ATLANTA — (AP) — The Georgia parole board on Monday refused to halt the execution of a man who killed an 8-year-old girl 46 years ago.
Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. killed the girl and raped her 10-year-old friend after abducting them on their way home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976. He is expected to die by injection of the sedative pentobarbital at Jackson State Prison at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The parole board held a closed meeting to discuss his case on Monday. As usual, the commission did not explain its decision to deny clemency. If the execution continues, Presnell will be the first person to be put to death in Georgia this year and the seventh nationally.
A lawyer for Presnell had argued that he was “profoundly brain damaged” and did not understand the harm he was causing the two girls. He is deeply sorry for the pain he has caused and wishes he could “take it all back,” attorney Monet Brewerton-Palmer wrote in a clemency petition submitted to the state Board of Pardons and Parole.
Presnell’s mother drank heavily while pregnant with him and he suffered prenatal brain damage and likely has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a diagnosis that was not available at the time of his trial. nearly 46 years ago, the clemency petition says. It also says Presnell grew up in an “abusive and unstable environment” and that sexual abuse was “endemic” in her family.
Attorneys for the Federal Defender program, where Brewerton-Palmer works, filed a lawsuit last week and an emergency motion Monday in Fulton County Superior Court. They said setting his execution date violated a written agreement reached last April with state Attorney General Chris Carr’s office that temporarily suspended executions during the coronavirus pandemic and set out the conditions under which they could to resume.
As a result of the alleged breach of that agreement, Brewerton-Palmer received notification on April 25, just two days before the state was scheduled to seek the enforcement warrant, leaving only three weeks before the court hearing. thanks, the lawsuit says.
Brewerton-Palmer had asked the parole board to postpone his execution for 90 days so that the board could consider his request and then commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Presnell abducted the two girls as they walked home along a wooded trail from a Cobb County elementary school on May 4, 1976. He drove them to a secluded wooded area, made them strip, and raped the eldest daughter, according to evidence at trial described in a Georgia Supreme Court decision. The girl tried to run, but Presnell grabbed her and drowned her in a stream, according to the decision.
He locked the 10-year-old girl in the trunk of his car, then left her in a wooded area when he had a flat tire, saying he would be back. She ran to a nearby gas station and described Presnell and her car to police.
Officers found him changing his tire at his apartment complex. He initially denied everything, but then led police to the body of the 8-year-old girl and confessed, according to the ruling.
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