The Biggest Lisa Pruett Theories: What Really Happened?

On Thursday, September 13, 1990, Lisa Pruett told her friends it was one of the best days of her life, as she had an appointment at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get her driver's license. She was also excited because her boyfriend, Dan Dreifort, was back home after being gone for more than one month. As reported by Lisa Pruett Mystery, Dreifort had just been released from the Cleveland Clinic's mental health facility, where he spent the previous 35 days. According to reports, Dreifort was diagnosed with having "suicidal ideation" and had attempted suicide on at least one occasion. Although he was prescribed medication, he continued to struggle with mental illness. However, his doctors believed he was stable enough to be discharged.

After stopping at Shaker Heights High School to surprise Pruett, Dreifort went to see some other friends before returning home to have dinner with his parents. At approximately 9:00 p.m., Pruett's father drove her over to Dreifort's home after her flute practice. Although she could only stay for a few moments, she told her boyfriend she planned to sneak out between midnight and 12:30 a.m. so she could meet him back at his house.

At 12:25 a.m., Dreifort was in his bedroom when he heard someone outside his home screaming. According to the 911 call, he went outside to see what was happening and found Pruett's bicycle in the bushes approximately 20 feet away from his parents' house. However, his girlfriend was nowhere to be found.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Lisa Pruett's body was found next to her boyfriend's home

Dan Dreifort said he attempted to call Pruett's parents, but nobody answered the phone. He immediately called 911 to report the incident and gave authorities information about Lisa Pruett's plans to sneak out and come to his house. He also gave them a description of Pruett and asked them to go to her parent's home because they were not answering the phone.

As reported by Lisa Pruett Mystery, authorities immediately searched the area and found Pruett's body in a neighbor's yard, approximately 30 feet from Dreifort's house. She had been stabbed a total of 21 times with a knife or something similarly shaped. There were also several bruises on her neck, which detectives believe were caused by someone pulling her necklace against the front of her neck from behind. Although her clothing was partially removed, the coroner determined she had not been sexually assaulted.

Dreifort was immediately identified as a suspect in Pruett's murder. During his police interview, he said he had forgotten his girlfriend was coming over that night and was putting away the personal belongings he brought back from the mental health clinic. The teenager said he and his father both heard the screaming at the same time, and his parents confirmed he was inside the house when it happened. Dreifort said he ran outside after he heard the screams but went back inside when he did not see anything.

Lisa Pruett's friends implicated Kevin Young

Dan Dreifort said he went back outside at approximately 12:45 a.m. when he remembered Lisa Pruett was supposed to come over. That is when he found her bicycle and called 911. Chris Jones was also supposed to go over to Dreifort's house in the early morning hours of September 14. However, Lisa Pruett Mystery reports he decided to stay home because he was up late doing homework.

Later that evening, Jones and several others met at Dreifort's home to discuss what happened to Pruett. In addition to grieving the loss of their friend, they were stunned to learn Dreifort was named as a suspect. According to Jones, he and his friends believed Kevin Young, who was reportedly "in love with Lisa," was a more likely suspect. In his statement to police, Shane McGee said, "Kevin went nuts" when he found out Dreifort and Pruett were in an intimate relationship. According to McGee, Young said, "He wanted to kill Lisa and Dan." Although he could not remember the specific wording, McGee said Young "was very clear about his meaning." John George also mentioned Young in his interview with the police. Notably, George said Young expressed his dislike for Dreifort and said, "I hate him. I'm going to kill him." He also said Young was angry with Pruett and stated, "I want her dead." 

Kevin Young was admitted to a mental health facility after his interrogation

In the days following Lisa Pruett's murder, several of her and Dan Dreifort's friends and classmates went to authorities with stories about Kevin Young making threats to harm or kill the couple. As reported by Lisa Pruett Mystery, authorities brought Young in for questioning on September 15. Young admitted he was out on the evening Pruett was killed but said he returned home by 11:30 p.m. Although his parents confirmed he was home at that time, authorities were not convinced.

Young was questioned extensively about his involvement in Pruett's murder but vehemently denied the accusations. Still, authorities noted several discrepancies between witness reports and Young's own statements. He ultimately consented to a polygraph examination, which was conducted in two parts. Although the results were mixed, he was determined to be deceptive while answering direct questions about Pruett's murder.

Detective Richard Mullaney also said Young's behavior during the interview was unusual and indicated he was uncomfortable with the questioning. Mullaney said, "While Kevin was by himself, he became visibly intense ... [his] eyes were watering heavily, and at times, he would draw his legs up underneath himself on the chair ... and assumed what could be described as the 'fetal' position. " At the conclusion of the interrogations and polygraph examinations, Young said he was feeling suicidal and asked to speak with a mental health professional. He was subsequently admitted to Laurelwood hospital for treatment.

Kevin Young was ultimately acquitted

Publicity about the case and leaks of Kevin Young's identity prompted pressure for authorities to make an arrest in the murder of Lisa Pruett. However, without an actual confession, the evidence in the case was largely circumstantial. Following his release from Laurelwood hospital, two patients who spent time with Kevin Young came forward to say he admitted killing Pruett. As reported by Lisa Pruett Mystery, Young was subsequently arrested and charged with aggravated murder on November 24, 1992.

During the trial, Young's defense team presented exhibits and witnesses, which they alleged proved Dan Dreifort could have been responsible for Pruett's death. In addition to producing a number of threatening letters Dreifort sent to Pruett, officer Edward Curtin — who was the first officer on the scene — testified that Dreifort told him he never actually heard anyone scream. Young's father also testified that he and his son were home playing video games together when Pruett was killed. The suspect was ultimately found not guilty of Pruett's murder. However, he remained under a cloud of suspicion until his death on January 14, 2017. As reported by WKYC, Young was 44 years old.

After the conclusion of Young's trial, no other arrests were made in Pruett's murder. In the minds of many, Young and Dreifort remain the primary suspects in the case. But in recent years, author James Renner identified another person of interest who he believes many have been involved in Pruett's murder.

David Branagan was pinned as a suspect

As reported by Lisa Pruett Mystery, David Branagan went to the Shaker Heights Police Department on September 15, 1990, to give a voluntary statement about Lisa Pruett's murder. According to the detective's summary of the interview, Branagan said he met a Black man at a bus stop on the afternoon of September 14. He said the man told him he had not been in Shaker Heights for "approximately five or six years." According to Branagan, the man also mentioned Pruett's murder and the murder of Philips and Dorothy Porter, who lived in the same neighborhood in 1985.

In the course of the interview, Branagan disclosed he was a witness in the Porter homicide and that he had seen a Black man leaving the area after the murder was committed. He also admitted he was in the neighborhood where Pruett was killed in the early morning hours of September 14, 1990. According to Branagan, he was questioned by officers at the scene of Pruett's murder. However, the officers do not remember seeing or speaking to him.

The detectives concluded "Branagan's purpose for coming to the Shaker Heights Police Department was to obtain information relative to the Lisa Pruett homicide" and that "it appeared he wanted to draw attention to himself in a bragging sort of way." In addition, Branagan was a "prolific burglar" who was reportedly robbing homes in Pruett's neighborhood on the night she was killed.

Lisa Pruett's murder was never solved

During his police interview, David Branagan said he was with his girlfriend, Holly Robinson, at the time Lisa Pruett was killed. However, in an interview with James Renner, Robinson said Branagan left her house "with plenty of time" to have come across Pruett and killed her. She also said Branagan had a collection of knives and always carried one on his person.

Lisa Pruett Mystery reports several other women who dated Branagan said he was physically and sexually abusive and had a history of being cruel to animals. In her interview with Renner, Robinson said she tried to discuss her concerns with prosecutors, but they did not seem to think there was enough evidence to consider Branagan as a suspect. Although authorities were suspicious of Branagan's interest in the murders of Lisa Pruett and the Porters and his unusual efforts to insert himself into both cases, he was never named an official suspect or arrested in either case. As of today, the murder of Lisa Pruett remains unsolved.