Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Craig Price: Confessions of a Teenage Serial Killer

The Campaign

Four figures were instrumental in the campaign to stop Craigs release. They were Joan Heatons mother, Marie; her sister, Mary Lou; Capt. Kevin Collins, who led the Heaton investigation; and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Pine. From the beginning, they lobbied the Rhode Island legislature to institute new bills to prevent Craigs release and others like him. Moreover, they went out of their way to inform the world of Craigs crimes and his upcoming release. Together, they tried every possible avenue to prevent Craig from having the chance to murder again.

Asst. A.G. Jeffrey Pine
Asst. A.G. Jeffrey Pine
In 1990, Pine and Collins were key figures in instigating the passing of the ONeil bill, which toughened sentences on teenage murderers. In 1993, Pine introduced a controversial bill that would give the Office of the Attorney General the power to civilly commit a mentally ill individual to a mental institution if the person posed a danger to society. Many thought the bill would discriminate against the mentally ill and give those with psychological problems a bad name. It was also argued that the bill specifically targeted Craig and could be used to prevent him from ever being freed.

Pine stood his ground. His main interest was making sure Craig stayed locked up for as long as possible. Lang quoted Pine as saying, I will do everything I can to prevent another tragedy. Much to his delight and that of the families of the victims, the Craig Price Bill was passed that same year. It was a huge step, which they hoped would result in Craig being forced to submit to a psychiatric diagnostic and treatment program.

Craig Price arrested
Craig Price arrested
 

In October 1993, Collins organized Citizens Opposed to the Release of Price (CORP). The nonprofit organization concentrated on raising funds that would be used to increase public awareness about Craigs crimes and assist with lobbying efforts. The goal was to get critical bills passed that would prevent Craig from being released.

Marie and Mary Lou also helped lead the growing campaign. They traveled throughout the state alerting the general public about Craigs upcoming release. According to a Time article by Jill Smolowe, the group worked endlessly, rallying to get funding, petitions signed and information to the public, hoping to make Prices name a household word. Within months the organization attracted hundreds of volunteers, raised tens of thousands of dollars and gained national attention.  

In the interim, Craig was preparing himself to begin a new life. By the end of the year he had already been ordered on six occasions to adhere to mandatory psychiatric evaluations and therapy. Nonetheless, he continued to refuse for fear that he would be forced into a mental institution after his five years at the training school. However, his days of hiding behind the Fifth Amendment were numbered.

In May 1994, President Bill Clinton flew to Providence, where he was scheduled to meet and discuss state affairs. Thousands of demonstrators and a circling airplane that carried the banner Alert! Killer of 4 Craig Price Moving Here! greeted Clinton as he arrived in the city. It was clear that the citizens of Rhode Island wanted something done about the Craig Price matter, and they were not going to give up until the problem was solved.

In a televised interview, Clinton expressed his dismay about Craig being let out in approximately six months. He suggested that the records of juvenile offenders should not be sealed but publicly accessible. He also mentioned that the laws needed to be changed to prevent juveniles with a violent history from purchasing firearms.

Just 15 days after Clinton aired his comments, Rhode Island lawmakers reviewed bills concerning public access to juvenile criminal records and juvenile gun laws. However, the problem concerning Craigs release was still unanswered. Craigs luck was about to change.

On June 8, 1994, Rhode Island residents were shocked to learn that Craig was indicted on one count of simple assault and extortion for threatening to injure Officer Mark Petrella, a training school employee. One week later, Craig was arraigned and bail was set at $500,000. His trial was scheduled for later that fall.

That same month Craig faced another problem. His refusal to submit to psychiatric examinations and therapy had gone on too long. He was warned that he was in danger of being held in contempt of court if he failed to undergo treatment. Yet, he would not sway.

Craigs hearing took place on June 27 at the Providence County Family Court before Judge S. Jeremiah Jr. During the proceedings, Craig was again ordered to undergo a psychiatric exam but his answer remained the same. The judge found him in civil contempt and added an extra year to his incarceration to be served at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston, Rhode Island. The only way that Craig could reduce the sentence was by submitting to the court order.

Cranston prison
Cranston prison
 

After almost five years, Craig finally complied with the order and agreed to undergo a psychiatric assessment. Dr. Barnum, a forensic psychiatrist and former head of the Boston Juvenile Court Clinic, led the evaluation. Even though Craig participated in the assessment, he didnt do it whole-heartedly. In fact, it was discovered that he lied about many of the events concerning the murders. It was a matter that would later be addressed by the Family and District Courts. In the meantime, all eyes were focused on the upcoming trial.

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