LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The parents of a television anchorwoman beaten to death at her home said Monday their daughter was sexually assaulted during the attack, and an arrest warrant released by police says DNA evidence linked an eastern Arkansas man to the crime "with all scientific certainty."
In a television interview, Guy and Patti Cannady said Anne Pressly, 26, was beaten so severely that a portion of her jaw bone was broken away. The couple said their daughter also broke her left hand while trying to defend herself.
Speaking with NBC "Today" show host Matt Lauer, the Cannadys answered "yes" when asked if their daughter had been sexual assaulted during the Oct. 20 attack at her home.
"This monster stole my daughter's innocence," Patti Cannady said. "He took her life. He took her identity. He took our lives."
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Police have declined to discuss whether Pressly was sexually assaulted. Little Rock police Lt. Terry Hastings did not dispute the Cannadys' comments, but declined to offer any specifics about the attack.
"A lot of those details, we want the jury to hear those first," Hastings said Monday.
Officers last Wednesday arrested Curtis Lavelle Vance, 28, of Marianna, at a Little Rock home, acting on a tip received within minutes of a late-night news conference at which they disclosed Vance's name and photos of him and his car. Television station KATV, where Pressly worked, established a reward fund that had raised $50,000.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor overseeing the case acknowledged the slaying warranted a capital murder charge — meaning Vance could face the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutor Larry Jegley did not say whether he would seek Vance's execution or a life sentence.
Patti Cannady found her daughter bloody and beaten in bed Oct. 20 after she didn't answer a wake-up call. Cannady said her daughter "fought for her life" against her attacker and suffered a broken left hand. Every bone in her face had been broken during the attack, she said.
"Her jaw pulverized so badly that the bone had come out of it," Cannady said. "I actually thought that her throat, it possibly been cut, but that was possibly the first knockout punch. Her entire skull had numerous fractures from which she suffered a massive stroke."
Pressly, 26, died Oct. 25 without regaining consciousness.
Police worked for weeks without a named suspect until DNA collected at Pressly's home matched a sample from an unsolved April rape in Marianna, about 90 miles east of Little Rock. A Marianna detective suggested officers investigate Vance, 28, a suspect in several burglaries.
An arrest affidavit filed Monday morning in Little Rock District Court says Vance denied being in Little Rock the day of the attack on Pressly and allowed detectives to swab a DNA sample from his saliva.
"It was confirmed with all scientific certainty that Mr. Vance is the DNA contributor of the suspect in Ms. Pressly's murder," the affidavit reads.
The affidavit suggests police believe robbery was the motive for the attack, as "several items belonging to Ms. Pressly were taken from her residence." Marianna police Detective Sgt. Carl McCree has said Vance became a suspect in the burglaries after his girlfriend sold reportedly stolen items to a Helena-West Helena pawn shop.
Hastings said detectives received consent to look through Vance's home during initial questioning last week, but have yet to recover the missing items. The items sold by Vance's girlfriend did not include anything from Pressly's home, the lieutenant said.
After his arrest, Vance simply said "no" when reporters asked if he killed Pressly. Vance remains held without bond in the Pulaski County jail and has yet to enter a plea over the slaying. He also faces rape and residential burglary charges in Marianna, McCree said.
The Pulaski County Public Defender's Office referred questions about Vance to the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. Commission executive director Didi Sallings said a team of two Pulaski County public defenders and one from her office experienced with capital cases would represent Vance.
Sallings said she put the team together under the assumption Vance would face the death penalty.
"The law is that ... (we) presume the state is going for it," she said. "We haven't seen a file, we don't know anything other than what we've read in the paper at this point."
Vance's case will be sent to the Pulaski County Circuit Court and prosecutors have about two months to file formal charges against him, Jegley said. As of yet, Jegley said he has not received the police's file on Pressly's death nor determined whether he'll seek the death penalty against Vance.
"I would think, based on what we know, that capital murder is an appropriate charge," Jegley said.
Pressly was an anchorwoman on KATV's "Daybreak" program and had a small role as a conservative commentator in the Oliver Stone movie "W."