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Homeless man who fought off December attack is slain

His body was found Sunday in a parking lot.

By BEN MONTGOMERY
Published January 31, 2007


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GIBSONTON - Jeffrey Price drank beer at Showtown, slept in the woods and ate so much peanut butter that his friends called him "Jiffy."

Last month, three people attacked him along the railroad tracks with rocks, and he fought back, stabbing one in the face, another in the torso.

Sheriff's detectives called his actions self-defense and charged his attackers.

Now deputies have confirmed that a corpse found naked in the rain before dawn Sunday in the parking lot of Advance Auto Parts off U.S. 41 was Price. Cause of death: "trauma to the upper torso."

Price, 31, was the third transient killed in the Tampa Bay area in less than two weeks.

A sheriff's spokeswoman wouldn't say if the homicide was related to last month's attack, but Price's friends said he was scared of retribution in the final weeks of his life.

"He was worried," said Lisa Singletary, 44, who stayed in the same camp with Price. "That's why we always made sure somebody was with him."

That somebody Sunday morning was Glenn Davis, 43, who said he left Price briefly at Showtown to run to the store. The two bonded in the past few months from looking out for each other, so Davis was still shaken up Tuesday.

"The next thing I know, they're saying, 'Jiffy needs help! Jiffy needs help!' " Davis said, recalling that morning. "I thought they were attacking him right there, but when I got there, he was just laid out, naked."

His body was found no more than 50 yards from where he spilled his attackers' blood a month before.

By 8:03 p.m. Sunday, sheriff's deputies had arrested one of those attack suspects, Travis Jerome Riley Jr., 24, who was stabbed in the torso several times during the fight.

He was arrested on a warrant stemming from the Dec. 29 attack. Riley, of 1689 Kracker Ave., Gibsonton, was held on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and battery.

Riley was never before arrested in connection with December's attack, records show. He was treated for his injuries at Tampa General Hospital and released.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter would not say whether Riley was being questioned in connection with Price's slaying. He had not been charged with that crime by late Tuesday. She said more information on the killing was likely to come today.

Price's friends were discussing a memorial service for the man who worked on the carnival for nine years and liked to play pool. They said they might hold it in the parking lot where he died.

"He'd take his shirt off his back for you," Davis said. "He was a good guy."

"He wasn't just a homeless man," Singletary said.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at 813 661-2443 or bmontgomery@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 31, 2007, 01:34:31]


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