December 13, 2011 12:36:00 PM
By HOLBROOK MOHR
BAY ST. LOUIS -- A truck driver claims his prostitute fiancee suffocated as they celebrated their engagement with a meth and bondage sex party. Then he drove from California to Mississippi with the corpse in the cab of his 18-wheeler and set fire to the truck -- with himself and the body inside.
Mark Andrew Rice pleaded guilty to arson and desecrating a corpse and was sentenced Monday to six years in prison for burning the truck and the body of Natasha Carpenter. Two years of the sentence were suspended for time served.
Rice, 49, was a long-haul truck driver when he met Carpenter at a truck stop in Texas. He fell in love after several encounters along his route and bought her an engagement ring, popping the question Sept. 15, 2009. As part of their celebration in Barstow, Calif., Carpenter agreed to let him bind her arms and legs and put a gag in her mouth as he acted out a fantasy, Rice told police.
When he found her dead, Rice panicked and bought "all the meth his dealer had" and drove to Kiln, Miss., the body in the truck's cab under a tarp, he told police.
"I had been up for days. I was not thinking clearly," Rice said Monday at the plea hearing as his ex-wife covered her face with her hands and their three children leaned forward in their seats.
When he made it to Mississippi, Rice planned to say goodbye to his family and kill himself. His family took a gun away from him so he climbed into the rig and set it ablaze. Deputies eventually pulled him from the burning truck.
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