The Memoirs and Musings of Robert Pruett

August 9, 2005 2:15am
The booming sound of a slamming door rescues me from the clutches of yet another disturbing nightmare. Gasping vehemently, perspiration streaming down my face, I glance towards the front of my cell just in time to see a pair of officers seemingly glide past my door. The clock on my radio shows 1:57am, which means they are doing the 2am count. I have the misfortune of living in a cell that is located approximately 4 ft. from the crossover door that leads to the next section. Everytime an officer shuts it with any extra force it reverberates, creating a loud echo sound that is amplified by the excellent acoustics intrinsic to the cavernous architecture of these cellblocks. I'm a hard sleeper so it rarely bothers me when inconsiderate officers slam that door, but tonight it awakens me and I'm grateful for that.
 
As I lie on my bunk staring at the ceiling, disoriented by the remnants of dream-ogres slowly dissipating, I'm suddenly aware of the date. It's hard to believe that a decade has passed since that tragic summer night.... In Ozzy's song "The Road To Nowhere" he sings about his past and how - through all the happiness and sorrow - he'd do it all again. I'm a huge fan of Ozzy's music, and I consider him to be one of the top 3 greatest rock artists of all time, yet I couldn't disagree with him more in that song. When I reflect back over my life, particularly the chain of events that culminated in the tragedy of August 9, 1995, there's no doubt I would do a lot of things different if I could.
 
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There are many factors that influenced my delinquent behavior as an adolescent. I could go on and on about my family's poor socio-economic status and how it was a constant struggle to survive; I could tell you that I didn't meet my father until I was almost 7 due to his incarceration and how he tried to compensate for the lost years by being more of a friend to me than a father (i.e. letting me smoke dope with him); I could even write a dissertation on genetics and expound upon the role they play in influencing human behavior. Ultimately though, I am the one who has made countless bad decisions throughout the course of my life.
 
By the time I was a teenager I was involved in a wide-range of criminal activities that include burglary, auto-theft, and the distribution of illegal substances. Everything I did seemed to revolve around feeding my addiction to drugs, chasing girls, and perpetuating the incessant party that had become my life. I loved the fast life. Living on the east side of Houston provided ample opportunity to indulge in this type of lifestyle.
 
When the summer of 1995 rolled around I launched a crime spree with my cousin Chucky, friend Baby G, and several others who eventually bailed out on us. We'd go out each night and rob houses, buildings, and people. (For the most part it was just houses though.) Everything went smoothly for us until the night of July 23, 1995.
 
To make a long story short, Chucky, Baby G, and I were arrested for burglarizing a house down by the San Jacinto River. While we robbed the place the owner's son, who lived next door, showed up and a high speed chase ensued. I ended up crashing the car we were in into a ditch and Chucky and I fled the scene, eventually making our way back to my trailer park several miles away. Baby G stayed with the car (It belonged to his father and he later told us his old man would kill him if he lost his car!) and somehow managed to get it out of the ditch, but then he drove it to my trailer park with the home owner's son following him!
 
When Baby G pulled the car into my driveway he abruptly jumped out of the car and pointed a gun at the truck occupied by the home owner's son. I watched the truck peel out down the road and then Baby G got back in the car and drove it down to my trailer. We quickly unloaded all the stolen property, then Baby G drove his dad's car to their apartments about 1/4 mile away. The homeowner's son must've observed Baby G drive back to his apartments because 20 minutes later we were apprehended there while trying to steal another car to move the stolen property.
 
The police recovered most of the stolen property (I hid some guns on the side of a friend's trailer that they never found) and returned it to the owners. Baby G and I went to the Juvenile Detention Center because he was only 13 and I was 15, while Chucky (22 years old) was sent to Harris County Jail. On July 31, 1995 I was released to my parents on a strict probation after they appeared in court on my behalf and asked the judge to give me another chance. In retrospect, I wish that judge would've sentenced me to the Texas Youth Commission.
 
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In the early part of 1995 a couple named Ray and Jane moved into the trailer next to ours with their beautiful baby daughter, Ruru. When I first met Ray and Jane they were kicking back on lawn chairs in their front yard. I introduced myself by smoking a couple of joints with them and we became instant friends.
 
In fact, everyone took a liking to Ray, Jane and little Ruru. All the teenagers began hanging out at their place, my mom became friends with Jane, and sometimes after work my dad would have a few beers with Ray. Then things started happening that worked to alienate Ray and I.
 
Jane had a 15 year old daughter from another marriage named Nicole. She lived in Georgia, but came to stay the summer of 1995 with Ray and Jane. Nicole was absolutely gorgeous and most of the young boys who hung out around the trailer park continuously reminded her of that. I was aware of her, yet I made an effort of not showing any interest (early on) because I respected Jane. Well, something about me not paying attention to her, while all the other boys did, must've sparked something in her because she started flirting with me. At first I did not respond, but after Jane made it clear that she didn't mind, I started to become really close to Nicole. Ray didn't say anything, but it became apparent that he didn't like me seeing his step-daughter. I really was a horrible influence and, in retrospect, I don't blame him at all.
 
One night a bunch of us were drinking and smoking dope with Ray and Jane at their place. As the night grew old everyone started filing out and Ray and Jane retreated to their bedroom to crash out, leaving Baby G, Nicole, and me alone in the livingroom. Nicole and I fooled around a little while Baby G got drunk, then Baby G and I left. After we stepped outside he reached under the trailer and pulled out Jane's purse! "What the fuck is wrong with you, stealing Jane's purse?!" I angrily demanded. He just told me to chill out as he rummaged through it then said, "There isn't anything of value in it." as he tossed it over the fence and into the woods. There wasn't much I could do besides yell at him; he was my partner in crime.... The next day Ray accused me of stealing the purse and told me I was no longer welcomed over at his place.
 
A couple of days after I was released from the Juvenile Detention Center my friends Eugene and Joe told me that Ray had a couple of the guns from the burglary I was arrested for. According to Eugene, Ray found the guns I'd stashed along side Eugene's trailer the morning after I was taken into custody. Eugene said Ray kept a couple of them, Jessie (Eugene's older brother) kept a couple, and the rest were given to Gene (Eugene's mom), who in turn gave them to my father. My father turned them over to the police.
 
After Eugene told me this he must've noticed that I was getting angry because he said, "Forget about those guns Robert. You say you want to chill out and straighten your life out? Then forget about those guns!" Eugene had been my best friend for a very long time. We used to do everything together, including criminal activity, but he wised up and pulled away from that lifestyle a year or so before. After I got out of the Juvenile Detention Center I told him and Joe that I was finished living the fast life and that my intentions were to clean up and finish school. Eugene and I both used to say we'd be the first in our families to finish high school! And he was right when he told me to forget about those guns, yet I didn't listen. I guess I was still upset with Ray for banning me from his place and Nicole.
 
I asked Ray about those guns and he denied having them, said he gave all of them to Gene. I told him that other people were telling me different and he said, " I don't care what other people say, I don't have any guns!" At the time I let it go.
 
During the noon hour of August 9, 1995 Ray came home from work for lunch. I watched him pull into his driveway and I went outside to ask him about those guns again. Once again he denied having them and an argument ensued. We cursed at each other for a few seconds before my mother yelled for me to get inside my trailer. As I walked towards my front door I yelled back at Ray, "I'll bet my dad doesn't tell me to get inside when he gets home! He'll beat your fucking ass!".... I was such an idiot.
 
One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made was telling my father about that argument. I wasn't thinking. You see my father has spent most of his life in prison and that lifestyle conditioned him to be very paranoid and extremely violent. In the 9 years that I knew him he stabbed 4 different men, on 4 separate occasions. Each time he was either drunk or paranoid, thinking someone was threatening him or his family. Although it had been a couple of years since he last stabbed anyone, I should've known better than to tell him about Ray.
 
My brother arrived home from work first and I told him about the argument with Ray. His response was, "I'll see how though he is when he gets home." My father arrived shortly after my brother and after telling him about the argument he basically echoed what my brother said. I was under the impression that my brother would beat Ray up and that would be that. When a young kid would piss my brother off I'd handle it and he took care of the older guys that bothered me. Fist fights were a common way of settling disputes in that trailer park.
 
Ray usually went to a local bar on Friday nights after work, so he didn't show up until close to 10pm. My father went to sleep around 9pm and not long after that my brother and I talked about the issue with Ray. "Little brother, let's forget about this shit. We have bigger problems to worry about and I think we should let it blow over." I agreed with him and we started to get ready for bed.
 
As Ray pulled into his driveway, I was getting ready to crash out. Several minutes passed and then I heard Ray's front door slam and the sound of him yelling. Curiously, I looked out the window and observed what looked like Ray waving his hands at my trailer, while screaming something unintelligible. I immediately thought he was talking shit and told my brother as much. (Later on at trial I learned that his dog got loose and that he was calling the dog!) My brother went to wake up my dad and I began putting my boots on.
 
After lancing my boots up, I went outside. As I rounded the front of my trailer Ray's truck came into view. He was reaching inside the driver's side door and I immediately thought that he could be going for a gun so I quickly covered the ground that separated us and yanked him out of his truck. (Once again, at trial I learned that he kept an extra dog leash in his truck and was probably searching for it!) By the time I pulled him away from his truck my brother was on the scene and he grabbed Ray, causing the both of them to tumble to the ground. They wrestled for a few seconds and I kicked at Ray a couple of times, trying to separate them. Suddenly, I noticed my father making his way towards us, but Ray broke free from my brother before he could get to where we were and then retreated behind his trailer. My father and brother gave chase, while I stayed by Ray's truck and told Eugene, Jessie, and Abraham (They all came outside to see what was going on.) what was happening.
 
Jessie and I edged towards the back of Ray's trailer to see what was happening back there, but it was too dark to see anything. Then I watched as my brother and father came running towards us, both covered in blood. My father told me get into the car and I did. The sight of blood on them alarmed me and most of what transpired beyond that point is a blur. All I remember is getting into our car and my brother driving off. It was eerily reminiscent to the time we fled Rockport, Texas in 1990 after my father stabbed a guy in a bar down there.
 
We went to stay with cousins in West Orange, Texas. Several days later my father called my brother and me to side and showed us a newspaper that said Ray was dead. My brother told me that my dad stabbed Ray behind his trailer, but I didn't realize it was that bad.... At first I didn't realize I was wanted for murder along with my father and brother, then when I found out I was wanted, too, I figured they just wanted me for questioning. Boy was I wrong.
 
My father and brother were arrested several weeks later and I was apprehended a few days after that. On October 31, 1995 I was certified to stand trial as an adult. In May 1996 we all had a joint trial and on May 8, 1996 we were all convicted of murder. (My brother and I were convicted under the "Law of Parties") My father opted to be sentenced by the judge, while my brother and I were sentenced by the jury. My father received a Life sentence, my brother got 40 years aggravated, and I was given 99 years aggravated.
 
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Ten years have passed since Ray was prematurely taken away from his family and friends. As I sit here at my desk, reliving the past, the orange glow of the morning sun begins to fill my cell. Thoughts of Ruru and Ray's other child (from a different marriage) pervade my mind. It eats at my soul knowing that they are growing up without Ray. So many people were affected by Ray's early demise.... While I did not kill Ray, didn't see the stabbing, and never wanted him to die, I'm utterly cognizant of the fact that I am the REASON he is gone. That's something that I have never forgotten and will have to live with for the rest of my life. If any of Ray’s family or friends are reading this, I want you to know that I am truly sorry for all the pain I've caused you. I know that if it wasn't for me Ray would still be with you today. It is my hope that you can somehow find it in your hearts to forgive me.... May you rest in peace Ray.
 
Robert Pruett  999411