In July 1987, 27-year old Rebecca Spencer was found stabbed to death in her living room.  She had been stabbed repeatedly with a packing knife. Sadly, at the time of her death, she was preparing to move to another neighborhood.

The killer used a weapon that was already present which indicated the killer originally entered the house for another purpose, robbery. Spencer startled her killer.  The case was an unusual display of “overkill.”  Spencer was stabbed more than 60 times.

Two years later, on September 4, 1989, Marie Bouchard hadn’t heard from her daughter Joan Heaton 39, and her two grandchildren over the Labor Day Weekend, which was unusual.  Marie’s other daughter Mary Lou accompanied her to Joan’s house.

When they entered the home, they saw the interior splattered with blood, as they walked further into the residence, they saw Joan lying beneath blood-soaked sheets in the hallway.  Her oldest daughter Jennifer was lying nearby and Melissa was on the kitchen floor.

Seasoned detectives were shocked at the brutality of the crimes and had difficulty holding back tears.  All the victims had been stabbed numerous times (overkill) with kitchen knives.   The youngest child Melissa; was stabbed so hard, one of the blades broke off in her neck and she also had her skull bludgeoned in with a kitchen stool.   Her mother Joan had 57 stab wounds inflicted on her body.  She was also bludgeoned and strangled.

News of the triple homicide sent chills and shock waves through the quiet community of Warwick, Rhode Island.   No one felt safe and the residents looked to the police for answers.

FBI profiler Gregg McCrary noticed similarities in both cases. For instance, both cases showed an unusual display of “overkill.” Joan and Rebecca were stabbed approximately 60 times each and the children approximately 30 times.  He theorized, due to the excessive nature of both crimes, it was highly probable that the same person committed the murders.

McCrary suggested to police, that the manner of the stabbing used to kill the Heaton’s likely resulted in the murderer stabbing his own hand.  He told them to look for someone in the neighborhood with a cut or bandaged hand.  McCrary’s advice would prove significant and narrow the search for the suspect.

According to Denise Lang’s book “A Call For Justice,” the police got their first break in the case a day after the bodies were discovered when they spotted a familiar face with a bandaged hand.  Detectives stopped the car to talk to a neighborhood boy named Craig Price (pictured above).

When they asked him how he hurt his hand, he replied, he had gotten drunk several nights earlier and punched his hand through a car window.  As the officers drove away, they wondered, why would Craig admit to police officers that he had vandalized a car.  Later, they learned, no police report existed of a car window being smashed and no evidence of glass was found on the street. They began to doubt Craig’s story.

In the meantime, a blood analyst gathered vital clues from the crime scene including a bloody sock imprint.  Whoever left the imprint wore a size 13 shoe.

At 15, Craig Price was big and strong for his age, he also had a history of offenses including breaking and entering, theft, peeping into houses and using drugs.  He was also known for his volcanic temper and he ran with a group of juvenile delinquents.

The cops called Price in for a polygraph, he was accompanied by his parents; the test proved he was dishonest but didn’t prove he was involved in the murders.

The police interviewed Craig’s friends; investigators discovered that Craig boasted about killing Rebecca Spencer when he was 13. A search warrant was quickly obtained.

Police moved in, Craig’s father answered the door and was shocked to see the police on his doorstep.   The rest of the family, including Craig; were asked to sit in the living room during the search. They were visibly upset with the exception of Craig; he dozed off on the couch, snoring loudly.

While searching the shed in the back, a trash bag was found, containing incriminating evidence.  Within the bag were several bloody knives from the Heaton household, along with bloody clothing, gloves and other objects.  Investigators woke Craig up and arrested him for the murders of the Heaton’s.  Surprisingly, he seemed unaffected.   Craig was ushered out of the house with his parents in tow.

At the police station, Craig’s horrified parents stood by their son as he confessed to the murders of Rebecca Spencer and Joan, Jennifer and Melissa Heaton.  He showed no remorse.  Also, Craig’s shoe size was the same as the sock prints.  There was no doubt that he was telling the truth.  Craig also stated, he broke into the Heaton house, looking for items to steal, the noise he made awakened Joan, she spotted Craig, he began beating her, Joan’s screams awakened her daughters, he overpowered them, killing them one by one.  The police were stunned that a 15-year old boy starting killing at 13 and had committed four murders by the time he was 15.

Craig Price had the law on his side. Despite the brutal murders, he would never face a trial or serve prison time because he confessed to his crimes weeks before his 16th birthday. According to Rhode Island law, the courts could hold him in a training school until he was 21.  The community and the victim’s families were outraged and sprung into action with the help of politicians.  The Craig Price Bill was passed in 1990. The bill toughens the sentences on teenage murderers.

To date, there is no telling exactly when Craig Price will be released from prison.  His projected release date is scheduled for February 2022.

In 1994, Rhode Island residents were shocked to learn that Craig was indicted for assault and extortion for threatening to injure officer Mark Petrella.  Craig and Petrella had a heated argument; Craig used profane language and threatened to “snuff” him out if he ever returned to work.

Several officers witnessed the incident and tried unsuccessfully to calm Craig’s volatile behavior.   Craig took the stand in his defense, during cross-examination, he flew into a rage that frightened the jurors, loudly proclaiming, everyone lied to get him in trouble, he was the only honest person who had taken the stand and he accused the prosecutors of being at the head of a conspiracy to keep him behind bars permanently.

During the trial, Craig would eventually admit to the charges. He was found guilty.  Craig received an additional 25 years on top of his other sentences.  Ten of those years were to be served outright with 15 years probation.

In 1996, Craig bit a correctional officer’s finger during a brawl. In 1998, he assaulted another correctional officer.  In 1999 and 2001, Craig was sentenced to a total of four more years for verbally and physically assaulting several more correctional officers.

Sources: “The Unknown Darkness” by Gregg O. McCrary, “Court TV’s Crime Library” and “A Call For Justice” by Denise Lang.




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