Cancer-stricken ex-teacher serving term for sex abuse is released to die at home Price is hospitalized in critical condition

January 17, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The former Anne Arundel County high school teacher whose sexual trysts with his students prompted statewide school reforms was hospitalized in critical condition yesterday, after a judge ordered him released from prison so that he could die of lung cancer at home.

Ronald W. Price, convicted in 1993 of sexual child abuse and perverted sexual practices for having sex with three students, was admitted to University of Maryland Hospital after his condition deteriorated overnight. He was on oxygen and nearly bedridden in a prison infirmary, unable to attend yesterday's court hearing.

The hospitalization came after Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner ordered Price's 21-year prison sentence changed to house arrest, releasing him to the care of a brother, Randy, and Hospice of the Chesapeake. The order says Ronald Price can return to his Brooklyn Park home with hospice workers visiting. He also could be moved to the hospice or to a hospital.

"We may have a Pyrrhic victory here. He may never make it out of the hospital," his attorney, T. Joseph Touhey, said.

Lerner agreed to Touhey's emergency request because physicians have abandoned treatment of Price's rapidly spreading cancer, which was diagnosed in October. The judge said death-bed care for Price would be burdensome for the Maryland House of Corrections, that Price no longer is a threat to society and that there was a humanitarian concern.

"I know what Mr. Price is going through because I had a sister-in-law die last weekend of exactly this," Lerner said.

Assistant State's Attorney Sandra Foy said University of Maryland Medical System physicians told her that they expect Price to live for no more than six months and that her office did not oppose the request.

"He has a tumor the size of a football," she said. "It is putting pressure on the main artery that goes from his left lung to his heart."

Price smoked heavily during his trial in September 1993.

"I just remember that every time there was a break, he was smoking outside," said William C. Mulford II, who as an assistant state's attorney prosecuted Price.

Lerner sentenced Price to 26 years in prison but cut the sentence to 21 years in 1994.

Price, 53, was a popular Northeast High School teacher and softball coach married to a former student when prosecutors charged him with having sex with three female students.

His case put a national spotlight on the nation's 47th-largest school system after he said on the nationally syndicated "Geraldo!" television show that he had had sex with six or seven students over his 25-year teaching career, and that everybody knew and nobody stopped him.

Subsequently, a state-ordered investigation into the county schools' handling of sex cases involving teachers brought more accusations to light and led to the the resignation of Superintendent C. Berry Carter III amid criticism that he had mishandled the earlier cases.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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