Police confirm West Side murder was retaliation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Detectives confirmed the victim in a murder-suicide on Charleston's West Side was killed in retaliation for his family reporting an alleged case of sexual abuse to police.
Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives, said Tuesday "with reasonable certainty" that Patrick Price, 34, of Randolph Street, shot 36-year-old Michael Cassell to death in Cassell's Red Oak Street home Sunday night because his family had contacted authorities over allegations Price had abused his 14-year-old daughter.
Price then turned the .40-caliber handgun on himself. Both men's bodies were found in a bedroom at the home.
Cooper said officers were actively investigating the allegations against Price and had spoken with him about 48 hours before the shooting.
"We had an open investigation on that particular incident and at the point that the incident took place the other night, we did not have enough evidence to charge Mr. Price with a crime," Cooper said.
The lieutenant said detectives had been in touch with Price as recently as last week to try to get him to come in for an interview and lie detector test.
He told authorities he was about to leave town but would take the lie detector test when he returned. That was the last contact police had with him, Cooper said.
Price's death did not end the investigation. Cooper said there is another potential suspect in the girl's abuse.
"There are aspects of that investigation that are still ongoing," Cooper said.
"There is another individual that we are still investigating."
Cooper would not identify the other individual. He would not provide further information because the case is ongoing.
Cooper said there were inconsistent statements regarding the alleged abuse.
"When that happens, we continue to investigate them, because we realize that at times there can be inconsistent statements in a situation like that just due to fear of the suspect and things of that nature," Cooper said. "Unfortunately, you have to be able to prove a case in court, and we were not at that point.
"It's unfortunate that Mr. Price did what he did. It shows that he was a very malicious person, and it shows that he was a very dangerous person."
He said Cassell's family believes the Child Protective Services investigation is what set Price off. Cooper said Price asked the Cassells not to have his daughter at their home but the family was doing their best to help the girl. He said it was his understanding the Cassells told Price they had contacted authorities.
Andrea Holcomb, the victim's sister-in-law, told reporters on Monday that the incident was a "CPS matter gone awry."
"(Michael) died trying to save a little girl," she said.
Price's daughter often spent time at the Cassells' home.
She and Erin Cassell's 11-year-old daughter were friends, Holcomb said. Erin Cassell, the victim's wife, was in the home with her daughter at the time of the shooting. Both fled after discovering the bodies.
"We were just trying to help her," Holcomb told reporters.
She said they tried to report the matter once but the girl got scared and denied it. She came back less than a week ago and asked them if they could call the police so that she could report it.
CPS then took the girl to her grandmother's home, Holcomb said. He said Price had a violent criminal history but nothing that would support the abuse allegations.
"It's a real tragedy," Cooper said. "It shows Mr. Price was a very dangerous person. Without even being able to charge him with a crime, we sensed that he may be a volatile-type person. We took precaution when we dealt with him."
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.