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A small town in Rhode Island is bracing for the release of a high-profile child killer this summer who is leaving prison after serving 28 years of a 40-year sentence for the grisly murder of a neighbor’s child.
It’s been 36 years since John Foreman last saw his 5-year old son Jason. The boy was abducted from in front of their family home in Kingston, R.I. The boy’s disappearance was a mystery for seven years until it was discovered that their 16 year old teenage neighbor, Michael Woodmansee, had killed him. But the truth behind what Woodmansee did to Jason Foreman shocked the community. Police found Jason’s body inside Woodmansee’s filthy home after he confessed. Several of the boy’s small bones had been shellacked and stored in the killer’s bedroom. A plea bargain spared his father and the rest of the Foreman family from learning the rest of the gruesome details of what happened to young Jason. As part of the plea deal Woodmansee was sentenced to 40 years. Now, after 28 years of good behavior, he is leaving prison 12 years early. His release is now set for August. And John Foreman can barely hold back.
“Initial feelings were I wanted to kill him the same way he killed my son. I wanted to hurt him bad,” Foreman told Good Morning America. “I wanted him to suffer … And those feelings are still in my head every day, that’s the problem. I can’t get ’em out of my mind.”
And Foreman is not the only one who opposed to Woodmansee’s early release. The town of Kingston has rallied around the grieving father, demanding the state block Woodmansee’s release. Two psychiatrists will now interview the killer in prison and read his graphic journal. What they discover could help decide if Woodmansee will instead be released to a mental hospital. Few have read the contents of that journal, which has been locked under seal for decades. But retired detective Ronald Hawksley, the lead detective on the case that put Woodmansee behind bars 28 years ago, remembers the horrors within it.
“It was just — my stomach just went upside-down. It was unbelievable. I’d seen a lot — in the past and I’d never seen anything like this,” Hawksley recalled.
Even so, some prison officials are saying that blocking Woodmansee’s release in August is a long-shot.
“We are all human beings and some of what we have to deal with is very upsetting to us and we have personal feelings,” said A.T. Wall, director of Rhode Island Dept of Corrections.
“You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to agree with it, I don’t have to like it, I don’t have to agree with it — but we have to follow the law and the law says that he is getting out.”
The family is still rattled 30 years later. Decades after his brother’s abduction and murder, John Foreman, Jr. won’t step on the property where his little brother was killed — which sits about 100 feet from his childhood home. And to this day he still fights back tears. “I want to burn [the house] to the ground. If I ever won the lottery, that’s the first thing I’d do. I’d just tear it down. Maybe that would give dad some peace,” John Foreman Jr. told “GMA.” Thirty-six years after his youngest son was killed John Foreman Sr. still wakes up screaming. He says the only thing keeping him in control is his family, and his wife, who is battling cancer. But he does warn that he now keeps a 9-inch long tool inside his truck … just in case his son’s killer crosses his path. Foreman has strong, threatening words for his son’s killer.
“Stay out of sight, stay out of my way,” he told GMA. “Or you’re gonna be hurt. You’re gonna be hurt badly.”
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Craig Price was just 15 years old in 1989 when he confessed to the murders of four neighbors, crimes that terrified the state, triggered a new state law allowing for harsher treatment of young criminals and instantly transformed the baby-faced teenager into Rhode Island’s most notorious serial killer.
He was prosecuted as a juvenile and was supposed to be released in 1994, at the age of 21. But he remains locked up because of a series of new offenses committed behind bars and a 25-year criminal contempt sentence he received for defying a judge’s orders to undergo psychological testing.
Now Price, who is jailed in Florida and acts as his own lawyer, wants to return to Rhode Island next month to argue his latest appeal. He’s asking the state’s highest court to vacate his contempt sentence, calling it “unduly harsh and unconstitutional.” But Rhode Island’s corrections department is fighting Price’s request to appear in person, saying his transport from Florida for a 12-minute argument would cost taxpayers thousands of dollars and pose a safety threat. The attorney general’s office, which prosecuted Price, also opposes his bid.
“His criminal history includes four particularly brutal murders, extortion and blackmail, criminal contempt, and numerous violent assaults upon correctional officers,” Patricia Coyne-Fague, the corrections department’s chief lawyer, wrote in court papers. “He has a long history of violent assaults of those charged with keeping him in custody.”
Price was transferred out of state at his own request and is serving his sentence in Florida, where he has been disciplined for, among other offenses, assaulting prison guards and fighting with other inmates.
The arguments are scheduled for March 2 before the state Supreme Court. Spokesman Craig Berke said the court will decide whether it will hear from Price himself or whether it will rely instead on his written arguments.
“Now it’s in the court’s hands to decide what to do,” Berke said.
Price was 15 and living with his parents in Warwick’s Buttonwoods section when he was questioned by police in the killings of neighbor Joan Heaton and her two daughters, ages 8 and 10, who were strangled and stabbed with kitchen knives. Police found knives used in the killings in his backyard shed, and a sock print matched his feet. Price confessed to the killings and also admitted to the unsolved murder two years earlier of another neighbor, Rebecca Spencer, who was stabbed roughly five dozen times inside her house.
Though Price could have been sentenced to life without parole if he were an adult, state law at the time prevented him from being jailed past his 21st birthday. His case inspired a law change that allows juveniles to be prosecuted as adults and, when merited, receive life sentences.
Four days before his scheduled release in October 1994, he was convicted of extortion for threatening to kill a guard at the youth detention facility where he was being held. His lawyers complained that prosecutors were trumping up charges to keep Price locked up, but he was sentenced anyway to seven years in prison and, also that year, was found in civil contempt and given a one-year sentence for refusing to undergo a psychological exam.
Price continued to avoid psychiatric counseling at the advice of his lawyers, who were afraid the results of any testing could expose him to a harsher sentence. In 1997, he was convicted of criminal contempt for defying the judge’s orders. He was sentenced to 25 years, with 10 to serve and the balance suspended unless Price got into trouble or refused treatment.
“For five years, Craig Price said ‘go to hell,'” J. Patrick Youngs, the prosecutor in the case, said at his sentencing. Price, in his own speech, said he had since consented to the treatment he had initially resisted.