by Max Brantley
I can now confirm that DNA evidence broke the Anne Pressly murder case.
Little Rock police recovered DNA samples in the investigation of Pressly's beating. I'm told it was from her saliva. She apparently bit her attacker while she struggled furiously with him in her Heights home in the early morning hours Oct. 20. [NOTE FROM MAX: I'm unclear who bit whom, but my source says a bite is believed the key to the DNA sample yielded. I can't immediately reach my source for further clarification.] The KATV mnorning anchor died of severe beating wounds five days later, never having regained consciousness. It's likely her attacker thought he'd left her for dead.
The DNA provided no hot trail immediately after the crime. Curtis Lavelle Vance (pictured), arrested early Thursday on a capital murder warrant, had no previous felony record, though he apparently had been photographed once in a jail uniform. That photo is likely related to what Police Chief Stuart Thomas said Thursday was an arrest for giving a false ID during a traffic stop, a violation serious enough to warrant a formal booking procedure.
But then came a big break. Marianna law officers investigating the rape of a woman in Marianna, Vance's hometown, identified him as a suspect in that case. A DNA sample was taken from Vance in that investigation. I'm told that sample, analyzed by the state Crime Lab, produced a "hit" this week in both the East Arkansas case and the Pressly case.
The Forrest City Times-Herald has details today on the Marianna rape, an April assault on a 32-year-old Lee County High teacher, who was part of the Teach for American program. The newspaper says Vance voluntarily provided a DNA sample Tuesday, but police didn't have sufficient evidence otherwise to arrest him at that point. Warrants were issued Wednesday after the DNA tests were completed.
Vance was arraigned in a closed hearing at the Pulaski County Jail this morning. Courts were otherwise closed today. He didn't make a plea, but he was ordered held without bond, typical in a capital case.
I've been told that physical evidence, pubic hair, found at the scene had prompted the early rumors that the suspect in the case was a black male.
Authorities also believe that a pistol may have been used in Pressly's beating. A bloody imprint of a weapon was found on her bedding.
I can't contribute details on what led Vance to Pressly's home. I think many in the law enforcement community believe she was stalked, but that is only speculation.
My source says he believes Pressly was not raped, as has been reported in several places, but others continue to say the attack was part of a sexual assault. Her attacker may have killed her for refusing to submit.
UPDATE II: Strong followup on the Marianna angle from Fox 16. Vance was not originally a suspect in the April rape, but when -- seven months later -- Marianna police got Crime Lab results that ruled out their original suspect, their focus changed. And here apparently is the link. Vance's girlfriend was arrested for attempting to pawn stolen property. Property from the rape victim? Doesn't say. But it put Vance on the radar in Marianna and that led to the match with DNA gathered in the Pressly case. Criminal stupidity and luck may have combined in this week's arrest.