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Family says man was killed for trying to help abused girl

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As soon as she heard the gunshots Sunday night, Andrea Holcomb said she knew who the shooter was.

"I heard the screen door slam. I heard a bunch of shots and Mikey say, 'Oh s---,'" said Holcomb, Michael Cassell's sister-in-law.

Cassell, 36, was shot multiple times inside the bedroom of his home at 926 Red Oak St. by Patrick Price, 34, of Randolph Street, police said at a news conference Monday morning.

Price then shot himself, police said.

At the time of the shooting, Holcomb was in the house with her sister, Erin, 29, who was Cassell's wife, and Erin's 11-year-old daughter. They were able to escape the house and call for help.

"Mikey had his coat on, he was getting ready to go to the store," Holcomb recalled, while standing on the porch of the house where the shooting had occurred hours earlier.

The shooting happened at 9:34 p.m. Sunday, police said. Both men were dead when police got to the scene minutes later.

Charleston Police Department Lt. Steve Cooper said the incident could be characterized as a home invasion, even though Price and Cassell knew each other. No drugs or alcohol were found at the scene, he said.

"It was definitely not random," Cooper said. "The suspect in this case was specifically targeted."

Still, Cooper did not specify a motive Monday.

Cassell was targeted for trying to protect Price's 14-year-old daughter, Holcomb said through tears.

"We were trying to help the little girl," she said. "Mikey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he'd be glad it was him and not any of us."

According to Holcomb, Price's daughter often visited the house on Red Oak Street, as she is a friend of Cassell's stepdaughter.

"We got close and she opened up about her dad abusing her," Holcomb said. "I was a victim of abuse myself, so we all were scared for her."

After Erin Cassell notified police of the alleged physical and sexual abuse, Price's daughter got nervous and told them it hadn't happened, Holcomb said. Later, though, the girl returned to the Cassells' house and asked that they report her father, according to Holcomb, who said the girl was then placed in the custody of her grandparents.

"Three or four weeks ago [Price] came here and ran his mouth to Mikey about how he didn't want [his daughter] hanging here anymore," Holcomb said.

"He had threatened to kick Mikey's ass that day, but it just seemed like he was running his mouth."

However, Holcomb recalled a conversation with Price's daughter that made her nervous.

"She said something about [Price] would be going to jail soon for not paying child support and that he had told her before he went he was going to kill a bunch of people and himself.

"That's why I knew it was him when I heard the shots," she said.

Bullet holes dotted the walls and the ceiling inside the home. Most of the blood had been cleaned up, Holcomb said. The family sat in the living room trying to recover Monday evening.

"We want the story out. We want people to know he was a hero," she said. "He died trying to save his family and that little girl."

Many kids in the neighborhood would come to Cassell's house for a place to stay or for dinner, according to Holcomb. Cassell was a driver for C&H Taxi and has one biological son who is 14, along with several stepchildren. But, Holcomb said, "A lot of kids knew Mikey as their father."

"He would've done anything for anybody," said Kelly Chandler, who met Cassell when she was 15 and is the mother of his son. "Him and his dad were inseparable."

Price's wallet, which Holcomb said police left at the home, had been scooted to the side of the porch.

"I don't want it here," Holcomb said.

Cooper said at the press conference that although police had run-ins with Price before, he was legally allowed to own the semi-automatic handgun that police say he used.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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