Warrant gives new details about driver who allegedly ran over, killed veteran on purpose

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NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – New court documents shed light on an incident in January when detectives say a driver deliberately ran over a Vietnam veteran along a Pasco County road.

On Jan. 9, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office got a 911 call from Lisa Jennings who told an operator she found a body on the north side of Aripeka Road, near Old Dixie Highway in Hudson. Jennings told the operator she did not approach the body and that it had visible trauma, according to a search warrant.

Two minutes later, the suspect, Justyn Pennell, 21, called 911 as well and told the operator “I just killed someone,” the warrant states.

Pennell admitted to hitting the man and said “I killed him, I think,” and later asked, “What’s wrong with me?”

“The dispatcher asked Justyn Pennell if the person stepped out in the roadway while he was driving and if he hit him accidentally. Justyn Pennell replied, ‘No. I intentionally hit him,'” the warrant states.

The victim was identified as Michael Pratt. Pennell described him as an “old guy with a cane.”

Pennell admitted to the crime while being interviewed by detectives.

“Pennell advised that he felt the urge to kill someone for the last few months and had actively been driving around the Hudson area periodically in an effort to locate someone walking or riding their bicycle alone in a secluded area with no witnesses present to hit with his vehicle to kill them,” the warrant said.

Pennell explained that he passed Pratt the turned around when there were no other vehicles in the area.

Pennell said he estimated his Chrysler PT Cruiser was traveling at 50 to 70 miles an hour, the warrant shows. Pennell said that Pratt remained on the hood of his car after he hit him. Pennell said Pratt eventually fell off his car.

When asked, the suspect told detectives he wanted to kill someone out of “curiosity,” according to the warrant.

“When asked how he felt after knowing that he caused someone’s death, Justyn Pennell stated ‘I enjoyed it,'” investigators said.

On Monday, 8 On Your Side spoke to Jennings, the eyewitness.

She had no idea Pratt was hit and killed, but later learned about the crime by searching online.

“This could happen to anybody at anytime. Mental health, mental illness is in our world. And that’s just the importance of mental wellness, too,” she said.

In the past month, she has reflected on the totality of the situation she witnessed.

“He’s the same age as my dad, a Vietnam vet, a grandfather,” Jennings said about the victim. “And so there was a little transference going on with me, because that could have been my dad,” she said.

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