A man who told police he had been hoping to steal a laptop was convicted of capital murder Wednesday in the beating of an Arkansas TV anchorwoman so brutal that her face was shattered and she never regained consciousness.
The panel was to reconvene later Wednesday to weigh whether Curtis Lavelle Vance should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Oct. 20, 2008, attack on Anne Pressly at her Little Rock bungalow.
Vance, 29, of Marianna, was also convicted of residential burglary along with rape and theft of property.
After the verdicts were read, Pressly's mother, Patti Cannady, raised a hand and said, "Praise God. Praise God." She burst into sobs.
Once the jurors had left, Vance gestured toward the empty jury box, pointed to his eyes and ears and shook his head.
Pressly, 26, was an anchor at KATV and had a bit part in the President Bush biopic "W." Cannady, unable to reach Pressly by telephone for her daily wake-up call, had found her daughter shortly before she was due for the "Daybreak" program.
In closing arguments, deputy prosecutor John Johnson had recounted graphic testimony that left some in the courtroom in tears. At one point, he held up two photos of Pressly: Her KATV publicity shot, and one from her autopsy showing her nose pushed to one side.
"He made this person look like this," Johnson said. A medical examiner had testified that the front of Pressly's face was broken "like an egg."
In various confessions made to police, Vance said he went to Pressly's neighborhood looking to steal laptop computers. After entering her home through a Dutch door she left open for her dogs, Johnson said, Vance found the computer he sought and Pressly.
"It was just him and her," Johnson told jurors. "Can you imagine that? Him standing over her?
"She feels that fear; that paralyzing fear we've all had nightmares about," Johnson said.
Citing one of Vance's confessions, Johnson said the man lost control after she started to fight him.
"He began to hit her over and over," Johnson said.
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.