Brian Pullen went to Las Vegas two years ago to live out his dream of being a professional poker dealer.
Five weeks later, he was tortured before being shot to death in his low-rent hotel just off the Vegas Strip.
“It was personal,” said Las Vegas police Detective Tod Williams, who was in Cleveland on Thursday looking for information on the 42-year-old former Elyrian. “These guys spent time with him. They sent a message or got something out of him.”
Pullen’s body was discovered in the kitchen of his hotel on April 2, 2005, by a maintenance worker sent to check on Pullen, who was two days late with his weekly rent.
Williams declined to release details of how Pullen was tortured, but he said it was brutal enough to quickly rule out robbery as a motive, even though the place at which he was living is known as a hangout for drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes.
Williams has also ruled out a Las Vegas connection to the killing. Pullen hadn’t been there long enough to make any enemies, he said, and his employers at the Luxor Las Vegas casino, where he had a job dealing Texas Hold ’em, considered him a good employee.
But Williams said there are people who had a motive to kill Pullen, an Elyria High School graduate who had worked at a local factory before moving to Las Vegas.
Williams said Pullen’s wife Janet, from whom Pullen was separated, was questioned about the killing, but Williams said he has no reason to believe she was involved.
Janet Pullen said she wasn’t surprised or offended that she was questioned as a possible suspect but said she had nothing to do with her husband’s death.
“I knew it was questions that they had to ask, and I knew in my heart that I didn’t do it,” she said.
The couple, married nearly 16 years, have two teenage sons, and Janet Pullen remains troubled that her husband’s killer hasn’t been found.
“There’s no closure,” she said. “There’s emptiness, sadness.”
Pullen’s married girlfriend, whose husband was in a North Carolina prison on narcotics charges, was on a Greyhound bus bound for Las Vegas to join Pullen when he was killed, Williams said.
It’s possible that someone could have been hired by the imprisoned husband to kill Pullen, Williams said. He and his partner flew to North Carolina on Thursday night to meet with him.
A final theory, Williams said, is that Pullen may have fallen in with people involved in illegal gambling in the Cleveland area and they tracked him to Vegas.
Pullen had a minor criminal record. He was sentenced to one year good behavior in Lorain Municipal Court in 2002 after being charged with petty theft for skimming chips during a charity poker game the year before.
“His downfall was gambling,” said Kim Brady, Pullen’s half-sister.
Pullen was involved in illegal gambling houses in Cleveland and was once robbed at gunpoint while working at one, she said. Pullen’s gambling problem is what led to the problems in his marriage, Brady said.
“He was trying to turn things around,” she said. “He went to Vegas to do what he loved legally.”
Despite all his problems, Williams said Pullen wasn’t a bad man.
“He was a good guy, he really was,” he said. “But he was a scammer, looking to make money.”
Pullen’s family still misses him terribly.
“He was a good son,” said his mother, Juanita Edwards.
Pullen’s sister, Beverly Schneider, said she wants whoever tortured her brother to pay for the crime.
“To think these people are still walking down the street,” she said.
The family is hoping that Williams’ trip and a possible segment that “America’s Most Wanted” is preparing for this fall will generate the clue that leads to the killer.
So is Williams.
“We really want to solve this,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.