The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 23, 2014

How a living fugitive was declared dead


So if there was no body, and the FBI believed that Price was alive, how was it that he came to be dead?

Normally in Florida, a person must be missing for five years before he or she is presumed dead. In some cases, though, the timeline can be sped up. If someone “was exposed to a specific peril of death” — such as a plane crash — the court can declare the person dead earlier.

“Six months is really fast,” said Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “Most of these take a lot longer.”

There was evidence, though, that suggested Price was dead.

In a letter that was part of Price’s death file in the Hamilton County court — and presumably sent to his wife, Rebekah — he apologized for not telling her he planned to kill himself and said he did not want a funeral. Price wrote he had “no other option” and had been suffering from depression.

He could not figure out “the best way to exit,” he wrote, but said it made sense to spend his last day in one of his favorite places. So, he wrote, he rode the Key West Express in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It is a peaceful and beautiful place and near where I have some very fond memories. This seemed like the most peaceful way to go,” he wrote.

“When you hear that train whistle blow, remember that I love you with all my heart.”

Authorities said Price purchased weights and a dive belt. There was video of him getting on the Key West Express ferry, but no evidence that he got off.

His last location was on the ferry’s path, according to cellphone records. He said in a letter that he would leave his phone on, in a plastic bag, so he could be found via GPS. But an “aggressive” search that cost the Coast Guard $173,000 did not turn up his body.

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