A Kentucky woman who was the mother of Kelly Marie Hurley Pruitt, 33, and grandmother of Kevin Michael Hurley, 8, found murdered early Friday morning in their mobile home in the Broadway community, said in an interview Tuesday that she had worried about them because of the man they lived with here.
The Wilkes Sheriff’s Department identified the man as Jason Ryan Pardue, 33, and charged him with first-degree murder in the deaths. Pardue is also is charged with two counts of first-degree sex offense with a minor under 13 and one count of incest due to incidents on or about March 9 involving a juvenile female at the mobile home where Ms. Pruitt and her son were found dead.
During a first appearance hearing Monday in Wilkes District Court, Judge Jeanie Houston ordered that Pardue be held without bond until trial. Garland Baker of West Jefferson is his court appointed attorney. North Wilkesboro police apprehended Pardue at a convenience store early Friday afternoon.
Charlotte Hurley of Phelps, Ky., mother of Ms. Pruitt and grandmother of Kevin Hurley, said in an interview Tuesday that she “worried day and night,” partly because of what she learned about Pardue’s criminal background.
He had been convicted of two counts of assault on a female and one count each of assault on a government officer and assault by strangulation. Pardue was released from prison on Nov. 7, 2011, after serving a two-year prison sentence for attempted felonious restraint, felony breaking and entering and several misdemeanors, including for assault on an officer.
Mrs. Hurley said a co-worker and close friend of Ms. Pruitt at the Tyson Foods Inc. processing plant in Wilkesboro called her last week and said she had called the sheriff’s department to say she was concerned about not seeing Ms. Pruitt in a few days.
Mrs. Hurley said the co-worker stated that on March 8, Ms. Pruitt asked the co-worker to call law enforcement if she didn’t hear from Ms. Pruitt after a couple of days the following week.
Major David Carson of the sheriffs department said investigators found the bodies of Ms. Pruitt and her son in the mobile home they shared with Pardue in Brinegar’s Mobile Home Park on N.C. 115 early on the morning of March 15. Carson said they went there after receiving reports on March 14 from family members and friends about the two being missing and not seen since March 8.
Carson said Ms. Pruitt apparently died from multiple stab wounds. He said evidence at the scene suggested that her son, a second-grader at C.C. Wright Elementary School, died from suffocation. Obituaries for two said they died in March.
Mrs. Hurley said she hadn’t seen Ms. Pruitt or Ms. Pruitt’s son and daughter since she visited them in Wilkes at Christmas. She said Ms. Pruitt’s daughter is with her and her husband.
During the Christmas visit, she said, “It was just too perfect because he (Pardue) was too nice to us…. It was like the grandchildren there were walking on eggs.”
Mrs. Hurley said she tried to get Ms. Pruitt to come home and that she had only been able to talk to her twice since Christmas.
She said her daughter was very private and wanted to be independent. She would tell me that everything is okay, but she told her sister and the lady she worked with (at Tyson) that he (Pardue) abused her.”
Mrs. Hurley added, “My grandson told me he (Pardue) was mean to him and when I confronted her, she tried to cover it up.” She said Pardue was not Kevin’s father.
Ms. Pruitt graduated from Phelps High School and met Pardue in Tennessee when she was 19, but they didn’t get together again until March 2012. “She loved him and tried to change him,” said Mrs. Hurley. Ms. Pruitt was divorced from a marriage in Kentucky but kept her maiden name.
“She was just a good girl and a hard worker. Everyone liked her here,” said Mrs. Hurley.
C.C. Wright Elementary Principal Jeffery Johnson described Kevin Hurley as “a wonderful child who had a beautiful smile and was always affectionate toward his teachers and classmates. Every time I met Kevin in the hallway he would always smile and then come up and give a hug.”
Johnson added, “Kevin came to us this year from Kentucky and always talked about this being the favorite school he had ever been. Kevin loved his school and we at school loved him.”
He said Kevin was in school March 8 and absent on March 11, 12 and 13. Schools were closed on March 14 and 15.
Johnson said Kevin’s teacher called to check on him March 13 and 14 and the sheriff’s department contacted him late Thursday afternoon about Kevin possibly being a missing person.
He said C.C. Wright school staff “have and will continue to provide counseling for our grieving school family.”
He added, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.” Johnson asked that people continue to remember Kevin’s family and his classmates in their prayers.
Funeral services for Ms. Pruitt and her son are scheduled at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Jamboree Church of God of Phelps, with burial to follow in the Community Cemetery, Abes Branch, Phelps.
Phelps, with a population of a little over 1,000 people, is in Pike County in far eastern Kentucky near the Kentucky and Virginia state lines.