Man arrested for murder of newspaper carrier

Published 9:51 pm Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Suffolk Police have arrested a man and charged him with a nearly year-old homicide.

Christopher Jonta Artis, 19, was arrested Wednesday on capital murder, robbery and firearms charges in connection with the murder of John Price Jr., 50, on July 8, 2009.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper carrier was killed in the 100 block of Brewer Avenue about 4 a.m. that day as he delivered the paper. Police officers responding to calls of shots fired found Price lying in the roadway, with his van stopped nearby. The driver’s door was open and the engine was running, police said at the time.

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Detectives say the murder was a “crime of opportunity,” city spokeswoman Debbie George said. Bill Johnson, the home delivery manager for the Virginian-Pilot, said last year that Virginian-Pilot carriers do not collect money from customers.

Price’s family members remembered him last year as a hardworking man who worked two jobs to support the family. In addition to carrying the paper, Price also worked at Ferguson Manufacturing as a steel fabricator.

Artis’ home address is listed as the 500 block of Second Avenue, just around the corner from the shooting.

The initial investigation into the shooting yielded several leads, George said, but additional information was needed to complete the investigation. The case was later reassigned to the Cold Case Unit and Detective G.D. Myrick continued the investigation.

In the aftermath of the shooting last year, an anonymous citizen set up an account and deposited $5,000 to be used as a reward for information leading to an arrest in the shooting. George did not know Wednesday evening if that reward would be distributed.

A Suffolk grand jury handed down sealed indictments last week for the crimes. Artis was arrested without incident, and is being held in Western Tidewater Regional Jail without bond.