Fugitive accused of killing wife had been acquitted of earlier murder

Jameca Price and her husband, Orlando, attended a dance for her law school in April 2013 at the Fox Theater. (Special photo)

Jameca Price and her husband, Orlando, attended a dance for her law school in April 2013 at the Fox Theater. (Special photo)

The DeKalb County man wanted in the death last month of his estranged wife was charged in a 2003 killing in Decatur, court records show. But the man was acquitted of that crime, which remains unsolved.

Jameca Price, a Roswell real estate agent, was found dead on Thanksgiving Day at the Tucker home of her husband, Orlando Price, police said. She had been strangled, according to a preliminary finding by the medical examiner.

An emergency hearing regarding the Prices’ two children had been scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving in DeKalb court. But neither Orlando nor Jameca Price showed up. It’s possible, police said, that Mrs. Price was already dead at the time of the hearing. DeKalb police have issued a nationwide alert for him.

Orlando Raynard Price was the only suspect in the Nov. 18, 2003, shooting death of Michael Ramey in a DeKalb County parking lot. But Price said he wasn’t the shooter and wasn’t even in his car when Ramey was shot. Cellphone records indicated that he was at a different location, according to one of his attorneys, David Farnham.

“I absolutely believe that he was innocent,” Farnham said. “I never thought I was setting a guilty guy free.”

Ramey’s family, however, felt otherwise.

“There’s no doubt that he did it,” Dianna Fair, Ramey’s mother, said this week. “Why would you go all the way to Canada if you aren’t guilty?”

After the shooting, Price left Georgia and was found at a hotel in Canada. Farnham, his attorney, said Price had gone there on a gambling trip. The suspect was arrested and returned to Georgia a week before Christmas 2003. At the time of his arrest, the couple’s first daughter was 6 months old, and Jameca was pregnant.

On Sept. 24, 2004, Price was released from the DeKalb jail. He was a free man, but only temporarily. There would be later arrests and domestic violence at the hands of a controlling husband, according to Jameca Price’s family members. Finally, Jameca Price filed for divorce in July, vowing to get her life on track and provide for her daughters.

An aspiring attorney

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., the former Jameca Gates was a graduate of Buffalo Performing Arts School but was drawn toward a legal career, according to her oldest sister, Shawntre Allison. Jameca loved the direct, harsh style of former Atlanta prosecutor-turned-television host Nancy Grace, Allison said. When Grace was on TV, the family knew to leave Jameca alone.

“You couldn’t talk to her, you couldn’t bother her,” Allison said. “It was Nancy Grace every single night.”

After high school, Jameca met Orlando Price at the collection agency where they both worked. From the beginning, Allison said, she had a bad feeling about the man she felt was too controlling for her middle sister. But Jameca was in love and she and Price married, and Allison said she respected her sister’s choice.

In 2008, Jameca graduated from Hilbert College, south of Buffalo, with a degree in criminal justice. When she was accepted into John Marshall Law School, she and Orlando moved back to Atlanta, where they had temporarily lived in recent years. In 2014, Jameca earned her law degree, and while awaiting results of her bar exam, she worked as a Realtor. Earlier this year, Jameca and her husband started their own real estate business, The Price Group, according to Georgia Secretary of State’s office records.

“Atlanta is our home,” the company’s website states. “We look forward to making it yours.”

The Prices looked like a couple driven to succeed, but she told her family there were problems. Sometimes, her husband would take her cellphone so she couldn’t contact family or cut off her access to a joint bank account, Allison said. In July, Jameca filed for divorce. Later that month, she mentioned the divorce at a family reunion.

“You guys don’t know what’s been going on,” Jameca was heard saying. “Whatever you think, it’s been 10 times worse.”

A mother’s nightmare

Fair, who lives in Decatur, was shocked when she saw news reports identifying Orlando Price as not only a murder suspect, but also a fugitive. His face — that of the man she believes killed her son — is one she can’t forget.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Fair said. “He looks older, but he looks the same.”

Her son, Michael, was known as “Chicago Mike” to his friends because that’s where he grew up, Fair said. After attending Stone Mountain High School, Michael got his GED and liked to work on cars, his mother said.

“He was doing his thing,” Fair said. “He wasn’t perfect, but he was my angel.”

Days before Thanksgiving, Michael had taken his car to Circuit City, his mother said, to have a CD changer installed and had a friend pick him up. From there, the two went to hang out with other friends and play video games, Fair said. Orlando Price also came to the home, and Michael caught a ride in Price’s car. He was shot and killed in the vehicle, but, according to attorney Farnham, Price wasn’t in the vehicle at the time.

“It was just awful, absolutely awful,” Fair said. “We’re still grieving. How do you ever get over losing a child?”

The only thing linking Price to the killing was his car, his attorney said. And Price had let others borrow it after urging them to return quickly, Farnham said.

Fair testified at Price’s trial, but was angered over his acquittal. There would be no justice for her son, who had three children when he died and a fourth on the way.

‘That’s when I lost it’

Jameca was supposed to meet a tow truck driver at Orlando’s apartment Nov. 22, her sister said. Her SUV needed to be towed for repairs. That night, Jameca never made it home to her daughters. The next morning, Nov. 23, she was still gone. The young sisters called their grandmother in New York, and Allison called police.

On Thanksgiving Day, a cousin in Atlanta got involved, Allison said. He drove first to Jameca’s Roswell home and then to Orlando Price’s home, where he saw Jameca’s SUV and called 911. Allison was preparing Thanksgiving dinner for her family when her cousin told her the devastating news.

“That’s when I lost it,” Allison said. “When they said they found her in his home, we knew.”

Investigators believe Jameca was strangled, but toxicology tests were pending Wednesday, according to DeKalb police. A nationwide alert has been posted on a law enforcement database to find Price, Maj. S.R. Fore said. It’s possible the suspect left the country, but passports records are being checked. Jameca’s family is hoping he’s found quickly.

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