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Man gets life without parole in Arkansas TV anchor's murder

JCurtis Lavelle Vance, 29, will not be executed for the October 2008 slaying of Anne Pressly, 26.
JCurtis Lavelle Vance, 29, will not be executed for the October 2008 slaying of Anne Pressly, 26.
  • Curtis Lavelle Vance, convicted in slaying of Anne Pressly, faced death penalty
  • Doctors, mother testify about Vance's abuse as a child, possible brain damage
  • "There really aren't any winners tonight," Pressly's stepfather says of case

(CNN) -- A jury sentenced an Arkansas man to life in prison without parole for killing a television anchor, officials said Thursday.

The Pulaski County, Arkansas, jury on Wednesday convicted Curtis Lavelle Vance, 29, of capital murder, residential burglary, rape and theft of property in the October 2008 slaying of Anne Pressly, 26.

Pressly, the morning news anchor for CNN affiliate KATV, was found beaten and unconscious in her home. She died five days later.

Vance's sentencing phase began after he was convicted Wednesday of capital murder, rape and burglary.

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether the aggravating circumstances in favor of the death penalty outweighed the mitigating circumstances.

"Tonight, they have come back with a sentence, a sentence that they believe, and we share with them, is the harshest possible sentence for this gentleman going forward, where he will now spend the rest of his natural life in a 6-by-9 cell with nothing to think about but what he has done," said Guy Cannady, stepfather of the victim.

"It's not until he's carried out of Tucker Max in a pine box will he really meet his true judgment," Cannady added, referring to Arkansas' Tucker Maximum Security Prison.

He said he was not disappointed that Vance did not receive the death penalty.

Prosecutor Larry Jegley said the jury gave Vance "everything they could give him except the death penalty."

Asked if there were too many mitigating circumstances, Jegley said, "I don't know. I can't speak for the jury. Cases like this, all you can do is put 'em in front of 12 good people and ask them to follow the evidence and do what their conscience demands."

Attempts by CNN to reach members of Vance's defense team were unsuccessful Wednesday and Thursday.

"There really aren't any winners tonight," Cannady said. "Nothing that's been done here will ever bring Anne back. We'll never see her smile, we'll never hear her laugh, we'll never know the joy of her presence with us until we see her again in heaven."

Among the defense witnesses presented Thursday was Vance's mother, Jacqueline Vance Burnett, CNN affiliate KARK reported. Burnett cried on the stand as she spoke about her battle with crack addiction and admitted abusing her son when he was a child, including an incident when he was 7 years old and she slammed his head into a brick wall, the station said.

A doctor testified earlier Thursday that Vance had told him school was easy for him before that incident, but difficult afterward. Both doctors said they believe Vance has frontal lobe damage to his brain as well as cognitive impairment, according to KARK.

Vance was linked to the killing through DNA, however, and police said at the time of his arrest last year they were "110 percent" sure he was guilty.

He had given several statements to police, including one saying he was at Pressly's home and another admitting to her murder. Defense attorney Steve Morley told CNN affiliate WREG as Vance's trial began earlier this month that such evidence presented an obstacle for the defense, but said he hoped jurors could be persuaded to spare his client's life.

KARK reported that jurors heard recordings in which Vance apparently confessed to beating Pressly with a piece of wood.

Pressly's mother, Patti Cannady, told NBC last year her daughter fought hard for her life, breaking her left hand in the process.

"I found my daughter beyond recognition, with every bone in her face broken, her nose broken, her jaw pulverized so badly that the bone had come out of it," Cannady said. "I actually thought that her throat had possibly been cut. Her entire skull had numerous fractures from which she suffered a massive stroke."

DNA evidence has also tied Vance to a rape in April 2008 in Marianna, Arkansas, about 90 miles east of Little Rock, police said in December.

CNN's Carolina Sanchez contributed to this report.