Law & Order

GUILTY VERDICT IN MURDER TRIAL: Twelve jurors returned a guilty verdict Thursday in a murder case involving a homeless man who had been accused of strangling his drug-addicted fiancée and leaving her body under some debris behind a McHenry Avenue motel. Authorities believe Jeffrey Rush Price, 44, killed his longtime girlfriend after she used her engagement ring as collateral to borrow money from a friend. During a weeklong trial in Stanislaus County Superior Court, jurors heard from witnesses who said the couple had a volatile relationship. The body of Michelle Perkins, 45, was found behind the Economy Inn Motel shortly after Christmas 2003. The first-degree murder conviction means Price will face at least 25 years to life in prison. He has two strikes on his record from prior convictions, so a judge could lengthen his sentence. Price returns to court Oct. 22.

TWO ARRESTED IN RAID; ONE AT LARGE: Modesto police arrested two men and seized methamphetamine, steroids, two loaded handguns and nearly 300 marijuana plants at a west Modesto home Wednesday. Police are looking for a third Modesto man suspected of involvement in the drug operation in the 200 block of Bettina Avenue, just north of Maze Boulevard. Brandon Young, 33, lives at the Bettina Avenue home, but he was not there when officers arrived about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, according to police. Young is wanted by Modesto police on suspicion of cultivating marijuana, manufacturing concentrated cannabis and possession of marijuana for sale. Edward Barry, 30, was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail on suspicion of steroids possession, possession of a loaded firearm during the commission of a felony, cultivation of marijuana, possession for sales of marijuana, possession of material for the manufacturing of concentrated cannabis, conspiracy and child endangerment, police said. Barry's 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter also were living in the home, Sgt. Craig Gundlach said. Barry had a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana for medical purposes, but the amount he possessed was well over the legal limit, Gundlach said. John Richards, 47, was booked at the jail on suspicion of possession of meth and drug paraphernalia, police said. Officers with the Modesto Narcotics Enforcement Team served a search warrant at the home and found the marijuana plants inside the home, the garage and a shed in the back yard. Police also found inside the home about 2 pounds of dried marijuana, material to manufacture hashish, the meth, the steroids, and the handguns, Gundlach said. Modesto police ask anyone who has information about these crimes or the whereabouts ofYoung to call CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.

FIRE BURNS CAR, GARAGE: A fire destroyed a vehicle and damaged a garage Thursday afternoon at a north Modesto home, fire officials said. No injuries were reported. Modesto Fire Department Capt. Mark Greenlee said the occupants were in the house in the 400 block of Floyd Avenue when the fire started and called 911. Greenlee said firefighters arrived at the home and spotted the vehicle fully engulfed in flames, which were spreading to the garage. He said firefighters put out the fire in about 10 minutes. The fire caused about $2,000 in damage to the garage, but the flames did not damage the rest of the home. The fire started in the vehicle, but the cause was undetermined, Greenlee said.

ARREST IN BABY ASSAULT CASE: Ceres police detectives arrested a Modesto man Wednesday on suspicion of attempting to murder his girlfriend's 18-month-old son in August. Jose Antonio Acosta, 20, is being held at Stanislaus County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. Ceres police are still trying to confirm the child's condition, said Detective Sgt. Jeff Higginbotham of the Ceres Police Division. The child's mother took him to Doctors Medical Center on Aug. 18 after she woke up and found her son on the floor; he had been sleeping in her bed, Higginbotham said. She told hospital workers that his injuries, including multiple fractures, internal injuries and bite marks on his ear, were the result of an accidental fall. Hospital workers did not believe the injuries were consistent with her explanation, so they notified police, Higginbotham said. Child Protective Services and Ceres police detectives began to investigate. It took some time to find Acosta, but Detective Trenton Johnson managed Wednesday to locate, interview and book him at the county jail. In a separate case, a 3-month-old Manteca boy remained in critical condition Thursday at Children's Hospital Central California in Madera County. It has been a week since the boy was taken off life-support machines. The boy's father remained in custody at the San Joaquin County Jail, accused of inflicting the infant's critical injuries, police said. Michael David Zamarripa, 25, of Manteca was arrested Sept. 30 on suspicion of felony child abuse and endangerment, along with felony child abuse and corporal injury that resulted in great bodily injury, said Rex Osborn, a spokesman for the Manteca Police Department.

KNIFE-WIELDING ROBBER ATTACKS CLERK: Modesto police were looking for a man who walked into a cigarette store Thursday afternoon in an east Modesto shopping center, used a knife to attack a clerk and got away with a handful of cash. The victim suffered a 2-inch cut on the forehead, which was nonlife-threatening, Modesto police Sgt. Craig Gundlach said. Police described the robber as a man in his 20s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall with a medium build. The robber was wearing a black athletic jersey with a white number "2" on it, black shorts and black shoes. About 12:30 p.m., the robber walked into News and Cigarette City at 2401 E. Orangeburg Ave. at Century Center, just east of Oakdale Road. The clerk was alone. Gundlach said the robber jumped over the front counter and slashed the clerk's head with the knife. The clerk wrestled the knife away from the robber, but a cash register fell over and opened during the struggle, Gundlach said. The robber grabbed a handful of cash and fled. Modesto police ask anyone with information about this robbery to call CrimeStoppers at 521-4636. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.

WOMAN DIES AFTER CRASH: A 20-year-old Mi-Wuk Village woman died Thursday at a Modesto hospital from injuries she suffered in head-on traffic collision on Highway 120 just west of Lovers Leap, the California Highway Patrol reported. Stanislaus County coroner's officials said the woman died at Doctors Medical Center. Her name was not released because her family had not yet been notified. She was pinned behind the steering wheel, and emergency workers had to free her from the car. Roseanne Hernandez, 53, of Turlock was driving the other car involved in the collision. She was treated at Memorial Medical Center for moderate injuries. Both women were wearing their seat belts and were taken by air ambulances to the hospitals. The accident occurred shortly after 11 p.m. when Hernandez was driving a 2000 Dodge west on Highway 120. The other woman was driving a 1996 Chevrolet Corsica east on the highway. According to the CHP, Hernandez was passing a westbound big rig while climbing a hill in the road and approaching a blind right curve. As the cars crested the hill, they collided on the south asphalt shoulder, the CHP reported. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not appear to be a factor in the collision, the CHP reported.