A member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a notorious White Supremacist gang that operates inside and outside of prison walls, died of undetermined causes Tuesday at San Quentin State Prison, officials said.
Prison authorities said the man “expectedly” died shortly before 2 a.m., and added that a cause of death would be determined by the Marin County Coroner’s Office.
According to court documents, Curtis Floyd Price, 74, was sentenced to death in 1986 for the murder of Richard Barnes, the father of a former brotherhood member turned state’s witness. After the man’s killing, he murdered a Humboldt County woman who knew he did it. Price served the majority of his sentence at San Quentin, however, served a short stint at CSP Corcoran’s medical center in 2017.
Prosecutors said at trial that, since the senior Barnes’ son, Steven, was in the witness protection program, the brotherhood targeted his father. AB leader Clifford Smith tapped Price to carry out the hit.
Price was released from Montana State Prison on unrelated charges in 1982 and bounced around the homes of several AB members and “runners”, women who relay information to and from gang members in prison. During that time he scoped out several addresses, including that of Barnes, and burglarized several guns including a .22 Caliber handgun from a Humboldt County home.
Around one month after Price scoped out Barnes’ home, he returned and fatally shot him three times in the back of the head with the stolen .22. He hastily scrawled a note that was later delivered to Clifford Smith through a runner.
“That’s took care of. Everything went well.” the note, which was destroyed after Smith read it, said. “I am going back north. I will be in touch with you later.”
On February 18th, Price held Elizabeth Hickey down in her home and bludgeoned her to death with a tire iron. Hickey was the stepdaughter of Richard Moore, the man whose home the guns used in the Barnes killing had been stolen from. Officials say Price killed her to stop her from implicating him in Barnes’ murder. He fractured the woman’s skull several times, so badly that parts of her brain leaked out of her head.
After killing Hickey, Price stole a combination radio, several guns owned by the woman, and ripped both her closet and car trunk doors open. Officials later found a note in the trunk that linked her to Price.
“Call Curt at [redacted number] about money for guns,” it said.
Price was later arrested following a robbery incident in March, the same day Hickey’s body was discovered. Documents from that incident say he pointed a revolver at the manager of a movie theater and stole $7,000 in cash, which he later used to pay a six-month advancement on his rent and settle a car accident.
Brotherhood leaders Clifford Smith and Michael Thompson would later testify against Price, denouncing the AB and convincing one of the runners Price briefly lived with to do so as well. That testimony, according to California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard, was instrumental in securing Price’s conviction.
“The evidence against [Price] on the conspiracy and Barnes murder counts consisted primarily of the testimony of Michael Thompson, Clifford Smith, and Janet Myers,” she wrote. “In addition, the prosecution introduced evidence that defendant had testified in an earlier, unrelated trial that he was an AB member.”
Price’s legal team, however, attempted to pin one of the murders on someone else. They said Elizabeth Hickey had a rocky relationship with her live-in boyfriend at the time, Berlie Petry.
Attorneys said Hickey infected Petry with a venereal disease, slept with men she met at bars while he was at work, and was beaten by him so badly that she was given black eyes. An expert called by the defense testified that the mutilation of Hickey’s face was consistent with a “close personal relationship” between the killer and the victim.
The jury would agree with the state of California, sentencing Price to become one of the state’s 698 death row inmates, whom cannot be executed pursuant to a 2019 moratorium ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Price appears to have had a falling out with the brotherhood as his time in prison progressed. In 2006, he was stabbed in the throat, cheek, and head in San Quentin’s group yard with a homemade knife by three fellow white gang members.
Price’s latest appeal in the case, still being litigated in federal court when he died, accused prosecutors of committing misconduct by leaning on the testimony of Michael Thompson. That appeal will now, most likely, be dismissed as moot.