Michigan woman convicted of murder as teen gets chance at parole in 5 1/2 years

Jennifer Pruitt handed life sentence over 24 years ago

PONTIAC, Mich. – Jennifer Pruitt was still a teenager when she was handed a life sentence behind bars for her role in the murder of a 75-year-old man.

Now, Pruitt is in her 40s and has a good chance to go free in five and a half years.

"These wounds were opened up after 24 years," said Kimberly Gaynett, who said she is reliving her grandfather's murder all over again.

Elmer Heichel was 75 years old when he was stabbed more than 25 times during a robbery. Pruitt was there when the incident happened in 1992. Heichel trusted and loved her, but she led a killer to him and did nothing to stop the brutal murder.

"He was kind to her," Gaynett said. "And then to wait 24 years to apologize, 24 years to admit that you were the cause of his death by taking her there."

Pruitt was sentenced to life without parole, but the Supreme Court ruled that for juveniles, the sentence is cruel and the cases need to be re-sentenced.

Pruitt is 41 years old and said she's rehabilitated.

Even some of Heichel's step-grandchildren said it's time for Pruitt to go free.

"You've got to forgive, or you carry it on you for the rest of your life," Linda Martin said. "She's done her time. It's time for her to get out."

The judge gave Pruitt five more years in prison. Some people said that's fair, but others said life without parole should mean life without parole.

"The truth of the matter is that an elderly senior citizen was murdered, brutally murdered, and we have to live with that pain each and every day," said Gary King, Heichel's grandson.

"Now it is time for our family to heal, and everybody just remember him," Gaynett said. "He was a good man."

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