LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Forensic evidence gathered at the home of a slain television anchorwoman led police to a man now also suspected of raping a school teacher in eastern Arkansas, officials said.
Curtis Lavelle Vance, 28, of Marianna offered a DNA sample to Little Rock police detectives during an interview Tuesday in his hometown, according to officers.
A day later, a man once only garnering suspicion for loitering in neighbors' yards became the prime suspect in a slaying that shocked the state.
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"They asked if we had a suspect who could have done it and I told them we had a guy running around, getting in some burglaries, going in people's yards early in the morning, hanging around the house, hanging around the neighborhood," Marianna police Sgt. Carl McCree said Friday. "That was Curtis Vance."
But until this week, police had nothing solid to connect Vance with either case.
"He had some traffic violations," McCree said. "I'm pretty sure that's it."
Little Rock police traveled 90 miles east to the city amid the state's rice and soybean fields after DNA collected at Pressly's home matched that from an unsolved April rape in Marianna, McCree said.
On April 21, a teacher there reported a man attacked her in her home after she had woken up and taken a shower. The teacher said she never saw the man's face, though he told her he had a gun. The man also reportedly asked what she did for a living and demanded money from her.
"She didn't have a lot of money," a police report about the incident states. "She only had $3 and that the subject took."
Vance voluntarily went to the Marianna police department Tuesday to speak with Little Rock detectives and give a DNA sample, McCree said. By Wednesday, tests showed the sample matched DNA obtained in both the Pressly case and the April rape.
Police then tried to arrest Vance in Marianna, but couldn't find him, the detective said.
Little Rock police nabbed Vance downtown late Wednesday night, about 30 minutes after holding a news conference to name him as the suspect in Pressly's death and distribute pictures of him that aired on local television stations. Officers credited the DNA match with helping identify Vance as a suspect.
"That is part of what helped us get focused on him," Little Rock police Lt. Terry Hastings said.
Pulaski County District Judge Lee Munson ordered Vance to be held without bond Friday on a capital murder charge in Pressly's death. During a brief hearing at the Pulaski County jail, Vance said nothing while a public defender asked for a bond amount to be set, according to deputy prosecutor John Hout.
Munson, who signed the affidavit authorizing Vance's arrest, rejected the bond request without asking prosecutors for their opinions on the matter, Hout said.
Hout declined to offer any further details about the case, which is now bound over to the county's circuit court.
"There are a lot of people that are intensely eager to find out what the facts are," the deputy prosecutor said. "At this point in time, due to all the hard work of the police and crime lab, we probably don't need to say" what the evidence is.
Vance did not enter a plea at the hearing. If convicted of capital murder, he could face either a life sentence or the death penalty.
A telephone call to the public defender's office went unanswered Friday afternoon.
McCree said Vance faces rape and residential burglary charges in the April attack in Marianna.
Pressly, 26, worked as a morning anchorwoman for Little Rock's ABC affiliate KATV and had a small role as a conservative commentator in the Oliver Stone movie "W." She lived alone in the city's Pulaski Heights section, a mix of mansions and bungalows near a country club.
Pressly's mother, visiting from out of town at the time of the attack, found her half an hour before the anchorwoman was due on air. Pressly had been beaten severely on the head and upper torso.
She died five days later from her injuries.
Police and prosecutors offered no reason why Pressly might have been targeted. One of her credit cards was used at a gas station after the beating. Authorities said they believed the attack was random and not because she was an on-air personality.
Vance went to Little Rock often to visit relatives and friends, McCree said. He was unemployed, though a former co-worker at a Sonic Drive-in remembered him as a quiet and efficient cook. He had a steady girlfriend who traveled with Vance from Marianna to Little Rock the day of arrest.