Former S.C. CO’s sworn statement leads to 16-year early release of convicted murderer
Former CO Asia Love attested in a 2019 affidavit that Jeroid Price, then an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution, saved her co-worker’s life
By Zak Koeske and John Monk
RIDGEVILLE, S.C. — A former South Carolina corrections officer who provided a sworn statement that helped spring a convicted murderer from prison 16 years early was once the man’s girlfriend, according to an S.C. Department of Corrections document.
Asia Love, who worked for SCDC from 2006 to 2011, attested in a 2019 affidavit that Jeroid Price, then an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution in Dorchester County, saved her co-worker’s life. Price tackled an inmate who was about to assault a guard in 2010, Love wrote.
Love’s statement, along with other information, led to the early release of Price in March, nearly 16 years before the end of his 35-year murder sentence for the 2002 killing of Carl Smalls, then a football player at the University of North Carolina.
But a 2012 document in an SCDC investigative file, reviewed by The State newspaper Friday, raises questions about Love’s connection to Price. The document, provided by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, who prosecuted Price’s case in 2003, identifies Love as Price’s girlfriend. In it, a corrections officer reported the alleged relationship to an investigator, claiming Price met Love while she was employed at Lieber.
In May 2012, about six months after leaving her job at SCDC, Love attempted to visit Price in prison, but her visitation application was rejected, SCDC spokeswoman Chrysti Shain said Friday.
Love claimed on the application to be Price’s sister and denied having worked for corrections so it was rejected, Shain said.
Efforts to reach Love Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Price’s attorney, state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said Friday he did not know if the two were ever in a relationship, but that Love’s affidavit was not the key factor in Price’s early release, anyhow. Rather, it was Price’s aid to law enforcement in apprehending an escaped and dangerous convict, Jimmy Lee Causey, he said.
Causey, a violent bank robber and kidnapper, had escaped from a maximum security prison in Dorchester County and was on the run in Texas in 2017.
Price contacted someone outside of prison who then informed correction officials of Causey’s whereabouts, SCDC officials confirmed, aiding in his capture. At the time corrections got the tip, it did not even know that Causey had escaped, a spokeswoman said.
Two other pieces of evidence Rutherford used to argue that Price should be released from prison early were accounts of him coming to the aid of guards attacked at Lieber Correctional Institution. Neither account was provided by the alleged victim of the attacks.
Love attested to one. And in a second, Larry Benjamin, a former inmate, claimed he and Price rescued a prison guard at Lieber in 2017. Benjamin declined comment Friday when reached by a reporter.
Since Price’s release became public earlier this week, the case has caused widespread consternation in the state’s legal and law enforcement communities and raised questions about the role of lawyers, judges and solicitors in the largely non-public process of the early release of prisons for purported good behavior.
Price’s case is particularly unusual, say lawyers familiar with the it, because his sentence was substantially reduced, his crime was particularly violent and there was no hearing.
The order that freed him was sealed, finally opened Thursday after Attorney General Alan Wilson petitioned the S.C. Supreme Court to make its contents public.
Pascoe has said Rutherford initiated Price’s early release from prison, and that Rutherford also persuaded 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson to seek the court order from Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning..
Manning, who retired at the end of last year, ultimately signed the order, freeing Price due to his “substantial assistance” to law enforcement, Pascoe said. Manning signed the order just one day before he retired, the order shows.
Rutherford reasserted Friday that SCDC wrote a letter supporting Price’s early release because of his help in the Causey case. But Friday, both the agency and Gipson said they had no recollection of the letter.
Pascoe said the lack of documentation to corroborate Rutherford’s claim that Price provided “substantial assistance” in Causey’s apprehension was a major problem. The affidavits from Love and Benjamin, one an alleged former girlfriend and the other a convicted murderer, were “laughable,” he added.
“In my 30 years as a prosecutor, I’ve seen some crazy things that I don’t like,” Pascoe said. “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Rutherford shot back that the evidence is compelling and Price’s help undeniable.
“Say what you want, I have no doubt to their authenticity,” he said. “These incidents really did happen.”
The case has also drawn swift action from the S.C. Supreme Court that has set noon Wednesday to hear oral arguments concerning whether Price was released unlawfully and should be rearrested.