21-year-old accused of intentionally running over, killing Vietnam veteran in Aripeka

Pasco County

HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – Neighbors in the Pasco County community of Aripeka are stunned after learning the elderly man they’d routinely see walking near the main road, is the victim of a vicious murder.

Family and neighbors 8 On Your Side the victim in this horrible crime is Mike Pratt. He has a family in Michigan.

Pratt was a Vietnam veteran, a realtor, and drove for Uber,

The Pasco County sheriff says his killer picked Pratt at random.

Deputies say 21-year-old Justyn Pennell on Thursday afternoon made a U-turn on Aripeka road, intentionally hitting and killing the 75-year old.

The heinousness of the crime is starting to sink in among neighbors.

“I just feel bad. He just got back from Michigan from spending Christmas with his family. He hadn’t been home in 2 years.  So I guess that’s a blessing” said Karen Buege.

Pratt lived in an R.V. and enjoyed walking with his trademark walking stick.

“He was going up to get his car. He was getting it fixed.  And so he was walking. He liked to walk or even bike. He would bike up to Walmart and everything” said Buege.

Sheriff investigators tell us Pennell smiled and laughed as he hit Pratt and admitted, he left his Hudson home with the intention of running someone over to see what it’s like to kill. Pennell said he had planned to kill somebody for several months.

“There are some cases that we hear of that absolutely, even for us in law enforcement,  Make us just realize us and remind us that there’s pure evil in this world,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

Neighbors shiver, thinking they could have been targeted.

“We think, wow.  We just missed this event and it’s good because we have a lot of company, children. It’s like, how horrible,” said resident Connie Lacroyx.

Aripeka is a place where time moves a little slower. This murder is causing many to re-think their safety.

“It could have been me.  I could have been out on the road if I hadn’t been in the hospital,” said resident James Judy.

Investigators say Pennell only called 9-1-1 because his P.T. cruiser broke down so close to the scene.  He’s charged with murder.

If you have any information, you are urged to call the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office at 727-847-5878.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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