ATLANTA, GA – Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. has a date to meet his maker, and it’s Tuesday, May 17. He even knows what time he’s supposed to take his last breath for the heinous crimes he committed against two little girls in 1976: 7 p.m.
But the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles has announced it is stepping in at the last minute to consider granting clemency to the man who murdered an 8-year-old girl and raped her 10-year-old friend.
The five-member board is meeting at 9 a.m. Monday to “receive information in favor of commuting Presnell’s death sentence,” according to a news release from the board.
Former Cobb County District Attorney George “Buddy” Darden, who tried the case, had a succinct statement regarding Presnell:
“If there was ever a case that cried out for the death penalty, this was it.”
The Parole Board is set to review Presnell’s comprehensive case file and it said no public comment will be taken and no other business will be conducted at the special meeting.
Georgia’s Parole Board has the authority to grant clemency and commute or reduce a death sentence to the possibility of parole or life without parole. At the meeting, the board may commute Presnell’s sentence, issue a stay of execution up to 90 days, or deny him clemency.
Forty-six years ago, Presnell, 68, was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Lori Ann Smith and kidnapping with bodily injury and raping Andrea Furlong. For this, he was given the death sentence in August 1976. The sentence was overturned in 1992 and reinstated in 1999.
Presnell abducted and attacked the two girls as they walked home from school May 4, 1976.
Lori Ann Smith would be a 54-year-old woman today, had Presnell not kidnapped and brutally killed her in 1976.
The girls did everything they could to fight off the grown man and save their lives. Lori Ann attempted to escape Presnell, who caught her and drowned her in a nearby river. Presnell sexually assaulted Andrea multiple times, then put her in the trunk of his car.
As he was driving, Presnell’s car had a flat tire. He decided to drop Andrea off in a wooded area, telling her that he would be back for her and not to leave. Presnell drove to the apartment he shared with his mother, where he would replace the flat tire.
While alone, Andrea heard people and noises coming from a nearby gas station and she ran from the woods. Andrea found the strength to tell strangers what had happened to her and her friend and the police were called.
She was able to give officers a description of Presnell and the car he was driving and a BOLO was issued for his arrest. A patrol officer spotted Presnell in the parking lot of the apartment complex, changing the tire on his car, a blue Plymouth Duster.
He initially denied any wrongdoing but eventually led police to the crime scene and to Lori Ann’s body. Her autopsy showed water, sand and plant matter in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she did not die immediately.
During a search of Presnell’s bedroom, authorities found child pornography.
The Superior Court of Cobb County has ordered Presnell’s execution, which the Georgia Department of Corrections scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
He shot a teen girl execution style, murdering her in cold blood. This Democrat governor just granted him ‘clemency’
April 30, 2022
SALEM, OR – According to several reports, Democrat Gov. Kate Brown has been slammed by law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and politicians from both sides, for granting clemency to a murderer serving life without parole for the 1994 cold-blooded murder of a teenage girl — and no one even told the victim’s family of the decision.
Oregon’s left-wing Sen. Ron Wyden(D) called Gov. Kate Brown(D) release of convicted murderer Kyle Hedquist(D-Pedophile) “grossly irresponsible.”https://t.co/cIHRNFNE7Z
Oregon Governor Brown(D) Grants Clemency to Man Who Executed Teen Girl in 1994
— Christian Hollister (@Gr8Christian) April 29, 2022
The offender, then-17-year-old Kyle Hedquist, led then-19-year-old Nikki Thrasher down a remote dirt road and shot her execution style. He allegedly did so because he was afraid she might tell the police about the burglaries he committed.
In 1995, he was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life without parole. Now, 27 years later, Gov. Brown decided to grant the man clemency and several individuals have voiced their concerns. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D) harshly criticized Brown and said:
“This clemency decision is wrong on every level, starting with its callousness toward the crime victim’s family and extending to all Oregonians counting on public officials to make decisions with public safety in mind. Plain and simple, I oppose this grossly irresponsible use of the clemency powers.”
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin also blasted the governor by saying:
“The executive clemency granted by Gov. Brown in this case is shocking and irresponsible.”
Oregon sheriff 'absolutely disgusted' over progressive governor granting clemency to 'cold-blooded killer'
Gov. Kate Brown granted clemency to Kyle Hedquist, convicted in 1994 execution-style killing of Nikki Thrasher.https://t.co/wLJBYOZphO
— duane poole @ Duanepoole (@duanepoole) April 30, 2022
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson and Sheriff Joe Kast issued a statement that said there were “significant safety concerns surrounding the sudden and ill-planned governor’s commutation.”
Other Republicans slammed the progressive and irresponsible governor, who is not running for re-election. Oregon Senate GOP Leader Tim Knopp said in a statement:
“The governor continues to let violent criminals out of prison and Democrats in the majority remain silent.”
The murdered teen’s mother, Holly Trasher, said that she was not even made aware of Brown’s decision. She was first told about Hedquist’s release when KOIN 6 News called her for her reaction, to which she said:
“I am upset. I wasn’t even told.”
Douglas County District Attorney Richard Wesenberg sent a letter to Brown’s office objecting to Hedquist’s release. The letter said, in part:
“There are thousands of pages of discovery on this case and yet large swath’s of Hedquist’s petition are completely unsupported by any of them. In fact, many statements fly in the face of the evidence.”
The statement added:
“This office has concerns that clemency for mr. Hedquist will erode faith in the justice system. Specifically, clemency for Hedquist will demonstrate that a life sentence without the possibility of parole does not really mean a true-life sentence.”
Gov. Brown has defended her actions, comparing them to President Joe Biden’s granting of clemency for 78 people. However, those were all for nonviolent crimes, not a vicious murder. On social media, Brown said:
“Teenagers, even those who have committed terrible crimes, have a unique capacity for growth and change. We are a state and a nation of second chances.”
OREGON IS 4 INSANIACS!-Oregon Governor Kate Brown CONDEMNED 4 Pardoning Murderer Kyle Hedquist-Outrage as #WOKE OR Governor grants 'cold-blooded' killer CLEMENCY-Frees him w/out telling his 19-YO victim's family-Justifies it by saying murderer was…https://t.co/oaIDCLLMnE
— 66613Skunky13 (@TrueCrimePoli) April 28, 2022
Brown said that she has denied most clemency requests, adding:
“Clemency is an action I reserve for individuals who have demonstrated that they have made incredible changes in their lives to rehabilitate themselves, take accountability for their crimes, and dedicate themselves to making their communities a better place.”
Trasher’s mother said that Hedquist “took the life of my daughter in cold blood. It was a cold-blooded murder. He planned it.” She added:
“He tricked her, drove her to a remote location, shot her in the back of the head execution-style and dumped her body on the side of the road.”
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson said:
“A judge in an entirely different part of the state determined that this offender should never be out of prison and yet he is now living in our county without the proper safety assurances. Our community deserves better than what our state leadership foisted upon us here.”
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