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Grad student charged in double murder held without bail

Dejuan Pratt / Phoprovided by Chicago police.

Dejuan Pratt / Photo provided by Chicago police.

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:32AM

Shortly after graduating from Ohio’s Central State University in the spring, DeJuan Pratt moved to Chicago and enrolled in a masters program at Roosevelt University to further hone the “bright future” his mother said awaited him.

The 24-year-old had just texted his family three days ago to discuss a job they helped line up, Pratt’s mother said Wednesday from Columbus, Ohio. But work was the last thing on his mind, authorities said. Pratt was living it up in Las Vegas where Chicago Police said he used the credit cards of the new roommates he brutally murdered in West Ridge less than a month before.

“Chillin” at the pool at the Venetian Hotel, the dreadlocked Pratt allegedly boasted on his Facebook page Sunday. Pratt, who Cook County prosecutors said booked his Sin City flight with his victims’ stolen credit cards, was arrested for the double murder when he landed at O’Hare early Monday morning.

“I’m just floored,” Pratt’s mother said in disbelief when told Cook County Judge Edward Harmening ordered Pratt held without bail Wednesday for allegedly slaying former Kankakee County prosecutor Gary Brown, 64, and Chun Xiao Lee, 48.

“He has no history of violence. It doesn’t make sense. I’m wondering if someone set him up.”

Through Brown and Lee’s emails and their Craigslist ad seeking a new roommate, detectives were able to deduce that Pratt moved in with the pair on Aug. 23 — just five days before their bodies were discovered by firefighters who rushed to extinguish a blaze in the apartment, in the 6400 block of North Sacramento, Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Santini said.

On the kitchen floor, firefighters allegedly found a partially melted gas container.

Brown suffered 20 stab wounds to his face, chest and abdomen and multiple burns to his body and legs and Lee suffered 28 stab wounds to her face and neck and multiple abrasions to her body.

On the day of the murders, Pratt told detectives that he had been attacked by three suspects and suffered a deep slash wound to his left hand as a result, Santini said.

But last week, a Chicago Police sergeant said he saw Pratt behind the wheel of Lee’s missing Acura in the 2100 block of West Hood, Santini said. Then, authorities glimpsed his Facebook page.

Pratt eventually admitted to detectives that he lied about being ambushed in his new apartment and even went back to the scene of the crime where the lifeless bodies remained after he was treated for his wound at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Santini said.

Upon arrest, Pratt also allegedly confessed that he stole Lee’s car along with her and Brown’s credit cards that he used in Chicago and Las Vegas. He also admitted he was in the apartment when the victims were murdered, which is further corroborated by his cellphone records, Santini said.

Pratt has a former misdemeanor conviction for theft and forgery in Ohio.

Pratt, who was currently living in the 6100 block of North Hoyne, graduated from Central State University with a degree in business administration and marketing, assistant public defender Julie Koehler said. While he was an undergraduate, Pratt was on the track team and played football, Koehler said. Pratt’s father, DeJuan Pratt Sr., is a volunteer assistant coach of Central State’s football team, according to the school’s website.

In addition to murder, the younger Pratt has been charged with armed robbery, unlawful possession of a credit card, aggravated identity theft, identity theft involving $2,000 to $10,000, possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated arson and disorderly conduct for lying to an official.

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