Arrest Made in Death of 81 Year-Old Man in Peoria Heights

By Joe Bennett

January 14, 2012 Updated Jan 15, 2012 at 6:15 PM CDT

PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill -- Three days after the murder of 81 year-old Billy Price, police tape still rests on his yard.

Peoria Heights Police say Price was killed inside around 11 PM Thursday by 31 year old-old Joshua Peecher after a dispute over $20.

"I think that it was just an act of rage," says Peoria Heights Police Chief Dustin Sutton. "I think with him owing the individual money, it just takes a certain type of person to do that type of thing."

Sutton says Peecher has a history of drug use and petty crimes, but nothing as aggravated as murder.

The man had been staying in Peoria Heights for two weeks prior to killing Price, where the two men became acquainted.

"He had transported Peecher to numerous places," according to Sutton. Those places include a pawn shop and local store.

After discovering his body, police issued a statewide search for Billy Price's missing van.

It was the same van he used to give rides to Peecher.

Around 10:45 Saturday night, Peoria Police located Price's van at 1109 Willow Lane in Peoria.

After blocking off a portion of the street, Police determined Peecher was hiding inside.

Police say the arrest was made about one and half hours later without incident.

A hammer was found inside the vehicle, used in connection with Price's death.

Meanwhile, residents in Price's neighborhood say they are shocked this could happen on a quiet street occupied mostly by elderly individuals.

"I seen him out here, around 10:30 in the morning when I was out there,' says George Batchelor. "He was out there dusting his van off."

Price's neighbors say he was a kind man who kept to himself, but was known to lend a helping hand, offering people rides.

"He was pretty much a loner," Batchelor says. "I never seen a lot of people around him, but he was always nice to me."

Those we spoke with say Price was sometimes too trusting with people he didn't know.

Now they worry his kind nature may have inspired such an unthinkable act of violence.

"Price felt very comfortable with Peecher in his residence," Chief Sutton confirms. "That's how we knew it must have been somebody he knew and felt comfortable around. Unfortunately, it had to end like this."

Peecher is being held in Peoria County jail, charged with murder, three counts possession of a stolen vehicle and forgery.

Authorities say he's due in court on Thursday February 9th.