New Jersey Man Pleads Guilty To Killing Mother Two Days After Completing 30-Year Prison Sentence

| by Jordan Smith
Steven Pratt.Steven Pratt.

A New Jersey man pleaded guilty in court on Feb. 16 to the murder of his mother, carried out two days after he was released from a 30-year prison sentence for killing a neighbor.

Steven Pratt, 47, will serve a 25-year prison sentence and will only be eligible for parole after 85 percent of the time has been served, reported.

Gwendolyn Pratt, 64, was found dead at her Atlantic City home in October 2014. Her body showed signs of having been bludgeoned with a blunt instrument.

“I don’t want a trial. I’m guilty,” Pratt said at a  court hearing shortly after the crime, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

“I have failed,” he added.

When Pratt was 15, he got into a dispute with a neighbor when he was hanging out with friends. He retrieved a handgun and shot the neighbor in the face and shoulder. The neighbor later died.

Pratt was tried as an adult and sentenced to 30 years behind bars in 1986. The decision to try him as an adult was confirmed by an appeals court two years later.

Court records say he was given jobs while serving time, including as a sanitary worker at Bayside State Prison.

Some professionals who deal with juvenile criminals questioned the practice of treating children as adults.

“If you evaluate somebody at a young age, you can get a pretty good idea of the probability whether they can be rehabilitated,” said Ronald Gruen, a psychologist with experience in evaluating juvenile criminals, according to the Press of Atlantic City. “In adult prison, there’s really no significant rehabilitation. They mark time, they fight. It’s not conducive to saving a person.”

“Some of these guys, they snap,” he added. “They don’t have any self-control. Being in prison is a very dangerous place. They have to be on guard all the time.”

Robert Gamburg, an attorney with experience in defending juveniles in adult court, agreed.

“Basically, what you’re saying is the juvenile will never develop as a person,” he told Press of Atlantic City. “The rationale is they’re never going to grow as an individual. But to say the decision they made at 15, 16, 17 is the same decision someone would have made at 30 is fundamentally unfair.”

Sources:, Press of Atlantic City / Photo credit: New Jersey Department of Corrections via New York Daily News

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