Georgia sets execution of man convicted 45 years ago

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ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia man convicted of murdering an 8-year-old girl and raping a 10-year-old girl more than 45 years ago is set to be executed next month, state officials said. State.

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Timothy Ward announced in a press release Wednesday that Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. was scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. on May 17 at Jackson State Prison. Presnell, 68, is accused of abducting and attacking the two girls on their way home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976.

He was convicted in August 1976 of charges of malicious murder, kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to death. His death sentence was overturned in 1992 but reinstated in March 1999.

Presnell staked out a Cobb County elementary school on May 3, 1976, and saw a 10-year-old girl walk home on a wooded trail. He returned the next day and abducted the girl and her 8-year-old friend as they walked down the trail, according to trial evidence described in a Georgia Supreme Court decision.

He drove the two girls to a secluded wooded area, forced them to strip naked and raped the eldest daughter, according to the ruling. The girl tried to run as he led her back to the car, but Presnell grabbed her, pushed her face underwater in a stream, and drowned her.

Presnell then locked the eldest daughter in the trunk of his car, started driving, and dropped her off in a wooded area when he got a flat tire. Throughout, Presnell had forced her to engage in sex acts on multiple occasions, according to the ruling.

Presnell had told the girl he would be back, but she heard noises coming from a nearby gas station and walked there. She described Presnell and his car with a flat tire to police, who found him changing his tire at his apartment complex near where he had left the eldest daughter.

At first Presnell denied everything, but later led police to the 8-year-old girl’s body and confessed, according to the ruling. Police found a handgun and child pornography showing young girls in his bedroom.

Presnell’s lawyers said in court documents that Presnell was born to a teenage mother who drank and smoked heavily throughout her pregnancy. Presnell suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome which damaged his brain and prevented him “from becoming a functioning and responsible adult”, his lawyers argued.

“Coupled with a childhood marked by continued violence, alcoholism and sexual and physical abuse, it is not at all difficult to see how he grew into an adult with serious disorders which, left unchecked and untreated, could produce tragic results,” his lawyers said. wrote in a filing claiming his sentence was unconstitutional.

Presnell would be the first person executed by the state of Georgia since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The last person executed by Georgia was Donnie Cleveland Lance in January 2020. Georgia uses a sedative pentobarbital injection to carry out executions.

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