tampabay.com

Jailed man points finger at friend in killing

Richard Morse says Ralph Woods stabbed the homeless man, then made Morse confess.

By BEN MONTGOMERY and S.I. ROSENBAUM
Published February 2, 2007


RIVERVIEW - As a fugitive led sheriff's deputies on a manhunt through the suburbs Thursday, his jailed friend described him as the mastermind behind a vagrant's murder.

Ralph Clifton Woods wielded the knife that killed Jeffrey "Jiffy" Price, said Richard Morse Jr., 18, who is in jail accused of the stabbing. Woods forced him to make a false confession, he said.

After his arrest on Sunday, Morse told detectives that he had killed Price himself. But he changed his tale Wednesday.

In a telephone interview from the Falkenburg Road Jail, Morse said that Woods, 25, and Travis Riley, 24, plotted revenge on Price over a violent encounter with him in December that put Riley in a hospital and Morse in jail.

"It wasn't planned to kill him at first," Morse said. "The plan was to rob him and beat ... him."

Morse's role was to take the fall, he said.

"Ralph started telling me all this stuff: 'If anything goes down where the cops find out, you're going to take the blame, because you ain't got no family to take care of,' " Morse said.

Morse said that Woods threatened his relatives if he didn't go along. Despite his criminal record of larceny, burglary and assault, Morse said he didn't want to hurt Price.

"I'm a kindhearted person," he said. "I got a love for everybody."

Morse said he lured Price by phone to the parking lot behind Advance Auto Parts for a drug deal and punched him. Woods and Woods' half brother, 27-year-old Raymond Darell Sample, kicked Price in the face and beat him with Sample's unloaded gun.

Morse said he found a knife in Price's pockets. Woods took it and stabbed Price.

"I've gotten in a fight before, but I ain't never seen nothing like that except on TV," Morse said.

Afterward, they left Price nude and limp on the ground then retired to a room at the Budget Inn, Morse said. Morse was arrested a short time later.

Deputies arrested Sample before 3 a.m. Thursday near State Road 60 in Brandon. Morse and Sample were both held without bond on first-degree murder charges. Riley is in custody on charges relating to the December incident.

Sheriff's deputies searched for Woods on Thursday, using a helicopter and dogs. He was spotted by workers at Serenity Meadows cemetery Thursday morning.

A tactical team searched a rental house on Marian Lane for more than an hour Thursday afternoon but didn't find Woods.

Woods' relatives, Billie Kiser and Nina Smith, lived at the home. The two said Woods had called several times, saying he was hungry. He also told them he didn't kill Price.

"I know Ralph. He only fights with his hands, not knives or guns," said Smith, 26. "He has a two-step shuffle punch that would blow your mind."

The two said Woods' father died when he was young and he grew up in a boys home in Riverview. He dropped out of school early and learned to fight because of his rough upbringing. He also learned how to run, they said.

Staff Writer Andrew Meacham and researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report.