LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A man accused of the rape and murder of a Little Rock television station anchorwoman pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Curtis Lavelle Vance, 28, of Marianna was shackled both at the wrists and ankles and was wearing a bullet-proof vest while escorted by sheriff's deputies as he appeared for a hearing before Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza.
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Vance did not address the judge but entered the plea to capital murder and rape charges through his attorney. To news reporters afterward, he denied any involvement in the October beating death of KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly.
As deputies escorted Vance back to jail, Vance said quietly that police had the wrong person. Vance family members shouted: "We love you."
Pressley's parents attended the hearing and, afterward, declined comment.
During the brief proceeding, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza also lifted a gag order that prohibited lawyers and law enforcement officers from discussing the case. The judge said police case files would remain closed, as they normally do when a case is ongoing. Piazza said he did not believe media attention would corrupt "a magnificent system" of criminal justice.
He also set a Sept. 9 trial date for Vance.
Pressly, 26, was an anchorwoman for the station's "Daybreak" program and had a small role as a conservative commentator in the Oliver Stone movie "W."
Her mother, visiting from out of town at the time of the attack, found Pressly bloody and beaten a half-hour before the anchorwoman was due on air Oct. 20. Pressly suffered extensive injuries to her head and upper torso. She died five days later, never 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 that officers investigate Vance, a suspect in several burglaries.
Vance denied being in Little Rock the day of the attack on Pressly and allowed detectives to swab a DNA sample from his saliva, according to a police affidavit. Officers say Vance's DNA matched that found in Pressly's home.
Police arrested Vance on Nov. 26. He remains held without bond at Pulaski County Jail.