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‘Cold Justice' Investigation Helps Lead To An Arrest In The Unsolved Murder Of An Ohio Mother
Who killed a 26-year-old Ohio mother of three? With the help of "Cold Justice" digging and forensic technology, the Springfield PD makes an arrest.
For 26-year-old Candance Prunty, life in Springfield, Ohio revolved around her three sons, ages 1, 4 and 7.
So, on October 21, 2015, the first sign that something wasn’t right was that Prunty failed to pick up her boys from school. Family members went to check on her at home and found her shot to death on the kitchen floor. There was no sign of a break-in, but Prunty’s phone wasn’t at the scene.
Prunty suffered six gunshot wounds, including ones in the neck and head, the Springfield News-Sun reported. Nearly six years passed, during which a billboard campaign was launched to shake up some leads. But no arrests were made in the homicide.
They work the investigation with Det. Ronald W. Jordan and Det. Dan Dewine of the Springfield Police Division. Jordan, who responded to the call when Prunty’s body was found, has been committed to the case since day one.
Jordan and Dewine explain the details of the case; Prunty was shot with a .38-caliber gun, and Isahia Elliott, the father of two of her young sons, was at his home in Georgia at the time of the murder. Prunty’s ex-boyfriend, Thomas Albert, of Columbus, Ohio, meanwhile, refused to speak to officials without an attorney.
A 2015 search of Albert’s residence turned up his cell phone and a pack of .38 caliber ammo with six rounds missing. And in 2017, Albert was charged with attempted murder of Nicole Pellerin, a woman in Columbus, and sentenced to 28 years. He is ineligible for release until 2045.
If charged for Prunty’s murder, “Thomas Albert would be very likely to go to trial,” says Siegler, adding that it’s essential to build an airtight case.
Jordan, Dewine, Siegler and Rider review events in the months preceding Prunty’s murder. In July 2015, her home had been vandalized on four separate occasions. Elliott was with her during two of them. A rock was hurled through a window, car tires were flattened, and a Molotov cocktail was tossed into her kitchen.
The repeated instances ruled out a random attack. Prunty thought it could be one of Elliott’s exes, but he was convinced a man had committed the acts. Prunty moved with her kids into her sister’s home.
An interview with Pellerin, who dated him, reveals more about Albert’s history of violence. He ambushed her with a knife, slashing her face and stabbing her. After the attack he took her phone. He was sentenced to 28 years for the crimes, Springfield police tell Siegler.
Investigators also learn that Albert was upset about Prunty shutting down their relationship. For Prunty “it was literally just sex,” said one of the victim’s friends, who added that Prunty was moving with her kids to Atlanta to be with Elliott.
In early October, Prunty told Albert about her plans to move to Atlanta, investigators said. Three days before the murder, Albert showed up at Prunty’s sister’s house, “desperate to win Candance back,” says Siegler. “He was refused. He was rejected. As we’ve learned, he does not take well to rejection.”
Investigators turn to advances in crime scene investigation technology related to smartphones to determine if there is a link between Albert and the murder. Even without Prunty’s cell phone, they have access to her cell phone data. They also have Albert’s phone recovered from his home in 2015.
Text messages confirm Prunty’s efforts to get him out of her life and his refusal to respect her boundaries. “This is clear evidence in their own words,” says Siegler.
Using phone-tower pings, a digital forensics expert is able to confirm the proximity of Albert’s phone to Prunty’s home when the vandalism happened as well as to her sister’s home on the morning of her murder. The expert also finds that Prunty’s phone was in the vicinity of Albert’s home an hour after she was killed.
Det. Jordan runs down the facts of the case to Clark County Prosecutor Dan Driscoll. After weighing whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward with an indictment, Driscoll’s response is: “I think we’re there.”
“It’s so overwhelming,” Prunty’s mother, Patricia Beard, says upon hearing the bittersweet news.
On August 30, Thomas Albert was indicted for the murder of Candance Prunty, along with eight other related charges. If convicted in Prunty’s murder, Albert could be sentenced to life in prison.