LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – One blow ruined her smile and others crushed the middle of her face, but the attack on television personality Anne Pressly didn't end until after her jaw was forced to the back of her head and cut off blood flow to her brain, a medical examiner said Tuesday.
Prosecutors rested their capital murder case against Curtis Lavelle Vance, 29, after testimony from the state's deputy medical examiner, who spoke about Pressly's final moments of consciousness.
Vance, of Marianna, has pleaded not guilty to murder, rape and burglary. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Defense lawyers questioned crime scene technicians about where they did — and did not — find blood, and asked Police Chief Stuart Thomas whether officers explored multiple theories. He said they had.
DNA specialists initially questioned by prosecutors were recalled to the stand to discuss genetic evidence gathered at the scene that didn't have a match.
Vance's legal team said it may call two additional witnesses Wednesday, then expects to rest. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza scheduled a court session Wednesday despite the rest of the courthouse being closed for Veterans Day, and jurors could begin deliberations by the end of the day.
Dr. Stephen Erickson said an examination of Pressly's body after her death revealed that her face shattered "like an egg" during the attack. "I could feel crunchiness" while examining Pressly's face, he said. A photo he used showed her nose pushed to one side.
Erickson said some type of object likely was used during the attack — the butt of a pistol or perhaps some type of club.
Pressly, the co-host of a morning TV show who had a bit part in the President Bush biopic "W," was hit so hard that a tooth — root intact — flew to her bedroom floor. Another blow crushed bones in the middle of her face. Another shoved her jaw backward, leaving her brain starved for blood.
Injuries like Pressly's require a "high degree" of force — and end with a high degree of mortality, Erickson said.
Pressly, 26, was attacked early Oct. 20, 2008, at her home in Little Rock. Her mother, unable to reach Pressly by telephone, found her daughter shortly before she was due on KATV's "Daybreak" program.
CT scans taken after the attack showed that her swollen brain gradually died. By Oct. 25, 2008, the day Pressly died, her brain was so swollen that no blood could enter.
Erickson said it was possible that Pressly felt pain even after the attack — even if she couldn't have responded to anyone.
The examiner also said Pressly's left forearm had an abrasion, consistent with being held tightly, and that her left hand was swollen, blue and broken in five places.
Erickson said Pressly had injuries consistent with being raped. Defense lawyer Katherine Street, however, questioned whether they could have been caused by a medical examination. Erickson said it was possible, but said it appeared they were inflicted about the time of the attack.
On a tape played for jurors Monday, Vance told a police detective that he beat Pressly with a piece of wood that he found in her backyard — but never explained why. "I lose control, she lose control," Vance said in the February interview.
Police witnesses said DNA evidence linked Vance to Pressly's death and to a Marianna rape case in which he has pleaded not guilty.
The defense has said police duped Vance into confessing and giving officers a DNA sample to compare with evidence in the case.