San Francisco prosecutors say the man who blew up his Sunset District home and killed his wife in the process knew of the danger of illegally manufacturing hash oil and have filed new second-degree murder charges against him.
Darron Price, 54, initially faced involuntary manslaughter charges in the Feb. 9 explosion. The blast killed his 51-year-old wife, Rita Price, who was in ill health after suffering a stroke, and injured her caregiver. It also destroyed their home and caused the condemnation of another home.
The prosecution said Thursday in court that there was clear evidence that Darron Price was very aware of the fatal danger he was putting his family and the neighborhood in, yet that did not stop him from proceeding with his illegal hash oil production facility.
“Mr. Price knew and understood the dangers,” prosecutor Robert Perkins said. “He acted in conscious disregard with that knowledge.”
That evidence comes from conversations Price had with federal agents nearly a decade ago about the danger of hash oil production and its potential for fatal explosions, Perkins said.
Price’s attorney downplayed the new evidence as nothing more than the government using the same evidence and filing a harsher charge.
“What the government is providing as hard evidence and information is in fact a farce,” Sierra Villaran, Price’s attorney, said of the 150-page document detailing the new evidence. “These were offhand comments at best.”
None of the conversations between Price and federal law enforcement officers were recorded or documented and happened almost 10 years ago, she said, adding that there is, at best, one comment that could be construed as knowledge of the danger.
The prosecution did not give details on the nature of the interview Price had with federal law enforcement, or whether it had anything to do with his subsequent federal conviction in a marijuana cultivation case.
Prosecutors on Thursday also presented new details regarding Price’s illegal purchase of butane and other highly regulated materials from industrial warehouses from 2015 to 2018 when he was on probation related to a federal marijuana cultivation case.
Perkins also detailed the findings of the San Francisco Fire Department investigation into the cause of the explosion. A gas leak from a butane tank, which was used in the illegal operation, found an ignition point and caused the explosion.
Before the new murder charge was filed, Price had been on electronic monitoring. But he was rearrested and has been in custody since June 16.
On Thursday, Judge Victor Hwang released Price under the same supervision he had been under until his recent arrest, which included electronic monitoring. He is due back in court Monday for his preliminary hearing, where the government will present its evidence.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org