Marion Albert Pruett: The Murderer Who Went Free In Witness Protection

At its core, the federal witness protection program is about choosing the lesser of two evils. Authorities provide benefits and protection to one criminal in order to get evidence on a bigger fish or a group of crooks. But the program offers little in the way of rehabilitation, and sometimes hardened criminals are put back on the streets only to commit crimes and hurt people again. Legendary Mafia hitman Sammy "The Boss" Gravano ended up being put back behind bars after being caught involved in a drug ring after bailing on the witness protection program. 

Another protected witness, serial killer Marion Albert Pruett, was proof that the system doesn't always get it right when choosing that lesser of two evils. According to The Infographics Show, Pruett received federal protection for testifying to a murder he witnessed while in federal prison. But the authorities soon learned that letting him go was a huge mistake.

Marion Albert Pruett went on a killing spree while in witness protection

According to Murderpedia, in 1979 Pruett started a new life as Charles "Sonny" Pearson, but he would go on to call himself the "Mad Dog Killer." He killed a loan officer in Mississippi named Peggy Lowe. In Arkansas, he kidnapped a woman named Bobbie Jean Robertson and killed her in the woods behind the store where she worked. He also killed two other store clerks — Anthony Taitt and James R. Balderson — in Colorado. In April 1981, Pruett was living with his common-law wife, Pamela Sue Barker, aka Michelle Lynn Pearson, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. He beat her to death with a ball-peen hammer and burned her body.

Pruett was arrested after Barker's murder and received life sentences for it and those in Mississippi and Colorado. Arkansas gave him the death penalty. While on death row, he tried to capitalize on his notoriety, attempting unsuccessfully to persuade a newspaper in Mississippi to give him $20,000 in exchange for the location of Barker's engagement ring. He also offered to tell Geraldo Rivera where the body of a victim in Florida was if he brought him on his talk show (a paid appearance, of course). In a rare instance of listening to his conscience, Geraldo also turned the killer down. Pruett was put to death by lethal injection on April 12, 1999.