Who struck Jenny Pratt in the head, causing permanent brain damage?

Attacked with a 2×4

The victim: Jenny Pratt

CASE DETAILS

Investigators surveyed the scene

Sixteen year-old Jenny Pratt of Carlsbad, California, had hopes of one day becoming a model. In 1987, she was pretty, popular, and a sophomore at her local high school. But what mattered most to Jenny was her boyfriend, Curtis Croft. Curtis drove a Porsche, had plenty of money, and was a good-looking surfer. As far as Jenny’s mother, Diane Strom, knew, he was just a year older than Jenny:

“He looked 17. Further on down the road I found out he had been in jail for drugs and that he was 24 years-old. Just bad news for a 16 year-old kid.”

Against her parents’ wishes, Jenny went out with Curtis on the night of April 25th, 1987. He borrowed

The crime was recreated

a friend’s motorcycle and promised Jenny he would get her back before her midnight curfew. Jenny never made it home. That night, Jenny Pratt was struck in the back of the head with an unusual weapon: a heavy wooden board, six and a half feet long, swung by someone in a passing vehicle. Police speculate the assailants were local teenagers. Jenny’s parents hope that someone will finally have the courage to step forward with the truth.

On the night of the attack, Jenny’s parents received a call that their daughter had been airlifted to a nearby hospital.  Diane Strom:

“They said our daughter had been in an accident. I said, ‘Is she okay?’ They wouldn’t tell me anything, only that we’d have to come down.”

Scripps Medical Center in La Jolla, California, takes only the most severe cases. When Jenny’s parents arrived, they were given the worst possible news: their daughter was brain dead and probably had only hours to live. Dr. Jerry Stenhjem:

“The blow from the board that struck her was great enough to actually crush the skull and that caused immediate shut down of her brain.”

Diane Strom was horrified when she finally saw Jenny:

“They said I could see her and what I saw was horrible. Her hair was red from all the blood. She was bleeding out of her nose, her ears, her mouth. She had tubes all over her.  And it was like her whole body was just distorted.”

Jenny will never fully recover

Miraculously, Jenny survived, but she lapsed into a deep coma. Sgt. Jim Byler of the Carlsbad Police Department was one of the officers involved in the investigation:

“Our first involvement in the case was to examine the evidence that was found at the crime scene, which consisted of the two-by-four that was used to hit Jenny and Curtis. So we examined that for physical evidence and didn’t find any fingerprints. There were some blood stains on it, which were determined to be Jenny’s. Curtis was interviewed that same day at the Carlsbad police station. His account of what happened basically was that he was giving Jennifer a ride home and they were driving down Rancho Santa Fe Road, getting ready to make a left turn.”

Curtis remembers that night vividly:

“We were just approaching the intersection, going pretty slow, and all of a sudden something struck me and I just go ‘Ow, what was that?’ It hurt really bad, and then the car zoomed by. I turned around to tell Jenny that someone threw something at me or something, I didn’t know what happened. She was out of it and so I just thought ‘Oh my God what’s happening?’”

Sgt. Jim Byler pieced the rest of the evening together based on Curtis’s descriptions:

“We believe it was a case where a truckload of juveniles had committed this crime. The white pick-up truck went by them at a high rate of speed. Curtis had the impression that there was a large group of juveniles in the back. That they were laughing as they went by and that the board came flying from the pick-up truck. Quite frankly, we expected it to be a crime that would’ve been solved just by the nature of juveniles having a tendency to talk. But to this date, we have yet to have anybody come up and supply us with any direct knowledge of what happened that night.”

Jenny’s parents hired private investigator Louie Crisafi, who interviewed students at Jenny’s high school. He surmised that Curtis was the target of the incident, not Jenny. Two years before the attack, Curtis had been convicted of dealing cocaine. By cooperating with the police, he had served less than half of his sentence. Sgt. Jim Byler:

“He developed a reputation as a snitch when he got himself in trouble. And young people, particularly young people involved in drugs, tend to look down on somebody who develops that reputation.”

Police investigated several people who might have had a grudge against Curtis. They learned that he had confronted one of his enemies on the night before the attack. Jenny’s parents believed that the boy he confronted might have attacked Curtis and Jenny because of the argument.

According to Curtis, the white pick-up truck was traveling too fast for him to see the attackers. He said it went by at about 55 miles an hour. Louie Crisafi didn’t believe Curtis. Using mannequins as stand-ins for Jenny and Curtis, Crisafi reconstructed the incident at two different speeds:

“We used the identical pick-up as far as the model year and the size and the same type of motorcycle and we used the same conditions. There is no way it could’ve happened the way he said.”

In the 55 mile-an-hour reconstruction, the board swung by the assailant fell about fifty feet from the scene of the crime. But after the accident, police found the board only a few feet from the spot where Jenny was attacked. The second reconstruction played out at only 10 miles an hour. The mannequins sustained injuries very similar to the ones Curtis and Jenny actually received, and this time, the board fell right next to the motorcycle.

Crisafi felt that Curtis did actually see the people in the pick-up truck. Crisafi pressed him for more information. Finally, Curtis named names. One of them was the same boy he had fought with on the night before the attack. Later, Curtis recanted, telling police he had given them the names because he felt pressured:

“The truck went by really fast and people try to say maybe I saw someone, but I really didn’t. And we’ve done lie detector tests on me. I’ve passed everything, I’ve told the truth. I’ve always been there to help. I’ve always caved to everything they’ve wanted me to do and cooperated with everything.”

Crisafi remains skeptical:

“We do believe that Curtis did, in fact, see those people. Curtis continuously told us that he has been threatened, that he has basically informed on people before and was very, very frightened that he would be killed. And he was already being threatened not to talk in this case. And we have reason to believe that what he’s saying to that effect is true.”

Amazingly, three months after the attack, Jenny Pratt came out of her coma. At first, she seemed incapable of thought or action, but after 12 weeks, she started physical therapy.  Seven months later, Jenny began to speak. A year later, she could walk. Jenny Pratt can’t understand who would be motivated to commit such a brutal attack:

“Why was somebody mad at me? What did I do to them to hurt them?”

Louie Crisafi:

“We need somebody in the community with half the courage of Jennifer Pratt. Somebody who just knows the one missing link, the one thing that’ll tie this whole case together, because I really think that all we’re missing is one small link. And someone out there has it.”


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season one with Robert Stack and season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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25 Comments

  1. Nina

    That’s really sad! She was so young and now she’s messed up for the rest of her life. I can’t even imagine what the parents go through. At least she still has her life… It could’ve been worse. I really do hope they get justice for her.

    Reply

  2. Lt Byler

    The private investigator, Louis Crisafi, was a complete fraud. He completely screwed up the investigation, and lied to police and Jennifer’s parents. Was later described as a “rogue” officer who was investigated for serious wrongdoing and terminated from his job in New York. Later sued for millions for his actions….

    Reply

  3. Agent Scully

    I think you may be on to something, Mulder. I have to agree. Gina is probably him.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    Jenny Pratt, were in classes, with him, he wanted sex from her, and they were around each other because Jenny, was friends with his sister, and Jenny had been at his house before and after. Jenny, is paid little now from the sister and brother, but the sister don’t know what the brother did, and the sister is sad for her, Very Black hair, gothic, I get

    Reply

  5. anon

    To Beccaboo and others: here is an in-depth answer to Jenny. I came across this from a google search.

    http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showpost.php?p=4587980&postcount=151

    Steve B on this message board mentioned that Jimmy Clark committed suicide. The post on the other thread mentions that the perpetrator they assumed caused harm to Jenny has committed suicide.

    Reply

  6. Beccaboo

    Does anyone know what Jenny is up to these days? Is she married? I’d be very interested to know how she’s doing?!

    Reply

  7. Scott

    This sounds like those involved are children of influential families and that’s why nobody had/has the guts to say anything. Poor Jenny , if you ever read this I think you are a gorgeous young woman and keep up with your therapy because doctors don’t know anything about the human body. You can totally get back your old self just keep pushing and don’t let anything stop you. Bruce Lee broke his back and came back from it. You can too.

    Reply

  8. Chanita

    Why Would Somebody Strike An Innocence Young Woman In The Back Of The Head I Don’t Uunderstand Why Someone Would Do Something Like That! I Am Terribly Sorry Mrs Jenny Pratt God Will Heal U And Take Care Of U Love U And God Bless U Love Blue Bird

    Reply

  9. Larrz Mason

    You can run Croft but you cant hide from Gods vision. Godbless you jenny croft and your family.

    Reply

  10. Fallrain

    Want good chuckle….go to youtube and watch curtis croft gets trolled.

    Reply

  11. Tony

    I wish I knew who this person was who attacked this innocent girl. I hope they BURN AND SUFFER IN HELL. or they suffer the same fate she did. I’m glad this girl has recovered and I hope she continues to recover.

    Reply

  12. Johnny

    Remember this case from Unsolved Mysteries. The 2×4 board was a strange weapon. Jenny didn’t have a chance. Looks like a case of drunk young people out on the prowl. Liquid courage probably. Realized the next morning the damage they had done. Curtis is no angel but they could have targeted him surfing or another locale. It was a miracle Jenny survive the board attack. This case should be solved one day with the number of people in back of truck.

    Reply

  13. Justice for all

    This Croft guy is a real piece of crap. He was a cokehead before he met this young beautiful girl and she could have done so much better. I remember seeing the story years ago and they repeated it recently so I hoped they had an update. Croft knows who did it, but he’s a coward and explains why he needs to stay out of reality and high all the time. Based on recent online videos posted by Croft, this guy;s mind is totally fried. Maybe if that board is still in evidence, skin cells or some kind of DNA from the perpetrator can be retrieved. A long shot, but why not try?

    Reply

  14. Jenny Pratt Avenger

    I saw Curtis Croft casting on a website. He was laughing about that incident. He was in his garage and he swung a 2×4 re-enacting it as if he swung it himself. This infuriated me.

    From his casts, I have seen him show off how much marijuana he had in his house. He would keep it in a giant rubbermaid like tote. Knowing that and what he was laughing about I called and reported him for his marijuana growing and he got busted. Turns out he only got probabtion for 92 plants???? Was someone paid off?

    Reply

  15. Mulder

  16. Rebecca

    Good to hear that she pulled through. Hopefully, after therapy she can move on with her life, she’s so young. Prayers for this family they went through a really rough time.

    Reply

  17. volisha cochrane

    I went to school with Jennifer after the accident,she is such a nice person

    Reply

  18. Me

    So glad that she’s back on her feet. I can imagine the pain the parents went through. God bless.

    Reply

  19. Steve B

    the rumor that has been going around since the 80’s is that Tim stollar drove the truck and Jimmy Clark threw the board. It was revenge from being narc’d on over a drug bust. Nothing has been done and the case is long closed. Jimmy committed suicide years back. Possibly from guilt? Stollar still lives in the area and has a long history with the police/jail. Croft knows who did it but is too scared to come out. He lives in Washington, has done nothing with his life and smokes and deals weed.

    Reply

  20. grahamclayton

    Croft was arrested in late 2013 for illegal marijuana cultivation:

    http://www.tvmix.com/google-earth-pot-bust-in-oregon-snags-battlecam-star-curtis-croft/123

    Reply

    • weedisbad

      Curtis Croft got probation for growing all those plants??

      What kind of punishment is that?? Once again he escapes jail time. Someone said his parents support him with money and they are well known in town. Must be nice to payoff to stay out of jail.

      Reply

  21. Gina

    I met Curtis in Los Angeles California on the 2nd half of a vacation that began around 6/26/86–by 7/5/86 for about 10 days i was in LA…I drove my Rented 1986
    brand new model called 1986 Chevy Astro Van- California plates ..a blonde girl introduced him to me in the Roxy ..she approached me & my gf..asking if i would help him dance and if i am from NY ..he said hello he was kind sweet shy..handsome & with another guy..dark hair..he invited us to a house he said was his fathers who works in the cia and i asked..why are you allowed to divulge this,? He seemed confused ..i saw motorcycles exotic cars in the driveway..the house was a split level brown shaker wood shingled house modernized there was a small landing between floors where he asked politely if he could kiss me.. I was 21 1/2…he didnt say his age exactly but i waa okay with a kiss..my gf was there as a Japanese friend and an italian friend appeared..they brought what i thought was regular cocaine..not that i asked for it..they placed it on a glass table and offered me some..i said no thanks i dont do drugs and not in states like that i dont come from from guys i dont know and please dont pressure me..they did not..i asked whqt is it they ssid its crystalspeed and i said i never heard of this in NY it must be synthetically created with that name they said yes it is..i asked my gf please lets leave..we were at his mercy cause he drove us there in a white van from the Roxy in LA.. He drove us right back to our hotel and in Late November of 1987 or thereabout i saw this report in NY on Those Most wanted type shows..saying he was wanted for questioning…that those guys got pissed he ratted them out under interrogation and this was revenge but not his doing…i did give him my address in NY he did write me a letter in the summer of 1986, i did call the number i hot his aunt and uncle they were nice he asked if he could come to Ny and stay w me in my private apt in ky familys home i said no that i have a steady; we got back together over the summer and so he was fine and nice..that was Fall of 1986…i really thought he was a kind sincere guy ..he said his agent and him had a falling out that he was giving up surfing and needing a career though..theyre were awesome posters of h surfing,.he was a good surfer and i think afraid people only wanted to profit from his good looks and kindness..i am very close to this story..its pained me all these years..i hope this helps..

    Reply

    • claude balz

      how is this relevant gina?

      Reply

    • Mulder

      I bet “Gina” is Curtis Croft trolling on this Website.
      “he said hello he was kind sweet shy..handsome”
      “he was fine and nice”
      “he was a kind sincere guy”
      “he was a good surfer and i think afraid people only wanted to profit from his good looks and kindness”

      Anyone researching the case knows this dude is an internet troll. Sounds like the description by “Gina” is EXACTLY what this guy would think of himself. If you watch his BattleCam vids on YouTube he is deranged.

      Reply