Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New Port Richey man gets life in prison for 2011 beating death

Adam Ekdahl attends the last day of his murder trial Thursday at the West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Adam Ekdahl attends the last day of his murder trial Thursday at the West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Adam Ekdahl wanted to call his mother. It was late November 2011, a few weeks after he beat a man to death with a child's baseball bat, and Ekdahl was incarcerated in the Pasco jail accused of burglary. He had not yet been charged with murder. Two detectives visited him in his loud, crowded housing unit and asked for a written statement. Ekdahl, then 24, wanted his mother's advice. The detectives know that being nice gets people talking. They allowed the call, gave him a phone — and kept recording.

"I killed somebody," Ekdahl told his mother in a recording played for jurors Thursday, the last day of Ekdahl's trial. The courtroom could only hear Ekdahl's side of the conversation. His mother was upset. Ekdahl, now 25, was silent for long moments as she spoke. He answered her questions in spurts, his voice steady.

"I didn't mean to kill him, Mom."

"Yeah, it was a robbery."

"No, I didn't mean to kill him."

"Alright."

"Listen."

"I don't know, Mom."

"I don't know."

"How old?" Ekdahl said, when his mother asked about the man he killed. "I don't know."

"I don't know his name."

His name was Samuel Martinez Pratts and his family cheered after Ekdahl was convicted Thursday of his death. The 12-member jury of seven men and five women deliberated for an hour before coming back with a verdict. Ekdahl, with a teardrop tattooed under his eye and a skull inked on his hand, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He showed no emotion, his face blank. When the judge asked if he wanted to make a statement, he shook his head.

The murder of Pratts happened Nov. 10, 2011, in an abandoned house behind a gas station on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. Ekdahl lived across the street at the Travel Inn with his girlfriend and her two daughters. Authorities said Pratts rode to the Travel Inn on his bike with a wad of cash, looking for drugs. Ekdahl hatched a plan to rob Pratts and got three young women to help him — his girlfriend's daughter, Courtney Keeven, 19; a local prostitute, Staci Gurney, 20, and another woman who lived at the motel, Zoraina Castillo, 19.

Pratts, who smoked crack at the motel, was lured to the vacant house by the promise of a threesome with Keeven and Gurney. According to testimony, Pratts and the two women sat in the pitch black home. Ekdahl, hiding in the shadows, found his target when Pratts flicked his lighter to light his drug pipe.

Keeven and Castillo testified that Ekdahl hit Pratts on the head, again and again, telling him to not move. They took his wallet and fled, but realized the cash wasn't in it. So Ekdahl and Keeven went back. Pratts was still alive, holding his head, spraying blood.

"What's going on?" he asked.

Keeven testified that Ekdahl ran at Pratts, savagely beating him in the head with the bat, which Ekdahl had taken from the motel. It was a little girl's bat, white with pink butterflies. The medical examiner testified that half of Pratts' skull was fractured, his brain bleeding and bruised. Ekdahl searched his body and the house for the money. He never found it, but the medical examiner did. Pratts kept his cash in his underwear.

The day after the murder Ekdahl pawned Pratts' bike for $30. The next day, he pawned Pratts' cell phone for $10.

"All this for nothing," Ekdahl said to the detectives, in the recorded interview.

The three young women pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and are serving 20-year prison sentences. The State Attorney's Office refused to make a deal with Ekdahl.

A tipster led authorities to the corpse and Ekdahl. Pratts' body was found Nov. 14, 2011.

Pratts was 44, the father of two daughters, and lived in Spring Hill with his mother, Eudora Pratts, an 80-year-old woman who only speaks Spanish. Relatives said Pratts had his faults, but they loved him.

He left that day to pay his mother's cell phone bill and never came back. She waited for seven days before his body was found, identified and she was told her son was dead. She sat quietly throughout the trial and stayed, wiping her eyes, shuddering, when the prosecution showed photos on a screen of what Ekdahl did to her son. One wound was so deep his skull was visible. She wants Ekdahl to feel remorse, which is what her daughter-in-law said for her in court.

"At this moment our family can't forgive you," Jennifer Pratts said to Ekdahl. "But hopefully, one day, you will look up and say, 'I am very sorry for what I did.'"

Outside in the hallway, the family thanked the men they called the Three Musketeers, all with the first name of Chris: Prosecutors Chris Sprowls and Chris LaBruzzo and New Port Richey Detective Chris Mellecker.

"Without you, he would still be walking the streets," Jennifer Pratts said to the men, her voice breaking. Eudora Pratts reached up to the tall detective and hugged him tight.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

New Port Richey man gets life in prison for 2011 beating death 12/13/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump's lawyers seek to undercut Mueller's Russia investigation

    Politics

    Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar …

    President Donald Trump is said to be irritated by the notion that the special counsel's investigation could reach into his and his family's finances. [Associated Press]
  2. North Tampa shooting leaves one man dead

    Crime

    Times staff

    TAMPA — A man was fatally shot Thursday afternoon after an argument with another man escalated, police said.

  3. St. Pete City Council tightens building rules in historic areas

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — There's a battle being waged over the soul of the city's historic neighborhoods.

    A new larger home sits next to a smaller one in the Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
  4. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)

    College

    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  5. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.