Murder victim had criminal past

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

The man killed in Wednesday’s Brewer Avenue shooting was convicted of sexual battery in 1990, court records revealed.

John Price Jr. pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual battery in June 1990, according to court files from the case. The charges stemmed from assaults on a 9-year-old girl.

However, a city spokeswoman said it is too early to tell if the convictions provide a motive for the unknown killer.

“Any information about the victim would be considered in a homicide investigation,” said Debbie George, a city spokeswoman. It is hard to identify a motive before identifying a suspect, she added.

George, a former police detective, also said that nothing at the crime scene suggested a particular motive. Police had no solid suspects as of Thursday afternoon, she added.

“Lifestyles, past history — all of those are things that they look at,” she said.

Jim Wiser, a prosecutor with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, would not comment on the old charges or the murder investigation.

“Since it’s an ongoing investigation, I can’t comment on anything,” he said.

Price was found dead in the 100 block of Brewer Avenue about 4 a.m. Wednesday morning after neighbors heard gunshots. He was delivering the Virginian-Pilot newspaper at the time. Police found a van that belonged to him stopped in the roadway, with the engine running, nearby. The driver’s door was open.

Later Wednesday, Price’s wife, Lola Price, said her husband always took care of his family. His niece, Cierra Goodwyn, said her uncle was a “good Christian man.”

Arrest warrants in the 19-year-old case revealed Price raped and sodomized the girl, causing injury, among other offenses between April and May 1989. The incidents happened while the girl’s mother was away, and she was in Price’s care.

Price was originally charged with rape, sodomy and three counts of aggravated sexual battery. In the plea agreement, each charge was reduced to sexual battery, and Price was sentenced to 12 months in jail for each count. Four of the sentences were suspended, and Price was placed on eight years of supervised probation following his release. He was to have no contact with the victim and pay his court costs.

Three months after his release, however, he was convicted of petit larceny in York County, according to court documents in his file. His sentences were revoked, and three were re-suspended. He served an additional 12 months.

Following that, he garnered additional larceny charges and tested positive for cocaine use. He also took a ring belonging to a salesman at a local car dealership, where he worked, and pawned it. Upon being confronted, he got the ring back and returned it, according to documents in his file.