Paragould, Ark. – Julian Jones was devastated when her father was convicted of a felony and sentenced to ten years in prison for possessing the herbal extract “kratom,” but she told herself she would see him again.
“When they said they were going to take my dad, I was already hurting,” Jones told NEA Report. “I thought I would at least get to see him again.”
Tragically, she will not. Julian received a phone call at 3 AM Thursday telling her that her father, who was still in custody, was dead.
“My knees hit the floor and I just started having a panic attack,” Jones said.
Marshall Ray Price, 46, died while in custody of the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and its current sheriff, Steve Franks. The sheriff confirmed the news to NEA Report by email on Friday.
“Mr. Price was taken to the hospital and passed away several hours later,” Franks wrote.
Franks’ wording left vague whether Price was in custody. NEA Report confirmed in a second email that Price was in custody, Franks said.
Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler confirmed an investigation had been opened at the request of local authorities.
There is an active ongoing criminal investigation underway at the request of local authorities. While agents are continuing their work, they are awaiting a formal ruling by the state medical examiner as to the manner and cause of death.
Upon completion of the investigation, the case file will be submitted to the Greene County prosecuting attorney for review and consideration.
-Bill Sadler, Arkansas State Police
Family members of Price were devastated and at the same time, furious. His daughter, Julian Jones, fought back tears as she spoke to a reporter on Friday.
“I got a call about 3 AM Thursday morning that he had died,” Jones said. “I came to Paragould to the hospital. When I arrived, the coroner had said they had already called the Arkansas State Police. My dad had a skull fracture, broken ribs, busted spleen, and his brain was swelling which led him into cardiac arrest. They wouldn’t let us see his body at all and they said it was a crime scene and sent it to Little Rock.”
The family plans on seeking all possible legal remedies for what has taken place. But there are still many questions about what happened.
Jones said her understanding was that her dad wasn’t taken to the emergency room until 5 PM Wednesday – hours after he had been gravely injured. The sheriff’s statement said Price passed away several hours later at the hospital. But the family didn’t learn until into Thursday what was happening.
“We weren’t notified until 3 AM [Thursday],” Jones said. “And the doctor said he was wondering why no one was showing up.”
It is a tragic ending to an already emotional and taxing experience for her family. Jones was already in disbelief when her father was sentenced to a decade in prison for buying kratom – an herbal extract Arkansas lawmakers decided is a felony to possess, but most states have left unrestricted.
DEA: Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Consumption of its leaves produces both stimulant effects (in low doses) and sedative effects (in high doses), and can lead to psychotic symptoms, and psychological and physiological dependence.
Jones said her father bought the kratom at a convenience store at the state line.
“I just never thought in my life…” Jones said, still in disbelief. “When they said they were going to take my dad, I was already hurting. I thought I would at least get to see him again.”
She was surprised that prosecutors would be enthusiastic to prosecute her father for the offense, but Prosecuting Attorney Keith L. Chrestman celebrated the verdict and sentence in a press release sent to all media outlets.
“Our communities won’t tolerate drug trafficking,” Chrestman said in a release. “I’m thankful for their hard work and willingness to serve.”
Chrestman did not reply to a request sent to his office for comment about the in-custody death of Price. He leaves office next year after serving out the remainder of an appointed term.
Meanwhile, the family hopes they can find answers – and justice. They’ve retained an attorney, Randall Miller of the Miller Law Firm in Jonesboro. They’re also hopeful that outside law enforcement agencies can provide answers about what happened to Price.
“I just feel devastated and I feel like Arkansas took something from me and my family,” Jones said. “I feel like they’ve ripped my dad away from us.”