PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The brother of one of Craig Price’s murder victims says he was unaware the admitted murderer was able to shave years off his sentence through so-called “good time,” and expressed frustration that Price was not docked any of those earnings after he stabbed a prison guard in 2009.
A Target 12 investigation revealed Price has accrued 1,519 days of good time – meaning his sentence has been reduced by more than four years so far – despite more than 40 infractions while behind bars in Rhode Island and now in Florida.
“I think it’s ridiculous. How can you get good time if you can’t keep out of trouble in prison?” asked Carl Battey, the brother of murder victim Rebecca Spencer. “He’s serving prison time, he shouldn’t be getting good time after all he’s done since he’s been in prison.”
In 2009, while serving time in Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Florida, Price stabbed a correctional officer in the hand with a homemade weapon during an altercation with another inmate.
Court records reviewed by Target 12 show Price was convicted on four counts related to the assault and sentenced to two and a half years, which he’ll have to serve when his Rhode Island sentence expires. Rhode Island prison officials say that date is fluid, but for now is set for 2018.
As part of his punishment for the 2009 stabbing of the Florida guard, prison officials there also docked him 365 days of “gain time,” which is Florida’s version of good time. They also placed him in confinement for 60 days.
But a loss of good time can only be handed down by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections since Price is still considered a Rhode Island inmate. Records show corrections officials in Rhode Island did not deduct any good time for the incident.
“They should try everything they can to try and keep him behind bars so that no one else pays the price,” Battey said.
‘I tried to revive her’
On July 27, 1988, Battey came home after working an overnight shift as a security guard to find his sister Rebecca Spencer lying in a pool of blood. She had been stabbed 58 times.
“We were living in the same place at the time and found her in the living room,” Battey said in an emotional interview. “I don’t remember what happened, I know I called 911 and I know I tried to revive her.”
If there was any saving grace, Battey said Spencer’s two young children were staying at their father’s house that night.
For two years the crime went unsolved, and Battey said the family was losing hope that the killer of Rebecca Spencer – Becky to her friends and family – would ever be caught.
“It was frustrating because you didn’t know what happened, you didn’t know what was going on, we were getting very little from the police departments at the time,” he said. “We thought it would end up an unsolved mystery.”
Then tragedy struck the Buttonwoods section of Warwick once again: 39-year-old Joan Heaton and her two daughters; 10-year-old Jennifer and 8-year-old Melissa, were found dead in their home. They too had been stabbed multiple times.
Retired Warwick Police Detective Kenneth Anderson was at the house that day and said he still is at a loss for words in how to describe the gut-wrenching scene.
“The bodies had been covered with a blanket, maybe two blankets, and a rug,” Anderson said. “Underneath the blanket were these three bodies that were absolutely destroyed. The perpetrator that day, to us, was unbelievable.”
Battey said he and his family knew right away the Heaton family was killed by the same person as who murdered Becky.
Unlike the Spencer murder two years earlier, the killer had left more evidence behind at the Heaton house. Within days police had zeroed in on Craig Price, then a 15-year-old student at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School. He eventually confessed to all four murders.
Battey hasn’t been back to the home where he found his sister since the day he found her in 1988.
More time sought
Battey said he was unaware Price was even able to earn good time, let alone that he already accrued more than four years’ worth.
The findings are particularly frustrating to Battey after all the work the victim’s families did to change Rhode Island’s laws in the wake of the Price case.
“We did a big push to change the laws in the state of Rhode Island so that juveniles could be tried under the circumstances like in the Price case,” he said.
Because Price was just 15 years old when he admitted to the murders, the law at the time meant Price would be released from the Rhode Island Training School at the age of 21. The victim advocates were successful in getting the law changed, but it did not apply retroactively to Price.
By Rhode Island law, inmates not serving a life sentence can earn good time to reduce their incarceration for good behavior and taking classes. Generally speaking, the formula allows for an inmate to earn up to 10 days off their sentence for every month of good behavior. The law states an inmate can collect one day of good time per month for every year they’ve been sentenced to prison with a maximum allocation of 10 days.
Now 41, Price is serving time not for murder, but for various infractions behind bars.
In a superior court filing, the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has argued Price violated his probation for the incidents in Florida and prosecutors are seeking more prison time. Battey lauded the Attorney General’s office for their efforts to keep Price locked up.
“At 13 he killed my sister and at 15 he butchered an entire family,” Battey said. “I don’t believe any time in prison is going to stop him from doing it again once he’s released.”