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Indiana Man Who Killed Deputy Found Intellectually Ineligible for Execution

An Indiana man who killed a sheriff's deputy in 2001 had his sentence overturned Tuesday after a federal appeals court found that his mental disability makes him ineligible for execution.

Tommy Ray Pruitt, 53, shot Morgan County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Starnes five times on June 14, 2001.

Starnes, who pulled Pruitt over on suspicion that he'd been involved in a burglary and might have stolen guns on him, later developed an infection and died, according to court documents. Pruitt was shot seven times in the gunbattle, but he recovered and was convicted of murder and other counts in 2003. He was sentenced to death.

But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Pruitt, who was recorded with an IQ of 60, is intellectually disabled, and the judges faulted his trial attorney for failing to effectively present evidence that he suffers from schizophrenia.

IMAGE: Tommy Ray Pruitt
Tommy Ray Pruitt was found to have an IQ of 60. Clark County, Indiana, Prosecuting Attorney's Office

Starnes' son Ryan, an Indiana state trooper, told NBC station WTHR of Indianapolis that he was "very disappointed" by the court ruling.

"The last 14 years have taken a toll on myself and my family," said Ryan Starnes, whose brother is also a state trooper. "We fought every step of the way, and we're not done. The Starnes family are fighters. We've always been fighters, and we're going to fight this."

The ruling doesn't mean Pruitt will be released from prison. Instead, his case was returned to state court for resentencing.

M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report.