MISSION, Kan. - Two weeks before a Johnson County man killed his brother and took his own life, 41 Action News has learned there were written threats warning of his deadly plan.
Robert Pruitt shot and killed his younger brother, Todd Pruitt, on the morning of Nov. 15 as the University of Kansas Hospital employee arrived for work in Mission, Kan.
Later that day, Robert took his own life in a wooded area of south Kansas City, Mo.
However, as early Nov, 2, police were aware of a letter Robert sent to his sister, which said the Merriam, Kan. man planned to kill his brother before committing suicide.
After inquiring about the written threats, the Johnson County District Attorney’s office provided 41 Action News with a timeline of what happened.
On the day the letter arrived, police checked on Todd and his family at their Shawnee home. They were safe and told authorities they planned to take a weekend trip to visit relatives in Omaha.
Meanwhile, Robert’s landlord had received the November rent check along with a note that said, “If I am dead, my wealthy mother will handle my finances. ”
The landlord decided to call police. Officers found other suicide notes scattered throughout the apartment and his designated parking stall.
Police discovered Robert had stolen a blue Ford Fiesta rental car from Enterprise. They checked his mother’s Lee’s Summit residence, but there was no sign of Robert Pruitt.
Calls to his cell phone went straight to voicemail, so police requested his cell phone activity and got a “ping” in Grandview, Mo. Authorities there had no luck locating Pruitt, either.
Police entered Robert in the missing person database and listed him as “armed and dangerous. ”
Robert had an outstanding warrant for a domestic violence charge against his ex-girlfriend on October 25. On November 3, the victim contacted police and said she had received text messages from Pruitt that threatened suicide.
Police continued requesting Pruitt’s cell phone activity and got additional hits in Overland Park and Bethany, Mo. His mother thought he might be staying at a farm in Clinton County, Mo.
On November 5, Pruitt’s mother received an email from her son. It read, “I know you think I’m insane, but there are times when suicide just makes sense. ” According to his mother, Pruitt did not own a personal computer, and often sent emails from public libraries.
Despite the repeated efforts to locate Robert Pruitt, along with the missing person report and outstanding warrant, the 58-year-old somehow averted law enforcement until it was too late.
That harsh reality was disconcerting to a co-worker and long-time friend of Todd Pruitt’s, who contacted 41 Action News. The colleague said Todd had told him about the threatening letter a week before his murder.
Until then, the co-worker wasn’t even aware Todd had a brother.
Todd told him and other work friends to keep an eye out for strangers in the parking lot. He wanted them to know about the threat so they could stay out of harm’s way.
Todd’s ominous warning became a horrific reality just days later, when his brother gunned him down outside his office building.
Todd's co-worker described him as, "A fun-loving, gentle Christian soul who never met a stranger. He's left a hole in the hearts of all who knew him."
Assistant District Attorney Lannie Ornburn told 41 Action News his office gets involved in all homicide investigations, even if the suspect commits suicide.
“It helps from a community policing and policy standpoint in looking at why these events transpired,” said Ornburn.
It is unclear why Robert would want to kill his brother, although he was apparently estranged from Todd and the rest of his family. His ex-girlfriend told police that he battled alcoholism and suffered from manic depression.
Todd Pruitt’s memorial service is this Saturday at Westside Family Church in Lenexa. A church member and spokeswoman for the Pruitts said the family wants privacy during this time of immense grief and heartache.
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