Exclusive: Inmate alleges Craig Price ‘opened the door and stabbed me’

Florida Sheriff's photo of Craig Price

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WPRI) – An inmate in Florida says notorious Rhode Island serial killer Craig Price pushed his way into his cell and repeatedly stabbed him nearly to death, offering details about the attack for the first time.

Joshua Davis, 43, spent eight months with Price in the same wing of the Suwannee Correctional Institution in Live Oak, Florida, before the alleged incident happened in April. Davis said he had just returned to his cell from a shower when Price showed up at his door.

“[He] said something which was unintelligible and so I leaned forward and he opened the door and stabbed me in the chest,” Davis told the Target 12 Investigators in an exclusive interview. “He attacked me and then chased me out … it took two officers and two inmates to pull him off.”

Davis was rushed to a local hospital with multiple stab wounds. He said he has healed from the stabbing, but said he is still dealing with shoulder and foot issues following the incident.

Inmate Joshua Davis at the Walton Correctional Institution in Florida.

Prison officials have since transferred Davis to another prison, The Walton Correctional Institution in Defuniak Springs, Florida, where Target 12 interviewed him late last month.

Investigators said Price used a 5-inch homemade knife during the assault, which was caught on prison video surveillance, according to court records. That video is in the hands of prosecutors from the Florida Third Circuit State Attorney’s Office, which has charged Price with attempted murder and having contraband in prison.

Davis said he was surprised that prosecutors decided to pursue criminal charges in this case because “with so many stabbings at Suwannee, it is unheard of that anyone is criminally charged.”

Price has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in January. Court documents reviewed by Target 12 do not reveal a motive for the alleged attack, and Davis said he’s still in the dark about what sparked it all.

“That’s one of the questions I’ve continued to ask, is, why?” he said. “We’ve never had any bad words – I mean I’d been there for eight months and the most I spoke to him was probably two or three words at a time when he was in his cell.”

Davis said he was unaware of Price’s notoriety until this incident. But it’s a horrifying history that Rhode Islanders know all too well: Price was just 15 years old when he confessed to killing 39-year-old Joan Heaton and her two daughters, 10-year-old Jennifer and 8-year-old Melissa, in 1989. He then admitted to the murder of 27-year-old Rebecca Spencer two years earlier. The crimes, which happened in the Buttonwood section of Warwick, terrorized the region.

RI Sentence Complete

Veteran Rhode Island prosecutor J. Patrick Youngs has been on the Price case since 1994, when the attorney general’s office successfully convicted Price on charges of extortion and assault for yelling at Training School worker. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

If that prosecution had failed, Price would likely have been released in October of that year, when he turned 21, because state law at the time called for juvenile offenders to be released on their 21st birthdays no matter the seriousness of their crimes. (The law was changed in the wake of outrage from the Price case.)

“That trial was very stressful,” Youngs said in a recent interview.

Since then, prosecutors have kept Price locked up by successfully charging him with a patchwork of crimes that he committed while behind bars. He is now 44.

Rhode Island officials shipped Price off to Florida prisons in 2004 due to his notoriety. But the clock on the Rhode Island infractions has run out: Youngs said Price’s sentence here came to an end on Oct. 2. Now he’s serving two-and-a-half years for a 2009 fight he got into in Florida where a correctional officer was stabbed in the hand trying to break up the altercation.

“Absent any acting up on his part I think it’s inevitable he may get out some day,” Youngs said. “I have concerns that when he gets out, we won’t be safe.”

Youngs said state authorities are watching the cases in Florida closely and have already filed a detainer with the courts in Rhode Island so Price can be returned to the Ocean State to face a judge here as a potential probation violator when his sentence there is done.

Technically, Price was on probation from the various Rhode Island charges when he committed the 2009 infraction in Florida, to which he pleaded no contest. Youngs said at most, prosecutors could tack on another six years in prison if they succeed in convicting him as a probation violator.

“Somebody that murders at such a young age in such a savage way, little girls, and then they threaten a guard – shouldn’t we take that more seriously than somebody who was in there on a stolen car?” Youngs said, referring to the 1994 case. “So sure, we put every effort into that case because he was Craig Price, because we knew what could happen – I would say what will happen – when he’s released.”

Price in Prison

At Suwannee, Davis and Price were both housed in closed custody, a unit for the prison’s most violent offenders. Yet Davis said Price’s behavior only sometimes matched his volatile reputation.

“He is exceptional at legal work and he’s an accomplished martial artist and everyone knows that. He’s normally real calm,” Davis said. “He’s an intelligent person, he interacts well with people. It’s just that when he deals with administrators or officers that say ‘no,’ it becomes a problem.”

Davis also said he had seen Price using a wheelchair due to an unknown medical condition, despite being able to run after Davis during the attack.

Unlike Price, Davis will likely never taste freedom again. He was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in a 1997 case, which means he is not eligible for parole. Davis said he is stunned Price could be a free man someday.

“When you incur more and more time and you keep with the violent behavior, you’re going to get out there and most likely be a menace out there,” Davis said. “Someone is going to get harmed again, and in my case, not doing anything and I got harmed.”

“If an innocent person out there, not in prison for anything…” Davis said, shaking his head. “I fear for them. I fear for them.”

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Majorie Pierre of WCTV contributed to this report