Ex-officer pleads guilty in killing of city man

13-year veteran admits to shooting wife's boyfriend

January 15, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Former Baltimore police officer Rodney Price pleaded guilty yesterday to killing his wife's boyfriend by shooting him 17 times with his police-issued handgun, and agreed to a prison sentence of not more than 50 years.

Circuit Judge Allen L. Schwait accepted the plea from Price, a 13-year veteran of the force who resigned in March, days after the murder of Tristin D. Little Sr., 28.

A statement of facts read by prosecutor Lynn K. Stewart explained that on March 16 last year, Price parked his car a half block from Little's home in Northeast Baltimore and "sneaked up" on Little about 10 p.m. as he walked outside with Price's wife, Charice Price.

According to the statement, Price, 35, told Little, "Didn't I tell you not to mess with my wife?" seconds before shooting him in his head and body five to 10 times with his 9 mm semiautomatic Glock handgun.

Then, Stewart told the court, Price went to his wife and held the gun on her before walking back to Little, who was bleeding on the ground, and firing the remaining seven to 12 bullets into his body. Price was wearing department-issue pants and a blue civilian shirt.

Price, who worked the midnight shift out of the Central District, called in sick the day of the murder, saying he had a stomach virus. The Prices' children, ages 3 and 10 at the time, were with Price's mother during the incident.

Police arrested Price hours after the shooting, near his and his wife's townhouse in the 5100 block of Windermere Circle in White Marsh, as he tried to drive off with several family members in his car. His handgun was found in the back of the car inside a white plastic grocery bag.

Little's family sat in the back row of the courtroom yesterday, crying and mouthing the words "my baby" as the details of the murder were painstakingly revealed. The family maintains Little was not having an affair with Charice Price.

Price, who has been in jail since the murder, stared straight ahead, occasionally conferring with his attorney.

Melvin Brown, Little's older brother, said he was satisfied with Price pleading guilty to first-degree murder and using a handgun in the commission of a felony.

"I didn't want my mother to see the trial," said Brown, 41. "We are hurting. It's time for his family to hurt."

Price told his wife in December 2000 to break off her relationship with Little, and warned Little the next month to stop seeing his wife, according to the statement of facts.

Little, a Baltimore native who was a tractor-trailer driver, had called police internal investigators in January to complain that an officer was harassing him, but he refused to identify the officer. Charice Price also called with the same complaint.

Price's sentencing date has not been set.

"The case is going to be tried in sentencing," said Price's lawyer, Michael J. Belsky, who said he plans to show Price was acting in self-defense.

Price previously had several assault complaints against him, but was not found guilty of any of them.

In 1988, a year after he joined the force, he was charged in a criminal case with hitting a man. In 1994, Charice Price filed internal Police Department charges of abuse against her husband but refused to sign her statement, and the case was never pursued.

In 1995, Price was charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl who worked at a McDonald's restaurant where he provided off-duty security. Prosecutors dropped the case after the girl refused to testify. In 1998, he was charged with assaulting a man who supposedly was another boyfriend of his wife.

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