OLD SERIAL KILLER:
In July 1987, 27-year old
Rebecca Spencer was found stabbed to death in her living room. She had
been stabbed repeatedly with a packing knife. Sadly, at the time of her death,
she was preparing to move to another neighborhood.
The killer used a weapon that
was already present which indicated the killer originally entered the house
for another purpose, robbery. Spencer startled her killer. The case was
an unusual display of “overkill.” Spencer was stabbed more
than 60 times.
Two years later, on September
4, 1989, Marie Bouchard hadn’t heard from her daughter Joan Heaton 39,
and her two grandchildren over the Labor Day Weekend, which was unusual.
Marie’s other daughter Mary Lou accompanied her to Joan’s house.
When they entered the home,
they saw the interior splattered with blood, as they walked further into the
residence, they saw Joan lying beneath blood-soaked sheets in the hallway.
Her oldest daughter Jennifer was lying nearby and Melissa was on the kitchen
Seasoned detectives were shocked
at the brutality of the crimes and had difficulty holding back tears.
All the victims had been stabbed numerous times (overkill) with kitchen knives.
The youngest child Melissa; was stabbed so hard, one of the blades broke
off in her neck and she also had her skull bludgeoned in with a kitchen stool.
Her mother Joan had 57 stab wounds inflicted on her body. She was
also bludgeoned and strangled.
News of the triple homicide
sent chills and shock waves through the quiet community of Warwick, Rhode Island.
No one felt safe and the residents looked to the police for answers.
FBI profiler Gregg McCrary
noticed similarities in both cases. For instance, both cases showed an unusual
display of “overkill.” Joan and Rebecca were stabbed approximately
60 times each and the children approximately 30 times. He theorized, due
to the excessive nature of both crimes, it was highly probable that the same
person committed the murders.
McCrary suggested to police,
that the manner of the stabbing used to kill the Heaton’s likely resulted
in the murderer stabbing his own hand. He told them to look for someone
in the neighborhood with a cut or bandaged hand. McCrary’s advice
would prove significant and narrow the search for the suspect.
According to Denise Lang’s
book “A Call For Justice,” the police got their first break in the
case a day after the bodies were discovered when they spotted a familiar face
with a bandaged hand. Detectives stopped the car to talk to a neighborhood
boy named Craig Price (pictured above).
When they asked him how he
hurt his hand, he replied, he had gotten drunk several nights earlier and punched
his hand through a car window. As the officers drove away, they wondered,
why would Craig admit to police officers that he had vandalized a car.
Later, they learned, no police report existed of a car window being smashed
and no evidence of glass was found on the street. They began to doubt Craig’s
In the meantime, a blood analyst
gathered vital clues from the crime scene including a bloody sock imprint.
Whoever left the imprint wore a size 13 shoe.
At 15, Craig Price was big
and strong for his age, he also had a history of offenses including breaking
and entering, theft, peeping into houses and using drugs. He was also
known for his volcanic temper and he ran with a group of juvenile delinquents.
The cops called Price in for
a polygraph, he was accompanied by his parents; the test proved he was dishonest
but didn’t prove he was involved in the murders.
The police interviewed Craig’s
friends; investigators discovered that Craig boasted about killing Rebecca Spencer
when he was 13. A search warrant was quickly obtained.
Police moved in, Craig’s
father answered the door and was shocked to see the police on his doorstep.
The rest of the family, including Craig; were asked to sit in the living
room during the search. They were visibly upset with the exception of Craig;
he dozed off on the couch, snoring loudly.
While searching the shed in
the back, a trash bag was found, containing incriminating evidence. Within
the bag were several bloody knives from the Heaton household, along with bloody
clothing, gloves and other objects. Investigators woke Craig up and arrested
him for the murders of the Heaton’s. Surprisingly, he seemed unaffected.
Craig was ushered out of the house with his parents in tow.
At the police station, Craig’s
horrified parents stood by their son as he confessed to the murders of Rebecca
Spencer and Joan, Jennifer and Melissa Heaton. He showed no remorse.
Also, Craig’s shoe size was the same as the sock prints. There was
no doubt that he was telling the truth. Craig also stated, he broke into
the Heaton house, looking for items to steal, the noise he made awakened Joan,
she spotted Craig, he began beating her, Joan’s screams awakened her daughters,
he overpowered them, killing them one by one. The police were stunned
that a 15-year old boy starting killing at 13 and had committed four murders
by the time he was 15.
Craig Price had the law on
his side. Despite the brutal murders, he would never face a trial or serve prison
time because he confessed to his crimes weeks before his 16th birthday. According
to Rhode Island law, the courts could hold him in a training school until he
was 21. The community and the victim’s families were outraged and
sprung into action with the help of politicians. The Craig Price Bill
was passed in 1990. The bill toughens the sentences on teenage murderers.
To date, there is no telling
exactly when Craig Price will be released from prison. His projected release
date is scheduled for February 2022.
In 1994, Rhode Island residents
were shocked to learn that Craig was indicted for assault and extortion for
threatening to injure officer Mark Petrella. Craig and Petrella had a
heated argument; Craig used profane language and threatened to “snuff”
him out if he ever returned to work.
Several officers witnessed
the incident and tried unsuccessfully to calm Craig’s volatile behavior.
Craig took the stand in his defense, during cross-examination, he flew
into a rage that frightened the jurors, loudly proclaiming, everyone lied to
get him in trouble, he was the only honest person who had taken the stand and
he accused the prosecutors of being at the head of a conspiracy to keep him
behind bars permanently.
During the trial, Craig would
eventually admit to the charges. He was found guilty. Craig received an
additional 25 years on top of his other sentences. Ten of those years
were to be served outright with 15 years probation.
In 1996, Craig bit a correctional
officer’s finger during a brawl. In 1998, he assaulted another correctional
officer. In 1999 and 2001, Craig was sentenced to a total of four more
years for verbally and physically assaulting several more correctional officers.
Sources: “The Unknown
Darkness” by Gregg O. McCrary, “Court TV’s Crime Library”
and “A Call For Justice” by Denise Lang.
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