After an hour-long preliminary hearing July 11, Kylen Pratt was held for trial on charges of first-degree murder and related offenses after he allegedly killed his gay lover to keep their intimate relationship hidden.
Municipal Judge Wendy L. Pew didn’t downgrade or dismiss any of the charges against Pratt, which include murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and possessing a prohibited firearm.
During the early-morning hours of Feb. 18, 2022, Pratt allegedly shot Naasire Johnson in the neck inside Pratt’s residence in North Philadelphia. Then Pratt transported Johnson’s body to Glendinning Rock Garden in Fairmount Park, where he allegedly set it on fire on two consecutive days.
Johnson’s remains were wrapped in bed sheets in the rock garden. But someone walking their dog on Feb. 20, 2022, spotted Johnson’s foot and police were summoned.
It was impossible for authorities to determine whether the decedent was male or female until DNA could be extracted from the spleen, because the body was so badly burned, testified Homicide Det. Antoinina Anderson.
The fact that Johnson wore braces on his teeth also helped with the identification. Moreover, Anderson said a tipster provided important information.
On March 23, 2022, police arrested Pratt at his North Philadelphia residence on the basis of an outstanding warrant for allegedly assaulting the mother of his daughter. The warrant was approved on Sept. 30, 2021. It remains unclear why the arrest warrant wasn’t effectuated by police until after Johnson was killed.
“They [police] attempted to serve the warrant on at least three separate occasions,” Cpl. Jasmine Reilly told PGN. “They were unsuccessful in apprehending the defendant [Pratt] at those times.” Reilly didn’t have additional information, as of press time.
Anderson said Pratt’s daughter was “on location” at Pratt’s residence when he was arrested. She said several items found inside Pratt’s residence were incriminating. Those items include bleach, carpeting stained with Johnson’s blood and evidence that Pratt did a Google search regarding how to have sex with a dead body.
Anderson also recited incriminating texts found on Pratt’s cellular phone, indicating he was planning to hide from authorities prior to being arrested. “A lot of the cell phone [information] was deleted,” Anderson testified.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Gary S. Server questioned whether Pratt’s residence was a rooming house. In his questioning, Server raised the possibility that someone other than Pratt killed Johnson. However, Anderson noted that Pratt’s residence only had one bed and that none of the four bedrooms had a lock on its door, further indicating it’s not a rooming house.
Pratt, 20, attended the preliminary hearing wearing a white T-shirt and slacks, his arms heavily tattooed. He didn’t make a public statement but carefully reviewed exhibits handed to him. According to court records, Pratt has pleaded not-guilty to the charges and told police he didn’t even know Johnson.
Homicide Det. Robert Daly performed an extensive study of records relating to the cellular phones of Johnson and Pratt. Daly created elaborate diagrams of “pings” emanating from the cellular phones, which he displayed on an electronic screen in the courtroom.
Daly said the pings show Johnson traveled from his West Philadelphia residence to Pratt’s North Philadelphia residence during the early-morning hours of Feb. 18. Then, Johnson’s body ended up at Glendinning Rock Garden.
After the hearing, Johnson’s grandmother Cynthia Johnson said she wants justice for her grandson. She said Pratt should spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Anderson, the homicide detective, thanked her colleagues and members of the public for helping to solve the crime. “It definitely was a group effort,” Anderson told PGN. “With the police and the public working together, there’s no stopping us.”
Outside the courtroom, prosecutor Cyndney A. Pope assured Johnson’s family that everything will be done to ensure justice is served in the case. Pope said much more evidence will be presented against Pratt as the case winds its way through the courts.
A 2018 graduate of the Charter High School for Architecture and Design, Johnson, 20, was working as a home health-care aide and was preparing to enroll in Community College of Philadelphia at the time of his death.
Kelly Burkhardt, LGBTQ+ Liaison for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, attended the preliminary hearing and provided support services for Johnson’s family.
“It’s shameful the defendant would try to cover up something – and now the whole world knows,” Burkhardt told PGN. “It’s incredibly heinous and disgusting that someone would hurt another human being by doing something like this. We [DA’s office] are going to do our due diligence to make sure there’s justice for Naasire and his family.”
Pratt is being held at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center in Northeast Philadelphia. He’s not eligible for bail. A formal arraignment is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 1 in Room 1104 of the Criminal Justice Center, 1315 Filbert St.