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As police sift claims, families seek solace Serial killings suspect might have slain 10

January 13, 1997|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

On the night she was killed in November, Spicer had gotten into a brief argument with her mother at their Huron Street home and stormed out of the house. Her mother, Kathie Price, said she had been upset over the death of Price's brother, who died Nov. 2 of a heroin overdose in an abandoned rowhouse on Wilkens Avenue.

As Price recounted the story in a recent interview at their modest brick home, her husband, Robert Price, quietly sitting on a chair nearby, added his opinion: "These drugs are going to bring everybody down. That's what this is all about."

"When we had an argument, she would leave but always come back," said Kathie Price, who raised four children. "But she must have run into him on the boulevard."

Court papers allege that Metheny killed Spicer after taking her to a trailer where he was temporarily living at his work site, Joe Stein & Sons in the 3200 block of James St.

Traces of blood were found in the trailer, and Metheny later showed Spicer's body to a friend, hoping for assistance in burying her, court records allege.

That man, unnamed in arrest papers, was the person who notified police about Metheny, who was arrested and promptly began confessing to past killings, the authorities say.

Drugs, alcohol blamed

His attorney says Metheny is remorseful about the killings, saying that his heavy drug and alcohol abuse brought about violent changes in his personality.

"He describes it as a rage that comes forward through drugs," Mead said. "He describes being very frustrated, too, about how he grew up and the life experiences he had."

Metheny was one of six children born into a poor West Virginia family. He has told his attorney that he was a neglected child shuffled off to "foster-like" homes by his parents, who he claimed were dead.

But his mother's recollections contradict some of his statements.

XTC She described her son as a "normal boy" growing up. "He was smart and had a good childhood. If he was neglected, it was his own fault. It was a pretty good home," she said, adding that none of her children was ever placed in other homes.

Jean Metheny said she and her husband, a laborer, struggled to make ends meet and moved to the North Point Boulevard area of Essex shortly before Joseph Metheny was born.

When Joseph Metheny was 6, his father was killed in a car accident in Terra Alta, W.Va., a death that the family took hard, Jean Metheny said.

"It was very hard on me. I had to work to support the family, and I did everything I could to keep my kids together," she said.

In the years after her husband's death, Jean Metheny says she worked as a Dundalk-area waitress, a barmaid and as a canteen truck driver who delivered lunches to workers at the Sparrows Point shipyard.

She said she could not be with her family "every single minute but it was a normal family."

"We weren't rich, but we always had something to eat and a roof over our heads. And I never went on welfare," Jean Metheny said.

She remembers her son as an avid bicycle rider, an above-average student, and averse to getting into fights with other children.

'Always polite'

"He wasn't a mean kid at all. He was always polite to everybody," she said.

When he turned 18 in 1973, he entered the Army and was stationed in Germany, where he met a woman that he seemed very close to, his mother said.

Joseph Metheny told his attorney that he served in Vietnam and became addicted to heroin during his tour of duty in an artillery unit. But his mother said she does not recall him having served in Vietnam; his military records were not immediately available.

Joseph Metheny seldom called or wrote to his mother after he left home, she recalled. The relationship eventually disintegrated, and the two didn't speak for 10 years, Jean Metheny said.

"He just kept drifting further and further away," his mother said. "I think the worst thing that ever happened to him was drugs. It's a sad, sad story."

Record

Metheny's criminal record shows nothing more serious than common assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, and occasional barroom fights, his lawyer said. He told his attorney that he has a 12-year-old son in foster care.

Police say they cleared out the homeless camps -- one called "Tent City" -- where vagrants set up makeshift homes.

Today, Metheny sits in a city jail cell, waiting for psychiatric evaluations and telling his attorney that drugs and a bad childhood are at the root of his problems.

His past hardships and mental state do not hold much interest to the families of those he is accused of killing.

Bible

Spicer's mother keeps a tattered Bible that her daughter used to read during the times when she tried to confront her problems. One passage that Spicer underlined and highlighted, from the Epistle of Paul the Apostle, reads: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

Her mother, who lived in three foster homes while growing up poor in South Baltimore, has the same view.

"I'd like to ask him why he killed her," she said, sitting on her sofa with tears in her eyes. "But we'll never really know. He's just a killer. In some people, there's just evil."

Pub Date: 1/13/97

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