Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Craig Price: Confessions of a Teenage Serial Killer

Breakthrough

On September 5, 1989, just one day after the bodies were discovered, investigators got their first real break in the case. According to Denise Langs book, A Call for Justice, police detectives Ray Pendergast and Mark Brandreth were driving through a park near Buttonwoods, when Pendergast spotted a familiar face. They stopped the car to talk to a neighborhood boy named Craig Price, 15, who Pendergast once coached in a local basketball program.

Pendergast asked the youth if he heard about the murders. Craig responded with concern that he was aware of what had happened and that he had seen the bodies coming out of the house the day before. He lived just a few doors away from the Heaton family.

During the conversation, Pendergast and Brandreth noticed that Craig had a bandage on his hand. Suspicious, Pendergast asked how he hurt himself. Craig claimed that he got drunk several nights earlier and punched his hand through a car window on Keeley Avenue. As the detectives pulled away they could not help but wonder if Craig was telling the truth about his hand. Why would he admit to two police officers that he vandalized a car?

Warwick Police Dept. patch
Warwick Police Dept. patch
It seemed unlikely that a teenager would commit such ghastly crimes as the Heaton murders, let alone such a good-humored and vivacious kid as Craig. However, the fact that the boy had a cut on his hand and lived on the same street as the Heatons was too much of a coincidence to ignore. It was something both officers felt compelled to follow up on, which they did.

The detectives wrote up a report and began to investigate Craigs story. They learned that there was no police report of a car window being smashed in the area Craig mentioned. They also went to Keeley Avenue and found no evidence of glass on the street. The two detectives began to further doubt Craigs story.

Craig became a viable suspect in the Heaton murders. Even though many in the department believed the officers were wasting their time investigating him, Pendergast and Brandreth decided to follow their gut feelings and pursue Craig as a lead. They just needed more evidence to support their theory.

In the meantime, expert blood analyst Dr. Henry Lee was contacted by police and asked to examine the Heatons residence for clues. He went to the house and analyzed the blood splatters and trails. During his investigation, he gathered vital clues from the crime scene including a bloody sock imprint. Whoever left the imprint wore a size 13 shoe.

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