Jessica Anderson The Baltimore Sun
A former Baltimore police officer has pleaded guilty for a second time in the 2001 killing of a man he believed was having an affair with his wife, and received a 35-year sentence this week.
Rodney Price originally pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Tristin D. Little Sr., 28, and was sentenced by Baltimore Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy in 2002 to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended.
But Price, 49, who has been housed at the Eastern Correctional Institution on the Eastern Shore, filed for post-conviction relief, “alleging that he didn’t understand the elements of the first-degree murder offense,” according to a spokeswoman with the state’s attorney’s office.
He was granted a new trial in 2014, which was pending until Monday when he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life with all but 35 years suspended.
According to a recording of Monday’s hearing, Price went to Little’s home on March 16, 2001 when he was supposed to be on his way to work but called in sick, prosecutor Katie O’Hara said. Outside the home, Price saw his wife and Little, and he confronted them, shooting Little 21 times at close range. Price later confessed to the killing, O’Hara said.
Little’s older brother, Anthony Brown Sr., described his brother as hardworking, and said that just before his death he purchased his own rig and started his own trucking business, all while raising his children as a single parent.
“His life was just ended in a split second of violence and rage,” Brown said.
He said Price’s actions were made worse because he was a sworn police officer, “someone who is supposed to serve and protect,” Brown said.
The judge told Brown that as part of the plea, Price would not be able to appeal his sentence and force Little’s family to return to court.
Price’s public defender, John Markus, said his client “was and is a very good man who did a very terrible thing,” and that his “impulse to kill” came from his fear of losing his wife and his family.
Markus said that at the time of his sentencing, his attorneys sought the lowest sentence offered by guidelines. A defendant without a criminal record charged with premeditated murder could receive 25 years, he said.
Price spoke briefly, apologizing to Little’s family, who attended the hearing. “I’m sorry for your loss and your pain,” he said.
Judge Wanda Keyes Heard said the only redeemable act Price did was not forcing Little’s family to sit through a second trial.
“As for forgiveness, you can ask for it but they don’t have to give it to you,” she said. She also criticized Price’s actions as a police officer.
“You were supposed to give your life if necessary, you weren’t to take a life,” she said.
Little’s family won a $105 million civil judgment against Price in 2004, which a judge reduced to about $27 million. The plaintiffs wanted the city to pay the judgment, but Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals ruled in 2006 that Price was not “acting within the scope of his employment” when he killed Little and said Baltimore was not responsible for paying.