A jury has convicted a man of capital murder in the death of Arkansas television anchorwoman Anne Pressly, 26, who was beaten so badly her face was shattered.
The panel must now decide whether 29-year-old Curtis Lavelle Vance should be executed for the crime or should spend the rest of his life in prison. The jury also convicted him of rape and burglary charges.
Prosecution witnesses said DNA evidence linked Vance to Anne Pressly's death and to a separate rape case in which he has pleaded not guilty. The defense had said police duped Vance into confessing and giving officers a DNA sample to compare with evidence in the case. Vance said he was confused by "police trickery."
Vance is from Marianna, about 100 miles east of Little Rock.
'Most loving girl'
On Oct. 20, Anne Pressly, an up-and-coming Little Rock, Ark., news anchor, had dinner with a friend, talked about her small role in the movie “W.” and went home, where she exchanged cheery text messages. She was then savagely beaten and died in a local hospital five days later without ever regaining consciousness.
Following the attack, her family, many friends and police wondered who would have attacked a person who is said to have had no enemies, and why.
“If there’s one person that does not have an enemy, it is Anne Pressly,” Pressly's friend, Mallory Hardin, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer from Little Rock Tuesday, a day after the attack. “She’s wonderful to everybody. She’s the most loving girl that anyone could ever meet; [she] is so kind to every stranger. She goes out of her way to help other people.”
The attack occurred sometime on a Sunday night, and the next morning her mother, Patricia Cannady, discovered her bloody and unconscious in her bed. Cannady was in the habit of giving her daughter a wake-up call every morning before Pressly went to work at KATV’s “Daybreak” show. When Pressly didn’t answer her phone, her mother went to her house.
Because of all the blood, police initially thought Pressly had been stabbed, but KATV, citing police sources, reported that she had suffered blunt trauma injuries to her head and body.
“This is surreal that this could happen to her,” Hardin told Lauer.
Pressly had lived in Little Rock since her teens. She had decided in middle school that she wanted to be a TV anchor. Her dream job was to be co-anchor with Lauer of the TODAY show, and on an earlier visit to the show, the Cannadys had shared a picture that a friend had made years ago for Pressly that showed her and Lauer at the anchor desk.
She interned at KATV during college, always stopping by the station on her way home for Christmas or spring break to see if there was any work she could do. Once she graduated, Pressly landed a job and advanced rapidly from news reporter to morning news anchor.
Associated Press contributed to this report.