“Chilling right now – at The Venetian Las Vegas,” DeJuan Pratt posted on his Facebook page Sunday afternoon, authorities say.
The next day, Chicago police arrested the 24-year-old at O’Hare International Airport as he returned from his Vegas trip. He was carrying credit cards from the victims of a double murder in a West Rogers Park apartment, Cook County prosecutors charged. Pratt had moved in five days earlier with the two victims, Gary Brown, 64, and Chun Xiao Lee, 48.
Pratt was ordered held without bail today on charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery and unlawful possession of a credit card in the slayings last month. He was also charged with aggravated identity theft, identity theft between $2,000 and $10,000, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and aggravated arson.
Prosecutors said Brown and Lee had recently placed an ad on Craigslist for a third roommate to share their apartment in the 6400 block of North Sacramento Avenue. Detectives uncovered emails that show Pratt had moved in to the unit five days before the murders, according to prosecutors.
Police and firefighters were called to the third-floor apartment at about 3:45 p.m. on Aug. 28 after reports of a fire. Brown and Lee were found lying side-by-side on a bed, wrapped in blankets. Officers found a partially melted gasoline container on the kitchen floor.
Both victims had been repeatedly stabbed, Assistant State’s Atty. Jamie Santini said.
After discovering Pratt had recently moved in, detectives learned he had filed a report with police on the day of the murders that he had been attacked by three unknown offenders and had sustained a deep slash wound to his left hand, Santini said. Pratt was treated for the wound at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston about 4 a.m. the next day, Santini said.
Last week, a police sergeant spotted Lee’s missing Acura being driven in the 2100 block of West Hood Avenue by a man matching Pratt’s description, Santini said. The sergeant later identified Pratt as the person he saw behind the wheel.
After his arrest, Pratt initially denied any knowledge of the murders or arson, but he later admitted he was in the apartment at the time of the killings, Santini said. He also admitted taking the Acura, stealing the victims’ credit cards and using them to make purchases in Las Vegas, the prosecutor said.
Pratt also told investigators that his report of being attacked by unknown offenders was false, Santini said.
Cell phone records indicated Pratt was “in the area of the murders” about the time the fire was set at the apartment, Santini said.
Pratt graduated with a double-major in business administration and marketing from Central State University near Dayton, Ohio, according to his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Julie Koehler. He also ran track and played football. He moved to Chicago recently and enrolled in a master’s program at Roosevelt University, she said.
He also worked at a grant underwriting firm called CJ National Funding, according to Koehler.
“He is an educated, upstanding university graduate who came here to further his education,” Koehler said after the bond hearing.
Pratt has one misdemeanor theft conviction in Ohio, Santini said.
Brown was an attorney who worked as a prosecutor and city attorney in Kankakee. He once pitched in the minor leagues for the Montreal Expos. About a year ago, Brown moved into Lee’s apartment on North Sacramento.
Brown needed a place to live and Lee's roommate had moved out, according to Brown's ex-wife.
Tribune reporters Todd Lighty and William Lee contributed.
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