ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando police said a man arrested in Seminole County Tuesday killed his live-in girlfriend Tiffany Linquanti, who was shot last month in Lake Nona and remained in a coma until she died eight days later.
Police said Justin Pruitt, 28, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly shooting his 26-year-old girlfriend in Lake Nona in July. Linquanti was shot inside the Colonial Grand at Randal Lakes apartment she shared with Pruitt on Randal Park Boulevard, according to police.
Pruitt called 911 at 12:17 a.m. and told dispatchers his girlfriend had shot herself, but when dispatchers attempted to get more information he hung up, according to the arrest warrant.
Tiffany's mother, Lilia Linquanti, said she never believed her daughter was trying to kill herself.
"I knew, the police and everybody else knew better," she said, adding they had plans to go to the beach the next day and Tiffany was looking forward to graduating from Valencia College in August.
Pruitt, who described his relationship with the victim as good, told detectives that on the night Linquanti was shot he has no memory of the evening after they had dinner together. The next thing he remembers is calling 911, according to the warrant.
The evidence: Suspect calls retired homicide detective after shooting
According to text messages from Linquanti to Pruitt, she let him know she was finished making dinner around 11:20 p.m. and in a message about 15 minutes later she wrote, "your foods done. Sitting here. I'm gonna clean and go to bed."
According to phone calls detectives recovered that had been deleted from Pruitt's cellphone the night of the shooting, he called his father at 12:12 a.m. and his next phone call was to 911. When he hung up on 911 dispatchers, he called his father back, records show.
Detectives said Pruitt also deleted phone calls made in the hours after the shooting to his mother, brother and his former supervisor, who is a retired homicide detective. The retired detective said he spoke with Pruitt on July 21 and that Pruitt was asking him about homicide investigation.
The retired detective said the conversation "was extremely suspicious to him," according to the report.
The suspect also told detectives one of his three dogs could have been responsible for the shooting, saying that his dogs are "very smart."
Lilia Linquanti said those dogs were Tiffany's babies.
"She was a good girl and the mother of three pit bulls," she said. "We used to call her 'pit bull mom.'"
Detectives photographed several fresh scratches on the suspect's body, which they believe happened during a fight with the victim. Investigators said Pruitt would not give the code to his cellphone or the two safes in his home. Soon after his first interview with detectives, Pruitt hired a private attorney, while Linquanti was in a comatose state. The 26-year-old died at ORMC on July 29.
Defectives said in the arrest warrant that Pruitt and his family attempted to contact the victim's family for information about the investigation.
Orlando Regional Medical Center doctors told homicide detectives that the victim's gunshot wound to the head was not likely from a self-inflicted wound, but was caused from a shot from more than several feet away.
A violent relationship history
Detectives learned through a friend of Linquanti that Pruitt had threatened her with his gun before and they had a volatile relationship due to his drinking. The friend showed investigators text messages from the victim after a Dec. 21 incident with Pruitt, during which he broke the bedroom door down and pointed a gun at her chest.
"Justin pulled his gun on me and cocked it," Linquanti wrote, adding he pointed the gun at her chest and said he would kill her.
After that incident, the victim's friend tried to convince her to leave Pruitt.
"Please, I really, really mean it this time," she wrote. "You need to move out."
The day after the December incident Linquanti told her friend that Pruitt had no memory of pulling a gun on her because he had been drinking.
"They confiscated the weapons but I don't know how they got them back," her mother, Lilia said.
News 6 obtained the police report from that December incident which explains what happened. It shows that when police responded to the home that night, Tiffany told a different story than what she told her friend in those text messages. She told police Justin was drunk and thought he may harm himself.
"Tiffany never saw Justin with any of the guns. Tiffany stated she had no concern for her safety if she were to stay with Justin for the evening," the report read. "He was informed he could pick up the firearms in the morning when the effects of the alcohol and medication have worn off."
Orlando police detectives said they believe Linquanti was trying to hide in the bedroom again on July 21, "but was unable to escape" Pruitt when he broke down the door.
Pruitt was arrested Tuesday by Seminole County Sheriff`s Office deputies on a warrant from Orlando, jail records show.
'Now the battle begins'
For Lilia Linquanti it was hard waiting for an arrest, but on Tuesday she cried tears of joy saying God served justice for her daughter.
"She died in my arms and that was the hardest thing to see, your child die in your arms," Linquanti said, adding she was with her daughter every day in the hospital after she was shot.
In the victim's Facebook profile photo, Tiffany Linquanti and Pruitt are embracing. The couple were together for more than five years and met while attending Olympia High School together, Lilia Linguanti said.
Tiffany Linquanti studied business management and human resources at Valencia, her mother said. The 26-year-old was loved by her fellow coworkers at AT&T where she worked as customer service representative.
"She was the love of my life, the sunshine on my cloudy day and now I won't be able to smell her (anymore), I won't be able to hear her voice anymore," Lilia Linquanti said.
Tiffany Linquanti's memorial service was held Saturday at Community Funeral Home & Sunset Cremations in Orlando. Lilia Linquanti said it was standing room only, because more than 200 people came out to honor her daughter's memory.
Now for Lilia Linquanti she waits for her daughter's accused killer to go to court and face justice. She thanked the Orlando police detectives for never giving up, calling them her heroes.
"Yes my daughter was murdered. I am the parent of a murdered child, but it's OK," Lilia Linquanti said. "Justice has been served and now the battle begins in court which we are going to win."
Victims of domestic violence can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-799-7233, or in Central Florida, the Harbor House 24-hour confidential crisis hotline at 407-886-2856.