Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TOP STORY >> Vicious killer, child rapist face revenge

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

The young thug who killed a popular TV personality, and the old evangelist who assaulted girls as young as 8 and 10 were both sentenced last week and will stay behind bars for the rest of their lives.

The only way murderer Curtis Lavelle Vance and the child molester Tony Alamo will ever leave prison will be in the back of a hearse stretched out in pine coffins.

Vance, 29, escaped the death penalty and received a life sentence, almost all of it to be served in solitary confinement for his own protection. Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley had sought the death penalty for the vicious beating death of Anne Pressly. But he says putting Vance in a small cell 23 hours a day is close enough to the death penalty, maybe even worse.

Jegley told us that people who complain that the death penalty is cruel-and-unusual punishment are wrong.

“What’s cruel and unusual is the toll a crime like this exacts on the victims’ families,” the prosecutor said.

Alamo, 75, was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison for molesting child brides. That sentence was well received among former members of Alamo’s church. One of them told us, “I think it’s fabulous that justice finally got served. Shame on the
Arkansas police for taking about 15 years too long, though. I wrote a letter to the Fort Smith Police Department in 1999 about all this.”

Both defendants were defiant after the verdicts, which were announced a day apart. Vance shouted after the verdict, “It’s a corrupt system.”

Alamo has compared himself to Jesus, who was also wrongly convicted, he said, after a jury found Alamo guilty of five counts of taking underage girls across state lines.

Vance beat his young victim with a piece of lumber as she struggled with her attacker in her bed in the middle of the night after he barged into her Little Rock home last fall.

Pressly, 26, the KATV anchor whose face he disfigured almost beyond recognition, was clinging to life when her mother came to check on her around 4 a.m.

Patti Cannady, her mother, tried to put a towel on Anne’s face, and she moaned in pain.

Jegley said, “She was in agony for three hours” after Vance had left her for dead.

A doctor testified that she couldn’t tell if Pressly was a man or a woman when the victim arrived in the emergency room.

Jegley said he has received letters from white supremacists vowing revenge against Vance. But the prosecutor said that’s out of his hands now that the murderer is in the state prison system.

Jegley thinks Vance probably raped several women before he assaulted Pressly, but Vance will be tried for raping just one woman in his native Marianna, which could get him another life sentence. It was that assault that connected Vance to the Pressly murder.

Alamo, 75, could become one of the oldest prisoners in the federal system. But he looks gaunt and defeated, despite his occasional outbursts of bravado, and he will likely die before he becomes an expensive burden on the prison system. (It could cost the taxpayers more than $1 million if Vance lives into old age.)

Alamo served a prison sentence in the 1990s and restarted his ministry at Fouke in southwest Arkansas, where he had a fancy home and entertained children, just like Michael Jackson did in Neverland, except the late singer liked little boys, while the preacher molested little girls.

The self-styled evangelist probably became obsessed with young girls after the death of his wife Susan, whose body he displayed for months in hopes of seeing her resurrected.

Alamo is as crazy as Vance, whose mother, Jacqueline Vance Burnett, saved her son from the death chamber when she testified she was an abusive mother and a former prostitute and drug addict who bought drugs with welfare checks meant for her fatherless children.

She spent time in prison for burglary, forgery and theft. She had slammed her son against a brick wall when she was high on crack, probably causing him brain damage, she claimed.

Jegley doesn’t believe Vance is retarded or brain damaged. “He tried to blame it on his mother, but a lot of people had difficult childhoods, and some of them grew up to be presidents.”

Prison will be no picnic for Vance or Alamo. For the few hours a week he’ll leave his cage, Vance could find himself approached by a couple of white thugs with a blunt instrument or two. And Alamo must have heard what often happens to child molesters in prison.