PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A 21-year-old Florida man who wanted to kill someone for months was "smiling and laughing" as he intentionally hit a 75-year-old man walking on the side of a road, Sheriff Chris Nocco said Friday.
- Justyn Pennell faces a charge of 1st degree homicide
- Victim was father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran
- Investigators: Pennell wanted to kill someone for months
- COUNTY-BY-COUNTY: The latest headlines from Pasco County
Justyn Pennell, 21, of Hudson, Florida faces a charge of first degree homicide after authorities say he intentionally hit the Vietnam veteran with his car as he walked along Aripeka Road on Thursday.
“There are some cases that we hear of that absolutely, even for us in law enforcement, make us just realize and remind us that there is pure evil in this world,” Nocco said.
According to the sheriff, Pennell was running errands in his red PT Cruiser when he passed the man, made a U-turn, and sped toward him.
“The suspect tells us later on that while he’s driving there at this victim, he can see the look of fright on that victim’s face. He can see that fear, he can see that emotion of, ‘Oh, my gosh — this person’s about to hit me,’” Nocco said.
An arrest report says Pennell told investigators that he was smiling and laughing as he hit the man. Nocco said Pennell’s car was so heavily damaged by the impact that it broke down nearby as he drove away from the scene.
That car trouble is reportedly what led Pennell to call 911.
“I give credit to the dispatcher in the county 911 center. She actually gets a confession out of him on tape,” the sheriff said.
Investigators said Pennell had no trouble answering their questions and didn’t appear to be under the influence.
“The only thing he really told us at this time was that he had planned this for several months, that he wanted to kill somebody, and on that day, he decided to leave his home with the intent to run over and kill them,” said Sgt. Michael Rosa with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit.
The Sheriff’s Office is not identifying the victim, but Nocco said he was a father, grandfather, and veteran.
Nocco is asking for the public’s help with the investigation. A witness reported seeing cars pull over after the attack and possibly take pictures of the scene. The sheriff would like those people to contact his office.
“If you were out there and you saw something, we just want to talk to you. We just want to find out what happened, what you saw,” he said.