Robert Pruett would be involved in his first murder when he was just fifteen years old that would send him to prison for ninety nine years. Just a few years later he would be involved in yet another murder that would send him to Texas death row and ultimately to his execution. In this article on My Crime Library we are going to take a closer look at Robert Pruett.
Robert Pruett Childhood
Robert Pruett grew up in a poor neighborhood in Texas where he would have to take food from garbage containers to eat. His father was in and out of prison for the majority of his childhood and when he was home he would physically and sexually abuse his children. Robert Pruett would talk about taking bathes behind stores using a garden hose. Drug abuse ran rampant through the home and by and early age Pruett was abusing drugs.
Robert Pruett First Murder
When Robert Pruett was just fifteen years old he was involved in an argument with his neighbor Ray Yarborough. Later that night Robert, his brother Howard Pruett jr and his father Howard Pruett Sr would confront Ray Yarborough that ended with Howard Sr stabbing the victim several times causing his death.
Even though Howard Pruett Sr would tell authorities his sons had nothing to do with the murder both of them would be charged. Howard Pruett Jr would be sentenced to forty years in prison, Howard Pruett Sr would be sentenced to life without parole and fifteen year old Robert Pruett would be sentenced to ninety nine years in prison. The two younger Pruett’s would be convicted under the Texas law of parties where even though they did not convict the murder they were still guilty because they were there.
Robert Pruett would be sent to an adult prison at the age of seventeen years old
Robert Pruett Prison Murder
In 1999 Texas Correctional Officer Daniel Nagle was found dead in his office. The cause of death was a heart attack that was induced after he was stabbed eight times with a homemade weapon.
Robert Pruett became a suspect as he had a run in with Daniel Nagle earlier in the day regarding taking food from the mess hall. That conduct report had been torn up and left at the murder scene.
A number of inmates would testify that they would saw Robert Pruett murder the officer however there was no physical evidence tying Pruett to the murder. Robert Pruett would be convicted and sentenced to death
Robert Pruett Texas Death Row
Robert Pruett was sentenced to death in 2002 and would spend the next fifteen years declaring that he was innocent and was set up as the fall guy.
Robert would point to Daniel Nagle reputation and that a number of fellow guards had issues with him as he was in the process of filing a grievance against corrupt officials in the Texas Department Of Criminal Justice.
Robert Pruett would avoid execution in 2015 when a judge ordered DNA testing on the metal rod used to kill Daniel Nagle. The DNA test came back inconclusive and a mysterious DNA of an unknown female was found on the weapon. The Texas courts refused to order more testings.
Robert Pruett Execution
Robert Pruett would be executed by the State of Texas on October 12, 2017 by lethal injection. Robert Pruett would give the final statement:
“I’ve hurt a lot of people, and a lot of people have hurt me … One day, there won’t be a need to hurt people,”
Robert Pruett was 38 years old. At the time of his execution he had spent over twenty three years in prison.
Robert Pruett More News
Robert Pruett was executed in Huntsville Thursday night, completing the death sentence he received more than 15 years ago in the 1999 murder of prison guard Daniel Nagle.
Nagle was 37 when he was repeatedly stabbed with a makeshift knife in a Beeville prison. His body was found in a pool of blood next to a torn-up disciplinary report he had written against Pruett.
Pruett, 20 at the time, had already been in prison for years, convicted as an accomplice and sentenced to 99 years in a murder his father committed when he was 15. Prosecutors argued Pruett killed Nagle because of the report, but Pruett consistently and adamantly insisted on his innocence.He argued he was framed by corrupt guards and inmates about whom Nagle was writing a “lengthy grievance,” according to a recent court filing.
In his last words, Pruett expressed his love for the friends who witnessed his execution.
“I’ve hurt a lot of people, and a lot of people have hurt me … One day, there won’t be a need to hurt people,” 38-year-old Pruett said in his final statement, strapped to a gurney in Texas’ death chamber.
His last appeals were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court within an hour of his scheduled execution, and at 6:17 p.m. he was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital. He was pronounced dead 29 minutes later after chanting and shouting obscenities, the Associated Press reported. Several of Pruett’s friends, as well as the wife and in-laws of Nagle, were expected to attend the execution. Family of Ray Yarbrough, the man Pruett’s father killed, were also listed as witnesses.
Nagle’s sister, Nora Oyler, issued a statement through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, saying she and other family members still miss Daniel every day.
“The execution will in no way minimize our loss,” she said. “We have chosen to spend this time together and away from the coverage so that we can celebrate Daniel’s life and not the tragedy of his death.”
Pruett’s 2002 conviction in Nagle’s murder was primarily based on eyewitness testimony from inmates, which his lawyers have argued is unreliable. He fought for years to test crime scene evidence for DNA in an attempt to prove his innocence. Courts twice ordered testing on clothes, the report and the weapon, but results were ruled inconclusive. In April, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the results would not have affected his conviction, setting the path for a new execution date.
Jack Choate, executive director of the Special Prosecution Unit, which prosecutes crimes in Texas prisons, said that after all of the court reviews, he didn’t see “room” for an innocence claim, mentioning how Pruett admitted on cross-examination he had asked an inmate to testify that he had cut his hand the day of the murder. Pruett’s blood on a prison shirt, he testified, was because of an injury he got lifting weights.
“I think when people look at the whole picture … you can see what the jury saw and review that, and it makes for a very compelling case against Mr. Pruett,” Choate told The Texas Tribune on Monday.
But Pruett’s lawyers fought his execution until the last hour. In his final appeal, he sued in federal court, claiming recent refusals by the trial court and prosecution to proceed with further DNA testing violated his due process rights.
The DNA evidence that was tested and deemed inconclusive by Texas’ high appellate court needs more examination, Pruett argued in court filings, because a partial female profile had been found on the murder weapon in its latest examination. He argued further testing could identify a culprit, but the state argued the weapon was likely contaminated by people on the defense team and journalists who have handled it without gloves since the trial.
“The prosecution and the state courts have stood in the way of identifying the actual murderer,”wrote Pruett’s attorney, David Dow, in his filing.
Three levels of federal courts denied this request, with the U.S. Supreme Court issuing its denial around 5:15 p.m.
While Pruett awaited his execution, the prison guard community remembered Nagle. Nagle was the Beeville president of Texas’ prison guard union, and he uttered his last public words when he went to Austin the same month of his murder to speak of dangerous understaffing in prisons, saying somebody was going to have to die before the state realized it had a problem, according to Lance Lowry, president of the union’s Huntsville chapter.
Lowry said the ratio of prisoners to guards is still dangerously low today, and it was one of the causes of Nagle’s death.
“He died alone … he was killed in a room full of inmates,” he said. “Unfortunately, I expect to see more Daniel Nagles in the future here, and that scares me.”