On March 2, 1907, Joseph W. Grayless, a rancher of Temperance Colony, reported the theft of a fall-top buggy and a white horse from the Courthouse Park. Dep. Joe Price was assigned to investigate the case. Dep. Price recovered the buggy in the Centerville area on March 9, 1907, and developed James ‘Jim’ Richardson, aged 20-22, originally from Rayville, Missouri, as a suspect.
On March 13, 1907, Dep. Price, accompanied by Joseph Grayless, served a search warrant at the Farrabee wood camp, on the Millwood Rd. 1 ½ miles above the Squaw Valley Post Office, where Richardson was living with his sister and brother-in-law. Items stolen from the buggy were discovered in the tent where Richardson was staying. Dep. Price advised Richardson that he was under arrest. Richardson wheeled around on Price with a pistol and pulled the trigger several times. Richardson’s gun misfired and he surrendered when Price pulled his gun. Price, who had no handcuffs, had Richardson kneel and had Grayless bind him with a rope. Price and Grayless then placed Richardson in their buggy and departed. A short distance from the Farrabee camp they came across the stolen horse. Grayless got out of the buggy and saddled his horse as Price continued on.
During the trip down the hill, Richardson loudly complained that he was hungry, and Price stopped at the Ockenden Store in Squaw Valley, untying Richardson and getting him food to eat. When they started back down the hill, Price apparently did not tie Richardson back up. Grayless had also stopped in Squaw Valley for a meal, and it was 5 PM when he came upon Price’s buggy on the Centerville Rd. at Dunnigan’s Gap, 5-6 miles above Centerville. Grayless discovered the body of Dep. Price in the buggy with a fatal stab wound to the neck.
Richardson returned briefly to his relative’s home to collect some food and clothing before fleeing and told them that he’d killed Price. Posses of officers and mountaineers combed the area fruitlessly for a month before conceding that Richardson had slipped out of the area. Wanted posters with Richardson’s picture were sent across the country, and several look-alikes were arrested over the next several years. In December, 1912, Fresno Special Deputy W.A. Hanks, who had gone in search of Richardson, was shot and wounded, possibly by Richardson, in the mountains 25 miles from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Richardson was never arrested on Price’s murder.
Joe Price was born in Academy, where his father was a rancher. He had been the Sanger Constable for four years prior to being appointed Deputy Sheriff. He was murdered on his 32nd birthday. Price was survived by his mother, a sister and a brother. His funeral was held March 17th, at St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church South in Fresno and he was laid to rest in Mountain View Cemetery on West Belmont Avenue.