kids had been home for this one.


Investigators determined that sometime, probably on September 1st, someone had broken into the house and brutally murdered Joan and her daughters. The bodies had been left to decompose over the weekend.


Joan Heaton was found in the hallway just off the kitchen. She had suffered numerous stab wounds, 11 just to the face where she had also been bitten. It wasn't just a stabbing. The beating had been brutal. Her skull and ribs fractured with corresponding blunt force trauma to her head and torso.


10-year-old Jennifer lay in the hallway beside her mother. She suffered 62 stab wounds during the attack, which seemed focused on her neck. One of the knives lost a three and a half inch piece of the blade that was left embedded in her body. Like her mother, Jennifer Skull had been crushed.


Joan's youngest, seven-year-old, Melissa, was found on the kitchen linoleum, ringed by an enormous pool of dried blood. Like her mother and sister, the little girl had been stabbed repeatedly and mercilessly beaten.


During processing, the crime scene yielded several clues. Joan Heaton bought a set of kitchen knives on September 1st. Some of those knives were missing from the house. The killer had left a bloody sock print on the floor. The print was big, somewhere around a men's size 13. Another interesting feature at the scene was a blood trail that led away from the bodies. The trail ended at a pile of bandage wrappers. Apparently, the suspect had cut himself.


Like the attack up the street, there was no evidence of sexual assault, but there were signs of active resistance. Items were disturbed. Some broken. The kitchen table was on its side. One of the legs splintered off. A large palm print on the tabletop seemed to indicate that the bad guy had fallen backward onto the table, leaving the print as it collapsed under his weight.


Detectives noticed other signs at the scene that pointed the to the killer's state of mind and motive. The bodies had been haphazardly covered with blankets and area rugs. This wasn't done in an effort to hide the crime, as the bodies would've been immediately obvious to anyone entering the house. Also, as with other murder, valuables in the home had been left undisturbed.


The discovery of the bodies had a profound effect on the police department and the community. Openly acknowledging links with the Rebecca Spencer murder police command assigned 26 officers to a task force. They were joined by three F B I agents. Those investigators began combing through the crime scene, the neighborhood, and the Heaton's background.


The victimology would lead nowhere. Joan Heaton's husband committed suicide in 1983. She was described as a shy, quiet, religious woman who worked as a research assistant in the biology department at the university, and she enjoyed quilting. No one in the family circle could think of anyone who would want to hurt them.


Nothing in the house indicated a threat that had preceded the attack. A search warrant for Joan's safe deposit yielded no clues.


Investigators recognize that the blood trail leading from the bodies might be their route to identify the perpetrator. Roadblocks were set up in the area. Police talked to people about the crime while closely examining men for injuries. Subpoenas were served on area clinics and hospitals in search of suspicious wounds.


Several men were immediately made persons of interest by the dragnet, but most were easily eliminated with cursory follow up.


The community was horrified as the details of the crime leaked out. Gun sales went through the roof. One gun merchant credited the spike to the Vicious nature of the murders, saying of the residents "They're scared. Scared to hell." Other security related sales went up as residents upgraded their doors, window locks, and purchased alarm systems.


One of the people police contacted the day after the murders were discovered was Craig Price. A 15-year-old African American boy who lived in the neighborhood. One of the task force officers stopped out on a group of neighborhood kids on September 5th, and Price was among them.


The officer knew Price through a youth sports program. The boy was large for his age, just under six feet and around 260 pounds. He didn't have major history, just some petty thefts and was rumored to have done some break-ins with friends from the hood.


On that day, what drew particular attention to Price was that one of his hands was wrapped in gauze. When asked about it, Price said that he had cut his hand on glass. He showed the officer the wound, which was a significant injury to the left index finger. Price gave specific details as to where and how the cut happened. But looking at the wound, the officer was suspicious. He made notes and submitted a request for a follow-up investigation.


Price was not immediately a prime suspect, but developed over time. The hangup was his age. He would have been 13 when Becky Spencer was killed. No one believed that was possible. No one wanted to believe it. Still. He had the cut. He had big size 13 ish feet. He had been living there for more than two years.


The investigators went out and tried to backstop his injury story. They found no glass on the ground and other details didn't match. The inquiry intensified. Casual conversations with Price's friends didn't corroborate any of his details.


The investigators invited Price and his parents to the Warwick Police Station on September 9th. When they interviewed him, they pointed out the discrepancies in his account and Price expanded his story. He admitted a crime. He said he did it breaking into a car and gave a more detailed explanation of how his hand was cut. The investigators thought that the kid was smart. He made an admission against self-interest, but they still didn't believe him. The discussion was fruitful because it allowed investigators to more closely inspect the wound.


The September 9th interview bumped Price up the list of active suspects. He went even higher as they looked at specifics of his new story. He was clearly still lying. They brought him back in on September 16th for a more pointed conversation.


When Price arrived at the police station, they took additional photographs. They took finger, palm and footprints. They hooked him up to a polygraph. The interview transitioned into an interrogation. Price denied knowing the Heatons. Denied ever going to their house and denied killing them. Price left, thinking he had beaten the cops.


What he didn't know was that one of his friends told the detectives that Price was asking people to lie about how he got his cut. The following morning, police entered the Price home at 7:30 AM with a search warrant. Eventually, they made it to the shed in the backyard. In an interview with a reporter, years later, Price said he watched from a window as a detective came out of the shed, holding up a bag that contained the still bloody knives used to kill the Heatons.


At that moment, he fantasized about attacking one of the cops, disarming him, and shooting his way out. In reality, detectives rushed back into the house and slapped handcuffs on the 15-year-old killer.


By the time he made it to the police station, Price had calmed down. He knew they had him and decided to tell them everything. He wanted to put his own spin on the killings, justifying them in a way that he thought would garner sympathy from some.


He had one ace up his sleeve. He knew that a 15-year-old could not be charged as an adult, and he was guaranteed freedom by the time he was 21. With a little luck, he might even be out earlier.


In a recorded confession, Price told the whole story with his mother sitting beside him crying. He talked about how he had brief contact with Joan Heaton and the two girls the day before the murders.


He described how on the night it happened; he took a knife over to the Heaton house, cut a window screen, and slipped inside. Price claimed that his intent was only to kill the mother, Joan. He didn't want to hurt the little girls.


To keep everything quiet, Price said he had slipped off his shoes as he went inside. From there, he moved toward the back bedrooms. In the dark hallway, Price bumped into one of the little girls. To keep the situation from spinning out of control, he tried to grab Melissa before she could scream, but was unsuccessful in silencing her. Joan Heaton came out of the bedroom and confronted Price who in turn attacked her.


Price was afraid Melissa was going for the phone, so he ran back, intercepting her in the kitchen. He grabbed a knife from the sink and stabbed her. Without pausing, he returned to Joan and stabbed her, too. Price turned and stabbed Jennifer. With all three Heatons and silent, dead or dying on the floor, Price said he bolted.


He ran back to his house to hide, but the gravity of what he had done had started to weigh on him. He worried about evidence he'd left behind. What had he touched? What had he forgotten? As his mind continued to spin, Price said he crept his way back into the house. The bodies had started to give off an odor, confirming that they were really all dead. He didn't like looking at them, so he covered the bodies with blankets and rugs and then collected the knives.


He retreated to his house, hid the knives in the shed and his bloody clothes in the attic. In response to detective's questions, Price said he didn't remember exactly when he cut himself, just that it was during the stabbings. He only noticed it later.


When asked why he did it. Price described an incident recently. He was talking to the little girls from the street. When Joan Heaton approached, he said she looked at him with disgust. He was sure she was a racist. In essence, Jones Gaze had enraged him and made him wanna kill her.


From the Heaton murder confession, the detectives pivoted to Becky Spencer. Price, in the same emotionless tone he described killing the Heatons, confirmed that he had murdered Rebecca Spencer and proceeded to describe how it happened. Price said that he was motivated by another act of racism. On the night prior to the murder, he and some friends were playing in the street. A man drove up in a car and before he went inside Becky's place, he directed a racial slur towards Price.


The incident enraged Price and made him wanna kill Rebecca. He went on to give details of that crime that were, corroborated by evidence, talking about details that only the killer should know.


Price said he went in through an open back door. The place was in disarray because of the move. He Found Becky sleeping on the floor of the living room in front of the television, which was turned to, one of the music video channels.


Price left his weapon back at his house, so he searched the kitchen. He thought about beating her with a frying pan, but it seemed unwieldy. He chose a knife instead. After killing Rebecca Spencer Price said he threw the knife in the high grass in the backyard, just as he would in the second murder Price stew about the evidence. So he returned to clean up what he could. He touched the frying pan, so he threw it in the neighbor's bushes.


One of the details that Price brought up repeatedly was that he had been high on marijuana and LSD for both murders. He indicated that the drug use wasn't just prior to his crimes, but a regular, even constant feature of his daily life, going back years.


After the confession, several of the detectives reflected publicly on Price's demeanor. They were stunned that a suspect his age could talk about the barbaric crimes with which seemed like the complete detachment. He spoke in horrific detail how he bit Joan Heaton's face as he stabbed her. The sounds his dying victims made. The lack of a defense from Jennifer as he turned his rage against the little girl.


During the whole horrible account, he never faltered. Never expressed regret or remorse. His only complaint was the injury to his hand. One of the local papers quoted police Captain Collins saying " I think if he was concerned about anything, it was cutting his finger," and summing it up said "this is not your garden variety of juvenile delinquent. This is a bright sociopath who, in my opinion, has enough sophistication to control his behavior because he knows exactly what the consequences would be. He's a monster."


The investigators wanted to know what kind of environment could spawn a boy killer? John and Shirley Price met in 1967 at the Concord Baptist Church in Boston. They were married the following year. Their first child, Kimberly was born August, 1968, followed by John Junior in 1972, and Craig in October, 1973.


In the family, both parents worked. Shirley was a clerical worker in an office while her husband was a manager at the Pepsi plant. Their combined income put them comfortably in the middle class, which allowed them to buy the house in Buttonwood in 1978.


Price was considered the family jokester. They said he liked to tell stories and do impressions. He played baseball and football seriously, and the rock and roll electric guitar. Not seriously. His teachers thought of him as a very intelligent, habitual underachiever.

Price had what police would consider more normal brushes with law enforcement, getting into trouble for low level criminal violations. He smoked, drank, used drugs, went to parties, and had been charged for petty theft.


One family incident caught the investigator's attention. In July 1989, an enraged Price attacked his sister. Their father tried to intervene, but Price wouldn't back down. Police were called, and he fought with them too. When they were finally able to force Price into handcuffs, he was taken to juvenile detention on domestic violence assault charges.


Overall, the investigators looking at Price's backstory were amazed at how normal it seemed. He was the baby in a traditional nuclear family of five. They lived in a middle class home in the suburbs. His father and mother were responsible and respectable. There were no signs of the kind of chaos and upheaval so commonly found in the biographies of other young killers.


The relief and celebration following the capture of who the media called the Warwick Slasher was short-lived. The facts of Price's crimes shocked the citizens of Rhode Island. Then came the realization that under current law, Price would be released on or before his 21st birthday. Just five years away. Shock and fear turned to outrage. Citizens demanded action from public leaders.


Price didn't help himself during this tense time. In one public appearance, he was being led from the courthouse and called out to the nearby newsy, smiling and taunting, "When I get out, I'm gonna smoke a bomber." Price was initially sentenced to be held at the state juvenile training facility until his 21st birthday on October 11th, 1994.


Efforts began almost immediately to keep Price locked up for longer. There was an action on a legislative fix. In 1990, state law was changed to allow juveniles under 16 who commit the most violent crimes to be moved to adult court. Because of the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws, the change would not affect Price's case.


Another strategy was to have the murderer evaluated for possible commitment to a mental institution. So psychiatric evaluation started. The first psychologist noted that Price was articulate and superficially affable, but showed a lack of empathy for others, and clearly had inner conflict that he kept hidden.


He wrote, "he appears to be a young man limited in the available resources for coping with stress and vulnerable to being overwhelmed by stimulus demands, both from his own emotional pressures and from the environment. Predicted as a result would be disorganization and a loss of control." Other documentation read, "this teenager believes that past degradations may be undone by provoking fear and intimidation in others. He is rarely able to submerge the memories of past humiliations and this resentment may break through his controls in impulsive and irrational anger."


A second psychologist wrote that Prices, instances of racism, were vivid, but seemed exaggerated and possibly fabrications. And "the possibility exists that Price possessed a preexisting paranoid trait, which then caused him to perceive maltreatment that was non-existent."


When Price's public defender caught wind of the state's plan to keep him locked up using

the psychological evaluation results, the lawyer advised Price to stop cooperating. The state's response to this was to obtain a court order requiring his cooperation. The legal fight over the order and Price's lack of cooperation would go on for years.


The outrage over Price's short sentence grew. Volunteers gathered signatures for petitions demanding that Price be locked up or exiled from the state. At a public rally, Mary Bouchard, Joan Heaton's mother, presented Governor Bruce Sunland with petitions bearing tens of thousands of signatures demanding changes in laws to allow for indefinite psychiatric hold for violent offenders.


The Rhode Island State Attorney General consulted a Massachusetts psychologist and specialist on serial killers to look at case facts. He found that Price was a serial killer, that he was in a psychotic rage during the murders, and he was in "dire need of extensive treatment," adding, "and even then may not be in a position to be safely placed in the community."


In many ways, Price turned out to be his own worst enemy. His refusal to cooperate with ongoing psychological evaluation and treatment brought him a 1994 contempt of court charge. Price was enraged and threatened to kill a corrections officer. The verbal exchange brought extortion and assault charges. This had never happened before. Charges based on words alone. Price's case was clearly being treated as special.


At trial in 1994, the State Attorney General said, "we are dealing with a quadruple murderer who has threatened to kill again, and we are going to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law."


When found guilty by a jury Price railed about racist prosecution and, "the media has once again done a good job of creating a monster." He said, his voice thundering through the stunned courtroom, "not just a boogeyman, but a black boogeyman." When the judge heard Prices, angry, unrepentant, ranting, it hardened his resolve. He gave Price a 15-year sentence with eight suspended. Price would not be released on his 21st birthday. Instead, he was transferred to an adult prison. The state came up with creative ways to extend the prison term. The contempt of court for not cooperating on psychological evaluations added a year to the sentence. All of Price's appeals went before the state's Supreme Court, and he lost every single one in succession. At each hearing, the defense asked the court, "can the state hold this man forever for crimes committed when he was 13 and 15?" the retort given each time by the state, in effect, was always, can we afford not to?


At some point, Price was transferred to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections due to overcrowding in his home state. Price was involved in more altercations while in prison, and they were always prosecuted. In 1996, he fought with officers. In 1998, he assaulted an officer. In 2001, he assaulted an inmate.


In each instance, Price claims, self-defense, and lost. From those, he received sentences that put his release date as February 17th, 2022 and 48 years old.


Then on April 4th, 2017, Price added more time in an attack that was captured by security cameras. Price entered another inmate's cell and stabbed him repeatedly with a homemade knife. The victim tried to escape by running out of the cell, but Price caught him and continued the attack. Price later plead guilty to the assault and took a 25-year sentence to be served consecutively. He agreed to a 10 year probation term and classification as a habitual violent felony offender.


The Rhode Island Attorney General thanked Florida in a public statement saying, "we are grateful for the excellent work by the third judicial circuit of the Florida State Attorney's Office on this case. It has been clear from the beginning that our Florida colleagues knew how significant this case was to Rhode Island. We are also grateful that for the purposes of public safety, Mr. Price has been sentenced to a long sentence based on his latest acts of violent criminal misconduct."


Discussion

Marcy: Bringing Mark in for the discussion, let's talk about the narrative, which you fleshed out a little bit more than you did in previous cases.

Mark: Yeah, there was a lot of information here, some that I mentioned from the psychologist. But the most important information was that a couple years after he went to adult prison Price corresponded with a local news reporter and writing to him and spoke with him in person. The reporter's name is Mark Arsenal, who now writes for the Boston Globe and Arsenal got Price talking and writing to him, and Price gave very detailed accounts. Having read those a couple things stand out Price clearly believes that his excuses, the racism of the drug use, give him moral cover that he used to describe his killings in detail.

Marcy: You think he had a personal motive for communicating with that writer?

Mark: Yeah. I think he wanted to talk about his experience. He wanted to relive the experience with somebody who was interested in hearing the details.

With the report, he had a captive audience, and he got to see the writing of articles that detailed what he had lived and I think it, it validated his experience for him.

Marcy: What do you think about the investigations?

Mark: Yeah, I think the Rebecca Spencer case. The first murder was a tough one.

You have a woman who's victimized. As an investigator, you have certain avenues that are automatic. You look at husbands, boyfriends, coworkers, any kind of admirers, people in contact with their neighbors. In that case, it would've been difficult to focus on a 13-year-old boy, even though he was just a few doors down.

That kid would be hiding in plain sight. Even if they were to get fingerprints in blood at the scene, his prints, wouldn't have been in file anywhere. And that case must have had a, they must have had a desperate feeling as it came to nothing. They would've been thinking, we know this guy's around here somewhere.

We hope we don't hear from 'em again.

Marcy: There is more written about and more media attention that was given to the triple homicide though, happened later.

Mark: I'm sure, and from what's written, they recognized that this was the same guy right away. A lot of obvious people that might have been included were excluded.

The victim Jones' husband was already dead. She didn't have a boyfriend. And there, there would've been intense focus right in the neighborhood area. And you see this kind of feeling in, in case after case that people wanna believe that the suspect's a drifter.

It can't be anywhere, one from around here that's capable of that. I think about that when the case, the recent case in Idaho, the four kids that were killed at College of Idaho. First people say, oh, this has to be somebody from another state. It has to be somebody from Washington or something.

It couldn't be from somewhere around here. And other cases it, there's this denial that anybody who's known and it, and over and over again, it turns out there are people that are pretty close. In this case, that denial after the second murder that denial's impossible, they knew that the guy was right there somewhere.

And the second homicide investigation, I think, went very well. What I see is they assigned enough manpower that, one day after the discovery one of the street canvassing guys noted Price's, injury. And even more importantly, that the first officer's documentation was followed by investigators, and they pulled the string that eventually led to the capture.

Marcy: The cut to his hand must have been bad if he wasn't able to conceal it.

Mark: They were looking for that specific kind of injury, but you're right, it must have been bad. I've seen there's notes that he still doesn't have the full use of it. It won't bend. It was a level that would be termed debilitating.

The focus on that detail, the blood at the scene and directing officers to look for that specific thing was really good investigative work.

Marcy: So talk a little bit about some of the injuries that give suspects away. Is that a common thing?

Mark: Yeah. In some crimes, when you ask that, I think about sex assault victims or DV victims who have scratched or have been scratched by their attacker. Some of those are very telling. But injuries are only meaningful in context if you know the story behind him.

I remember one of my buddies at, who was at the, at one of the ERs calling about a building fire. There was a patient in the ER who came in wreaking of gasoline who had burns on him. And we had a building fire going at the time. It's common for arsonists to get burned because, gas when you use it doesn't behave like it does on tv.

If you pour gas all over the place, it starts to vaporize immediately. And then when you light a match, the air literally explodes. And so a lot of arsonists get burned. And that's what happened in the case I just mentioned. We had not only a guy in the ER who got burned and the fire he lit, also; you find a building in the middle of the night or somewhere business broken into and their blood drops all over.

Sometimes the suspect is adrenaline going, cuts himself, doesn't even, may not even realize he, he's bleeding or maybe he's drunk and doesn't realize he's bleeding. And you can contact that guy sometimes later in the shift and, hey, you're bleeding all over the place.

Where'd you get that? And you can match those two things. When I was a burglary detective, I got several matches from DNA N on burglary blood. But specific to stabbings, when the hilt of a knife becomes slippery with sweat or blood and you stab, sometimes the hand slides down onto the blade, causing the type of inner finger injury lacerations you might expect if you envision that happening.

In an assault, when that happens, you can have two types of DNA, what's called a mixed blood sample with if you have sophisticated enough detection, you get the victim's blood and the suspect's blood in the same sample, and you can, and those can actually be separated and detected. The hand slipping problem is why hunting or combat knives usually have a substantial guard between the Hilton blade to keep that from happening.

But a kitchen knife wasn't meant to do a lot of stabbing and hip bone. That possibility is what probably happened here. Price is using a kitchen knife, and in his frenzy, stabbed. But what I think happened based on where he was injured, I think he had his left hand was pinning the victim down or stabilizing on the victim with his, with the knife in his right hand is he jabbed?

And just happened to hit his index finger

Marcy: Price blames his crimes on racially based anger and heavy drug use. So let's start with the racism piece. Do you think that was really his motive for these murders?

Mark: I can't see, say if there was if he's really angry about racism. I'm certain he experienced some in his life, but his crimes really don't make much sense in that context.

Neither the victims of the adult victims did anything overly racist to him. Price's, rage seems ludicrous in that light, so I think he had other motivations.

Marcy: You were a narcotics investigator. What do you think about the role of drugs in Price's murders?

Mark: I have no reason to disbelieve that Price used narcotics, but he specifically blamed marijuana and LSD neither drug has a reputation for fueling violence.

I had some experience on the street with cocaine psychosis. Some with angry meth heads violent reactions to whatever the hell was in bath salts when those were in vogue. But I can't remember anything violent from someone I contacted that was high on LSD.

LSD has an overblown reputation. People have heard the guy cut off his own face and ate it story. I think bad LSD trips are somewhat debilitating, not the kind of thing that is likely to fuel repeated homicidal rages.

I just looked at a study that indicated that use of LSD is. Linked to a reduction in intimate partner violence and about marijuana use. Marijuana isn't commonly thought of as a cause of a violent reaction.

If anything, the reverse. I don't want these comments to be misconstrued that I think THC and LSD are wonderful to use. I don't but here we have a serial killer using the two substances as an excuse. The drugs made him do it, and I think it's bullshit.

My grandfather was an Air Force pilot who flew in Vietnam. He said something that stuck with me. He believed that people who are under the influence behave like their true selves. In essence, when people drink and lose their inhibitions and act like total assholes, you're seeing who they really are on the inside.

I found this to be true. In Price's case, it isn't the drugs controlling him, it's the drugs unmasking him.

Marcy: One of the motives put forward by Price's, family is that the killings were incidental to cover up for burglary or theft. So it wasn't about the murders, it was about stealing.

Mark: Yeah. Members of his family said that the Price couldn't have possibly have done this himself. And that he's covering for friends.

He doesn't wanna give them up. But Price himself has never said this or never. Even in his initial com confession saying next to his mother, he never mentioned anybody else helping him or being involved. And I think this is the family's just, they're in denial. His crime speaks for itself.

There's no evidence that anybody else was involved. He did have a history of the kids he was hanging with, out on the street, did some break-ins and some thefts, but nothing like this. There's no indication, the murders started out as a theft or burglary or robbery.

And there wasn't anything taken in the murders. But the victim's lives and I guess the weapons.

Marcy: if the motive wasn't anger about racism, drug rages, or covering up for burglary, where does that leave us?

Mark: When I first, started looking at this, I took the stated motives at face value. The reporters, judges, psychologists, even the cops seemed to buy what Price was selling. He's just an angry guy who lashed out at people.

He associated with racism because; he was under the influence of drugs.

And if any of these people, reporters, judges, psychologists, cops felt otherwise., I haven't read anything to reflect that. It might be because Price stopped cooperating with the psychologist. And they, they just never got to the real point of what he was doing.

Marcy: Do you disagree with the conclusions that they did reach?

Mark: I don't disagree that he's a rage filled killer.

Marcy: So is it what a sexual motivation?

Mark: Yes. As I went through each crime, I kept thinking, don't look at what he's saying. Look at what he's doing. I've already pointed out where his explanations and his words don't make sense.

Okay? So what Price did was to target two women adults in their homes when he knew he would be there and there would be no male adult present. He struck when he knew or thought he knew there would be children present with sexual sadists. The act of penetration with a knife stabbing sometimes replaces other sex acts in their fantasies, in their actions.

This is what I believe happened here. The other thing is Price bit Joan heating on the face. He stabbed her. That's a sexual act.

Marcy: In the interviews. Price claimed to not have known that there was no Mr. Heaton in the picture.

Mark: That's what he said. He also said he had no intention of killing any of the kids. Both, I think, are lies. Price scouted his crime scenes that may have been how he had contact with the Heaton kids to begin with.

We've all seen, and I have talked about on some of these episodes how people commit crimes where they're comfortable with a certain level of safety and surety. And I'm certain based on the crimes that he knew what was going on in those houses.

Marcy: So you think Price intended to kill Becky Spencer's kids as well.

Mark: Yes. I think it was just chance that Price hit on the one night that the kids were outta the house. I think the fact of the move had sped up his timeline on hitting her house. I think she was just a few doors down. He's familiar with her.

She's a target he wanted to hit. he knows that the brother goes to work every night as a security guard. He knows she's gonna be there and the kids are gonna be there vulnerable without him.

Marcy: Do you have any other views about motive?

Mark: Yeah. When, one of the things about Price's excuses, all of them are self-serving.

He justifies the adults as deserving their fate because they were racist. But he knows the kids are inexcusable. He'll never be able to justify that with people that are listening to him, maybe sympathetic with him, including his family, by the way. So he says their deaths are unintentional.

To buy that. You'd have to forget that he stabbed each little girl 30 and 62 times, respectively. His excuses are bullshit. Price fantasized and planned specifically about what he wanted to do with each person in his all-female victim pool. In his statements, he relives their deaths in detail.

What he wrote to the writer Arsenal was great detail about what, what had happened, and what was going on. He gave the detectives also a lot of detail. The details are important to him, and it's funny. Those details don't seem like they came from someone who can barely remember because he was stoned out of his mind.

I want to add this, and this may not be a significant piece of the puzzle. Let me ask you if you remember, what member of his family did he attack and that family member had to be rescued by dad and the cops.

Marcy: It was his sister.

Mark: Yes. His female sibling.

Marcy: What did the psychologist say about Price?

Mark: So they only got access to him in the beginning. I think that's part of the problem with them. Maybe they didn't feel comfortable. Maybe they sensed that this was a sex crime, but they didn't feel comfortable because they weren't able to delve deep enough.

They only got a few sessions before the attorney cut it off. But they said in general he was a charismatic, smart. He told jokes. Here's a quote. Interviews conducted with CP indicated that his victims were not chosen at random or as a matter of convenience, but rather due to their being associated with some perceived racial slight directed towards him."

Marcy: You're disagreeing with that.

Mark: Yeah. I agree that he chose his victim's for a specific reason, but not why Price is saying then the psychologist is accepting.

Marcy: One of the psychologists basically said the claims of racism were over the top.

Mark: Yeah. That psychologist basically typified the racist stories he was telling his Vivid.

And that. His stories seemed exaggerated. Keep in mind his family called him a jokester and a storyteller. And I think that the reason Price picked racism is because there were people that would look at that with sympathy for a young African American kid.

Marcy: What does it mean for his state of mind, the covering the ha bodies haphazardly with area rugs?

Mark: He said in the statement that he did that because, he didn't like looking at the heat and bodies. What I think happened is he realized that the girls' murders were maybe a bridge too far to justify, even to himself.

I think he wanted to cover them up literally as well as symbolically. In some homicides where the killer has feelings for the deceased, sometimes they care for the victim's body. They clean him up, they respectfully position, them. That wasn't the case here.

Price just wanted to conceal the product of his crime like a cat buries his mess and litter.

Marcy: You wanna talk about denial Price's. Mother refuses to believe that her son committed the murders.

Mark: Yeah, they had to leave Rhode Island after Price's arrest. She still believes that the friends did it and he just covered for them. And the fact that he was kept in prison after he was 21 she typifies him as a racial or political prison.

The reporter I mentioned when he talked to Price's mother and confronted her about she was there for the confession. She heard it. Her reply was "the police only wanted to hear what they wanted to hear." Which is ironic because apparently she didn't hear any of his confession.

Marcy: What do you think about Price's assertion that he should have been let out when he turned 21 because that's what the law said. And I think the law exists because of an acknowledgement of brain development in people generally. It's accepted that your brain doesn't fully develop until you're 25 years old.

He claims perpetual prosecution and said the system was looking for any reason to lock him up. The goal of the correction system is rehabilitation. Punishment and maintaining public safety. I think at this point he's probably in prison to keep people safe. I don't think there's any help to rehabilitate him.

And punishment is just secondary. What do you think?

Mark: Yeah, I think they flex to the limit of the law to keep Price in prison. That public safety piece, that separation from society. And I don't think this can or should be acceptable in every case. The state shouldn't do this in all cases to try and keep it just everybody in.

But Price is a very unusual perpetrator. And if you're gonna go right up the line of violating a person's due process, rights, Price is the one to do it with. I don't think people are gonna shed many tears for the guy who, for his own gratification, butchered four innocent women and girls in their pajamas.

Exit

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