3 former students testify against Price Sex took place at school, one says

September 08, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Three former students of Ronald Walter Price told an Anne Arundel County jury yesterday that he seduced them when they were vulnerable and had sex with them at school, in his truck and at his home -- once while his wife was asleep upstairs.

The trial of the 48-year-old Northeast High School teacher accused of child sex abuse has attracted national media attention. It opened with a 16-year-old girl describing her affair with Mr. Price.

She said it began when she was upset about a relationship with a boyfriend and quickly became all-consuming. "He became my best friend and I abandoned all my other friends. I spent all my time with him," she said.

Mr. Price, dressed in a gray suit, sat between his lawyers throughout the proceedings, often turning to talk to them and to his wife, Patricia, who was a student at Northeast when she first became involved with her husband.

Before the start of testimony, Mr. Price's lawyers changed his insanity plea to not guilty in all three cases after reviewing a state psychiatric report that found their client sane.

The three victims, who are not being identified to protect their privacy, testified that they respected and trusted Mr. Price. Eventually, each came to think they were in love with the social studies teacher, who also coached soccer and softball and was a drama coordinator at the Pasadena school.

Befriended girl in class

The 16-year-old girl, speaking in a barely audible voice, toyed with a pink tissue as she told jurors Mr. Price befriended her one day in his geography class when he noticed that she was upset.

Extremely nervous, she bounced lightly up and down in the witness chair as she talked -- and rushed from the courtroom in tears when she had finished.

The physical contact started when she was sitting in his pickup one day after school.

"He asked me for a real kiss and he leaned over and kissed me with his tongue," said the girl, who now attends a private school.

The girl said that she and Mr. Price exchanged dozens of pornographic notes, that he bought her lingerie from Frederick's of Hollywood and that they "made a game" of whether she was wearing the lingerie in school.

"At school, I would wear them under my clothes. If I had them on it was kind of like a surprise to him," said the girl, who broke down several times as she testified.

A cast member and stagehand in school productions, she admitted to encouraging the affair. She said she wore a blue velvet dress that she knew he liked for their first sexual encounter, which occurred in a backstage area at the school about two years ago.

She admitted to asking him to unzip her dress, and often lighted candles to create a more romantic setting.

The relationship, she said, started in December 1991, when she was 15. It progressed to the point that they had sex two or three times a week, sometimes on a platform above the school auditorium.

She said she once she went to his house to help with the household chores because his wife, Patricia, was recuperating from knee surgery. Mr. Price came downstairs in his bathrobe and the two had sex over the kitchen stove, she said.

Watched movies

She said he had her watch a pornographic movie on a classroom television set that was normally used for driver's education videos.

"I told him I had never seen a porno movie and he told me he had many of them at home," she said.

She said she became friends with Mr. Price's wife and he became friends with her parents.

"My grades went up. They thought I was in good hands when they would leave me with him," she said.

When she wanted to get out of the relationship in April 1993, she told a school counselor that she had "a friend" who was sleeping with a teacher at the school. The next day, she admitted that she was the one having the affair when the counselor confronted her.

Other victims told similar stories of being approached by Mr. Price when they were at a low point.

"He said he could help. He could make things better and he invited me back to his apartment," said one victim, a 27-year-old Glen Burnie woman, who was 16 and whose father had just died when she began her affair 11 years ago.

The third victim, a 22-year-old who had been a class president, honor student and softball player at Northeast, said her affair with Mr. Price started in 1986 when she was having troubles with her mother and became withdrawn in class.

Mr. Price noticed she was upset and "told me if I ever needed to talk to someone to call him," said the 22-year-old.

A few days later, he kissed her on the mouth and she spent that afternoon in a daze, wandering around the outfield during softball practice.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I frenched my coach,' " she told jurors.

Witnesses cried

All three witnesses broke down and cried several times during testimony -- particularly when cross-examined about their motives for bringing charges by Mr. Price's lawyers.

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