Charges dropped against Texas mom

Lauri Price says she ‘never would have come to Canada’ if she had known Barrie teen’s real age

The headlines were salacious — “Texas mom ‘groomed’ Barrie teen;” “Houston mom accused of soliciting sex to underage boy” — and the story compelling: an alleged Internet predator, a missing boy, a troubling romance, video game addictions and teen sex.

A 42-year-old divorced woman flies across the continent to meet a 16-year-old social outcast. The couple, who found each other amid the fictional world of Azeroth in the online role-playing game World of Warcraft, called themselves soulmates.

The teen’s mother, however, said the woman was sick. Texas prosecutors called her a criminal.

But on Wednesday, all charges against Lauri Price were dropped.

“If I knew he was 16, I never would have been in Canada to begin with,” Price said Wednesday in one of her first interviews since the charges were laid.

The former substitute teacher and mother of four said she wants to tell her side of the story, “but I don’t necessarily feel like I need to defend myself.”

She says she was duped by Andrew, who told her he was 20, something confirmed by police and lawyers.

“Granted there’s still an age difference, but two consenting adults are two consenting adults,” she said.

On Dec. 29, Price travelled to Barrie, Ont. to meet now-17-year-old Andrew Kane, with whom she had a two-year online relationship described by the teen’s mother as sexually explicit.

After his parents refused to let him meet Price, Andrew ran away while the rest of the house slept, leaving behind an earnest note declaring his heartfelt commitment to the much older woman.

The case garnered media attention across the continent, punctuated by Andrew’s mother’s heartfelt and desperate pleas for the return of her son.

Police found the pair two days later at an Orillia movie theatre.

She refused to say whether or not she had sex with Andrew when they spent the night at a bed and breakfast in Midland, north of Barrie. “That’s none of your business,” she said. “I’m not ever going to talk about that.”

Andrew could not be reached for comment, but in a March interview with Global TV’s 16×9, he admitted to lying about his age. He also said he was still in love with Price and that he hoped they could resume their relationship after he turned 18.

“I regret what’s happened to her, but I don’t regret what I did or what she did,” he said. “She thought I was 20 and I was very convincing.”

Price said she has not spoken to Andrew or his family since they were all together at a Barrie police station on New Year’s Eve, but she parted with Andrew’s parents “on as good terms as possible.”

“I offered my heartfelt apology for getting him involved in something that was obviously not good for him,” Price said. “(Andrew’s mother) thanked me for taking care of her son.”

Andrew’s mother, Marlene Kane, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. There was no answer at the family home.

Barrie police couldn’t charge Price with anything since the age of consent in Canada is 16. But when she returned home to Texas — where the age of consent is 18 — Price was arrested and charged with online solicitation of a minor and enticing a child.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said the charges were dropped because it was unlikely Andrew would testify and there was evidence he had lied about his age.

“We feel the charging was appropriate, but we also felt like we could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said spokeswoman Donna Hawkins.

Price’s lawyer, Skip Cornelius, said the district attorney had to drop the case, because no crime had been committed.

“It’s just impossible, in my opinion, for the state to prove that she intentionally or knowingly tried to entice a minor.”

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