A Texas woman's death was an accident that happened during a drug-fueled sex party.
That's the claim of a trucker driver who was arrested two years ago after the burned body of a woman was found in the cab of his 18-wheeler. Monday, he pleaded guilty to arson and the desecration of a human corpse in a Hancock County courtroom.
Mark Andrew Rice, 49, managed to avoid a charge of murder once he told the court his account of that night. He said the dead woman was actually his new fiancee, prostitute Natasha Carpenter. And that she suffocated as they celebrated their engagement with a meth and bondage sex party.
Rice said he passed out while she was gagged. When he woke up, she was dead and he panicked. That's when he bought all the crystal meth his dealer had and drove from Barstow, California to his hometown of the Kiln. The entire time, he said her body was in the cab of his truck, under a tarp.
Rice said he was so distraught, he planned to kill himself. A family member took away his gun, so he climbed inside the truck and set it on fire.
"It appeared he was trying to burn himself and the body," Sheriff Steve Garber said. Law enforcement eventually managed to pull him from the vehicle, but not before one deputy suffered serious smoke inhalation.
After Rice was taken into custody, he made some ominous comments to reporters at the time, saying, "The only thing you need to know is that I'm a dead man anyway."
But that wasn't the case. Mark Rice couldn't be charged with manslaughter in the state of Mississippi, because the woman died in California.
In a 2010 letter to law enforcement in Mississippi, California authorities said they were unable to pursue a manslaughter charge because there was "insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Some Hancock County authorities say they believe that if Rice had been tried for manslaughter in our state, he would have been convicted.
Rice was sentenced to six years in jail, but two years have been suspended for time served. He was also ordered to pay Carpenter's family around $4,100 for the cost of her funeral.
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