Photo by Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel

The Encino Murders, Part 3

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T he detectives investigating the 2009 triple murder on Encino Street in Miramar, Florida, had the name of a suspect.

Kevin Pratt’s DNA was similar to DNA on a roll of duct tape found near the bodies of the victims.

But the results were not conclusive.

So Miramar detectives Steve Toyota and Hector Bertrand traveled to Jamaica, to see the sole survivor of the attack.

It was less than three weeks after the DNA results generated Kevin Pratt's name, and Toyota and Bertrand wanted to show a lineup of photographs to Camile to see if she could identify Pratt.

They brought six photos, including one of Pratt from his driver’s license that was taken seven months before the murders. The other five were of different black men.

The lineup was videotaped and conducted by a Jamaican contractor for the U.S. Marshals Service.

Pratt’s photo was the third shown, at about four minutes into the video.

When Camile saw the photo, she shook her head no.

14 photos of Kevin

After the photo lineup, Detective Toyota said he made a decision on the spot. He later testified that he wanted to make sure the investigation was on the right track.

He decided to show Camile more photos that he had brought with him from Florida. This time, he showed them to her himself instead of having the Marshal do it. The video camera was not turned on.

The detective showed Camile 14 photos -- all of them of Kevin Pratt.

There were a decade of driver’s license photos. Camile looked at them and, Toyota later wrote, she reacted to one of the photos.

It was the photo in the middle of the bottom row of the picture above.

Meeting Kevin Pratt

A week after the trip to Jamaica detectives Toyota and Bertrand were ready to talk to Pratt. They notified law enforcement to be on the lookout for him.

They didn’t have to wait long. That same day, Aug. 5, 2010, Pratt was arrested at a Sunoco Gas Station in Miami. He was asking people for money and harassing them, an officer said.

Toyota was notified, and two hours later he and Bertrand were sitting across from Pratt.

For three hours, the detectives pressed him about the killings. They asked him about the victims and told him that his DNA had been found at the scene.

But Pratt didn’t confess to the murders — he insisted he didn’t kill anybody.

The detectives left the interview without much, and Pratt was set free later that day.

They interviewed him again months later and, again, got nowhere. Without a confession, they decided to try a new round of DNA testing.

And they prepared for a live lineup.

The lineup

Pratt is in prison after being accused of punching a police officer who had pulled him over for erratic driving.

But on Sept. 8, 2011 he is at a nearby North Florida jail for a live lineup. Camile is there too.

Before the lineup begins, Pratt walks out with five other men who are in the jail at that time. Pratt is number four. None of the other men is suspected of the murders. They just happen to be in the jail that day after other arrests.

There is an age difference. The oldest man is 59. Another man is 45. The youngest is 26. Kevin at the time is 33.

A deputy at the jail runs the lineup.

Here’s Camile’s first look at the men:

Camile is asked if she recognizes any of the men. She wants to see numbers 4 and 5 again. So the lineup is repeated.

Camile then asks to see the teeth of each of the men. She says her attacker had gold teeth on his bottom row.

The lineup is again repeated.

Here’s that portion of the lineup when each man is asked to show his teeth.

At the end of the lineup, Camile is asked if she recognized any of the men.

She said number four — Kevin Pratt.

Explosive encounter

When the lineup is over, detectives had Pratt in an interview room for a third time.

But this time they try an unusual tactic that they had been planning for months.

More than 45 minutes into the interview, the door to the room opens and Camile is brought in to face Pratt. Camile is emotional and pleading with Pratt to admit to the attack and apologize for murdering her daughter and two friends.

Pratt didn’t respond, and Camile became angry.

The interview ends — Pratt held firm on his denials.

The two weeks later, the detectives got a major break in the case.

A breakthrough

Miramar police had hired an outside crime lab to perform a new round of DNA testing on duct tape found at the scene.

Results from the first test, done by the county crime lab, were far from conclusive. It found a mixture of DNA from at least three people and Pratt couldn’t be ruled out as one of them.

But the chance of a unrelated person having similar DNA to what was found on the duct tape was one in 460,000. Meaning, Kevin wasn’t the only one who might have similar DNA to the evidence.

The outside lab repeated the first test that been done by the county crime lab. But it also did a second test — this one focused on Y-chromosomes — those only belonging to men.

On Sept. 22, 2011, the lab reported the new results. And they were stronger.

The report said the chance that the DNA belonged to an unrelated person was one in 12 billion.

Kevin Pratt (March 2011/Florida Department of Corrections mugshot)

Kevin Pratt could be charged with murder.

In October 2011, Detective Toyota stood in front of news cameras with Camile to announce Pratt’s arrest.

“When I saw him, I never forget what he looks like. Never,” Camile told the cameras. “I remember him very well.”

Camile Hamilton with Miramar police chief Keith Dunn, left, and Detective Steve Toyota, right. (Photo by Sarah Dussault / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Detectives went to prison to see Pratt one more time. Detective Toyota told him he was charged for the murders.

The detectives give him one last chance to come clean, but Pratt doesn’t take it. He’s had enough and tells the detectives he’ll see them in court.

Even with his hands cuffed behind him, Pratt opens the door to the interview room and leaves, with Detective Bertrand calling him a coward on the way out.

Trouble with DNA results

The strongest piece of evidence against Kevin was the new DNA results.

But the understanding of DNA testing was changing and by 2013, nearly two years had passed since the more conclusive test results.

The DNA analyst at the private lab, Tiffany Roy, reevaluated the evidence based on new guidelines that had been released regarding DNA samples that contained profiles of multiple people.

Tiffany Roy (Photo by Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Her reevaluation of the results left her less confident, and she felt obligated to bring up her concerns.

In June 2013, Roy issued a new report calling the DNA results from the duct tape inconclusive. Kevin Pratt did have similar DNA to the DNA found on the roll of duct tape, but she needed more advanced tools to analyze it.

It was a blow to the case against Pratt and, as the years went on, questions about the DNA evidence were never fully resolved.

A courtroom deal

As the State of Florida vs. Kevin Pratt made its way through the court system for years, Pratt’s defense attorneys pointed to weaknesses in the case against him.

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But the charges against Pratt were severe. Pratt didn’t have a solid alibi for the night of the murders, and he was facing the death penalty.

Prosecutors had issues with their case: there were concerns about the DNA and Camile’s recollection of the attacker.

So both sides agreed to a deal.

(CBS4 Miami video)

On Feb. 21, 2017, Kevin Pratt pled guilty to the Encino murders. In exchange, he would get a 10-year prison sentence, more than half of which he had already served since his arrest.

That will be followed by 15 years of probation.

It was a stunning punishment. The case was now closed.

About Felonious Florida

The Felonious Florida podcast is produced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and presented in audio form in partnership with Wondery. Reporting is based on court documents, interviews, police reports and media coverage. The show was created by Lisa Arthur and Juan Ortega and is produced by David Schutz. Reporting by Stephen Hobbs, Juan Ortega, Marc Freeman and Tonya Alanez. Editing by Randy Roguski. The host of Felonious Florida is EmmaKate Austin. Sound direction by Sean Pitts with additional recordings by Carline Jean, Susan Stocker and John McCall. Web design by Yiran Zhu. The Felonious Florida team includes Dana Banker, Danny Sanchez, Cindy Choi and Kelly Frye.

Have a comment or question about this podcast or the cases it features, leave a recording at 954-283-7531 or email us at feedback@feloniousflorida.com.