A Vermilion County Circuit Court judge has sentenced a former Danville man to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killings of his grandparents over 23 years ago. It was the second time that Brian Pruitt had been sentenced to natural life in prison for the October 17th, 1995 stabbing deaths of Roberta and Frank ‘Pat’ McNeely.
Because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Pruitt had to be re-sentenced after he was earlier sentenced to two natural life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. He was a juvenile the first time he was sentenced.
In a two-part sentencing hearing, State’s Attorney Jacqueline Lacy called retired Danville Police Detectives Gene Woodard and Keith Garrett, along with Bob Richard to testify about the crime scene and their follow-up investigation.
Judge Thomas O’Shaughnessy found that the murders were brutal and heinous – indicative of wanton cruelty. And the judge agreed with State’s Attorney Lacy that the defendant’s conduct met the legal threshold allowing for a sentence of natural life.
‘’Brian Puitt murdered his loving grandparents,’’ said Lacy. ‘’A sentence of natural life without parole is the only appropriate sentence in this case,’’ she added. And, the prosecutor added, ‘’I will continue to fight for the harshest sentences for the most violent offenders who commit brutal acts against our community.’’
Pruitt had claimed during the first part of the new sentencing hearing last month that he is a changed man. ‘’I think that overall I’m not just that kid anymore. I grew up in prison,’’ he said.
Testimony during Pruitt’s earlier trial indicated that on October 17th, 1995, he requested his grandfather (Mr. McNeely) to go buy him some food. Once the grandfather left the McNeely home, the defendant went into his grandmother’s room and stabbed her once in the back as she laid in bed, according to court statements. The defendant then waited for his grandfather to come back home, and after Mr. McNeely gave the food to the defendant, Brian Pruitt proceeded to stab McNeely – who was his grandfather – one time in the back, according to testimony at the trial.
The defendant cleaned up the house and then stole the McNeely’s car, subsequently hiding the murder weapon, according to police.
Judge O’Shaughnessy found that there were no mitigating factors, even considering the defendant’s age at the time of the murders.