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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

John Price, the 37-year-old biker charged with first-degree murder of a past president of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang

05:23 | ,

Don Jessup's killing was a near-perfect crime.Jessup, a 60-year-old motorcycle gang boss, disappeared Dec. 16, 2004, slipping away without notice or explanation.
No body was found. No murder weapon. No substantive forensic evidence recovered. Still, on Monday, a King County jury was introduced to John Price, the 37-year-old biker charged with first-degree murder.Sheriff's deputies investigating Jessup's disappearance narrowed in on Price after the chance arrest of Jason Rebman, a White Center drug dealer who traded information on Jessup's killing for leniency after being found with 2 pounds of methamphetamine, according to court documents.
Rebman connected police with two women who say they were in the Ravensdale home when Price shot Jessup to death over a dispute about a motorcycle.Addressing the jury Monday, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole focused on a smattering of letters and phone calls Price made to the would-be witnesses against him. In O'Toole's view, the statements -- "I will get off on this whole thing" and "the more your story changes, the better it is for me" -- make the case against Price.While he stopped short of admitting to the killing, Price encouraged the women to lie to investigators and refuse to testify against him. Price, an acknowledged member of the Ghost Riders motorcycle gang, also sent fellow gang members to speak with the witnesses in what prosecutors say was an attempt to silence them.
In letters and phone calls, Price subtly asserted that there was no evidence left against him."Don Jessup's body was never found," O'Toole told the jury, "just as predicted by the defendant."In court documents, prosecutors accuse Price of shooting Jessup in the face during an argument at a Ravensdale home where Price was living with his 19-year-old girlfriend.
Jessup, a past president of the Gypsy Jokers motorcycle gang, arrived at the home for dinner with Price. During the meal, witnesses told police, Jessup taunted Price by offering to sell Price a motorcycle that had been stolen from the home weeks before.Enraged, Price left and returned with a handgun. Prosecutors say he attacked Jessup with an ax handle, then shot him in the mouth as he sat on the floor.
Relaying conversations they'd had with Price, witnesses told King County sheriff's deputies that two other Ghost Riders gang members helped Price clean the house and dispose of Jessup's body. One of the men, William Renner, has since pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment for threatening and offering a $500 bribe to one of the witnesses.Making her opening statement, defense attorney Julie Gaisford assailed the state's case against Price as weak."There is no crime scene. There is no forensic evidence," Gaisford told the jury. "And, as Mr. O'Toole told you, there is no body in this case."Gaisford also impugned Rebman, the witness who first connected Price with Jessup's disappearance. Rebman, Gaisford said, came forward only when he was facing a severe penalty for drug possession.Repeatedly referring to him as "the drug dealer Rebman," Gaisford told the jury he'd also had contact with Jessup shortly before his disappearance.Prosecutors previously objected to defense efforts to include information about Rebman's criminal convictions, as well as crimes to which Jessup was connected. Though he was not charged in either case, Jessup was considered a person of interest in a 2001 Benton County killing, and witnesses in Price's case told the defense that Jessup may have been involved in a second slaying.

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