DANVILLE — A Danville man convicted of killing his grandparents in 1995 was resentenced Monday to live in prison without parole.
In 1995, Brian Pruitt was charged with the murder of his grandparents Frank and Roberta McNeely, according to Vermilion County State's Attorney Jacqueline Lacy.
In August 15, 1996, Pruitt was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court made specific findings in Miller v. Alabama that a judge cannot sentence a juvenile offender to mandatory life without parole unless the judge makes specific findings. Additional cases also were set forth by the Illinois Supreme Court that discouraged a sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders unless the court makes specific findings.
Therefore, after the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Miller v. Alabama, defendant, Brian Pruitt, nearly 24 years later was entitled to a new sentencing hearing, according to Lacy.
Court records show that on Oct. 17, 1995, Pruitt asked his grandfather to buy him food at Burger King. Once his grandfather left the McNeely home, Pruitt went into his grandmother's room and stabbed her one time in the back as she laid in bed. The defendant then waited for his grandfather to come home and after he delivered the food to the defendant, Pruitt stabbed him one time in the back.
Pruitt cleaned the house and then stole the McNeely's car, subsequently hiding the murder weapon, according to Lacy. Pruitt, by his own admissions at trial. smoked cigarettes in between the killings and after the killings.
After a two-part sentencing hearing, Lacy introduced evidence through the testimony of retired Danville Police detectives Gene Woodard, Keith Garrett and Bob Richard.
Lacy argued the defendant's acts were premediated and also found brutal and heinous indicative of wanton cruelty. Lacy also argued the defendant should receive a sentence of natural life without parole based upon his actions in 1995 and his Illinois Department of Corrections record. Lacy argued the defendant's actions were brutal and heinous, indicative of wanton cruelty and that Pruitt's conduct showed "irretrievable depravity, permanent incorrigibility, or irreparable corruption beyond the possibility of rehabilitation" as required by Illinois Jurisprudence.
On Monday, Judge Thomas O'Shaughnessy sentenced Brian Pruitt to natural life without parole. O'Shaughnessy found the nature and facts of the offense were brutal and heinous indicative of wanton cruelty. He found there were no mitigating factors, even considering the defendant's age at the time of the murders. O'Shaughnessy agreed the defendant's conduct met the legal threshold allowing for a sentence of natural life.
"Brian Pruitt brutally murdered his loving grandparents," Lacy said in a release. "A sentence of natural life without parole is the only appropriate sentence in this case. I will continue to fight for the harshest sentences for the most violent offenders who commit brutal acts against our community."