Killer Linked To Earlier Shootings

By Carol Morello and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 30, 2005

In the pre-dawn darkness, two bullets whizzed past a plastic Santa Claus and his reindeer in front of Frances Rogers's house in Great Falls. One lodged in the roof, and the other pierced the wall of a bedroom where her grandson, Greg, lay sleeping.

It was frightening enough when it seemed to be random shots fired by a stranger. It became even more frightening when they learned who might have done it.

Fairfax County police said yesterday that detectives believe Nathan Cheatham, 27, and Adam Price, 19, fired into the Rogers home in the 900 block of Utterback Store Road at 4:50 a.m. Dec. 21. About 7 a.m., they fired several shots in the 500 block of the street, hitting nothing, police said.

Four days later, both Cheatham and Price were dead.

On Christmas morning, Cheatham killed his mother, Sheila, in the driveway of their McLean home, police said. Then, in a murderous rampage, he drove to the Price home in Great Falls and opened fire in the yard. He continued shooting as he barged inside and went from room to room. In the end, Price and his mother, Janina, and family friend Christopher Buro were all dead. Then Cheatham turned the gun on himself.

The acknowledgment of the Dec. 21 incidents by police, who initially said they had no record of such shootings, suggests a motive in the murders. Police said that Cheatham, who had been plagued with drug and emotional problems, grew concerned that authorities would discover his involvement in the Utterback Store Road shootings, and that his concern apparently triggered his paranoia and rage.

Lt. Richard Perez, a Fairfax police spokesman, clarified yesterday that police had been investigating the Dec. 21 shootings but that Cheatham and Price were not identified as suspects until after their deaths.

At least one neighbor of the Prices said yesterday that he could hear the terrifying sounds of the carnage at the house on Sycamore Springs Lane in Great Falls. The neighbor, who asked not to be named because he feared reprisals, said he first heard a voice scream, "Get out of here! Get out of here!" It was followed quickly by between six and eight gunshots in rapid succession, believed to be Cheatham beginning his assault by firing his 9mm gun from outside the house.

The neighbor said he called 911 and heard more screaming about 10 minutes later, then saw a young male in a dark jacket running through the woods in back of the Price home.

It remains unclear why the Rogers house, which is about two miles from the Price home, was singled out Dec. 21, or whether it was all a mistake. Police have not said who pulled the trigger in the Utterback Store Road shootings.

Billy R. Hicks, a Springfield lawyer who had represented Cheatham in a 2002 drug case, has said that Sheila Cheatham told him that her son had been no more than a driver in the Dec. 21 shooting. Cheatham told Hicks that Nathan accompanied a friend to the house in retaliation for a previous attack on the friend, who fired the gun toward the house.

But Greg Rogers, who lives with his grandmother at the house on Utterback Store Road, said he had never met Price or Cheatham.

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