PORTLAND, Ore.—A jury on Friday convicted a Portland, Oregon, man of murder in the shooting deaths of three of his neighbors.
Brett Pruett, 61, was found guilty of first-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon, burglary and assault, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Police found three people dead at a residence in northeast Portland on July 17, 2020. Mr. Pruett killed Tashia Cobb and her fiance Elmer Hughes outside and then killed their friend Lawrence Murphy inside the residence, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Police arrested Mr. Pruett the following day.
Mr. Pruett lived in a house next to the home where Cobb, Hughes, and Murphy lived, Senior Deputy District Attorney Nathan Vasquez told the Multnomah County jury. He said Mr. Pruett had been taking care of Betty Boyles, who owned both of the houses.
When Boyles died that April, Mr. Pruett tried to take ownership of her property and demanded rent from the three neighbors, the prosecutor said. Despite an eviction lawsuit against him, Mr. Pruett continued to insist on rent payments. He shot Hughes, Cobb, and Murphy after days without sleep during a methamphetamine binge, Mr. Vasquez told the jury.
The defense worked to undermine the credibility of witnesses and argued that police too quickly settled on Mr. Pruett as the suspect. Mr. Pruett’s attorneys also asked the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that prosecutors had withheld information that would have been critical for the defense team to know in formulating their strategy.
Mr. Pruett is scheduled to be sentenced in January.