ATLANTA, GA – An execution date for Virgil Delano Presnell, Jr. has been set for May 17, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Attorney General Chris Carr offers the following information in the case against Presnell for the 1976 murder of an eight-year-old man. – old victim. Presnell was also found guilty of kidnapping and raping a ten-year-old victim.
On April 27, 2022, the Cobb County Superior Court filed an order setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Virgil Delano Presnell, Jr. can proceed to begin at noon, May 17, 2022 and end seven days later at noon. on May 24, 2022. Presnell concluded his direct appeal and state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
Presnell’s Murder (1976)
The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:
Evidence presented at trial allowed the jury to find that on April 23, 1976, Presnell attempted to abduct a ten-year-old girl in Clayton County as she walked home from school on a wooded trail. Although he grabbed her and threatened her with a knife, the girl managed to free herself and escape. On May 3, 1976, Presnell staked out an elementary school in Cobb County and observed a ten-year-old girl walking home on a wooded trail. He returned the next day and waited on the trail. In his car he had a carpet and a pot of lubricant. When the ten-year-old girl came walking down the trail with her eight-year-old friend, Presnell abducted the two girls. He taped their mouths shut and threatened to kill them if they did not cooperate; he also said he had a gun. They rode in Presnell’s blue Plymouth Duster. While Presnell was driving, he forced the eldest daughter to orally sodomize him and inserted his finger into her vagina. They drove to an isolated area and Presnell accompanied the children into the woods. He was carrying the carpet and the pot of lube. He made the two girls undress and he raped the older girl on the carpet. Her vagina was torn during the rape and started bleeding. Presnell then said he was going to take the eight-year-old girl back to her car and the older girl should wait for him. On the way back to the car, an eight-year-old girl tried to run away, but Presnell grabbed her and forced her face underwater in a stream, drowning her. The medical examiner testified that there was water, sand and vegetable matter in his lungs and stomach and that it would have taken him one to several minutes to die. She had bruises on her neck and a bruise on her back where Presnell had apparently placed his knee. Presnell returned to the eldest daughter and again forced her to orally sodomize him. He then locked her in the trunk of his car and started driving, but a tire blew so he dropped her off in another wooded area after forcing her to perform oral sodomy again. Although Presnell told her he would return, the eldest daughter heard the noise of a gas station nearby and walked there. She later gave police a description of Presnell and her blue Duster and said her tire was flat. Shortly after, police spotted Presnell changing a tire on his blue Duster at his apartment complex not far from where he had dropped off the eldest daughter. Presnell initially denied everything, but later admitted he knew the missing girl’s location and led police to her body. He also confessed. A search of Presnell’s bedroom uncovered a handgun and child pornography depicting young girls.
Presnell v. State274 Ga. 246, 247-48 (2001).
Presnell was charged in Cobb County, Georgia, Superior Court with malicious murder, rape, kidnapping and kidnapping with bodily harm. Presnell was initially convicted on all counts and sentenced to death on August 26, 1976; however, his death sentence was later overturned due to improper closing argument by the prosecution during the sentencing phase. Presnell v. Zant, 959 F.2d 1524 (11th Cir. 1992). Presnell’s re-sentencing trial was held from February 22 to March 16, 1999, and Presnell was sentenced to death. Subsequently, Presnell filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied on November 3, 2000.
Direct Call (2001-2002)
Presnell’s case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld Presnell’s convictions and death sentence on July 16, 2001. Presnell v. State, 274 Ga. 246 (2001). The United States Supreme Court denied Presnell’s appeal on May 13, 2002. Presnell v. Georgia535 US 1059 (2002).
State habeas corpus proceedings (2002-2006)
Presnell filed a petition for habeas corpus in Butts County, Georgia Superior Court on October 16, 2002. An evidentiary hearing was held on June 2, 2004. On January 24, 2006, the state habeas corpus court issued an order denying Presnell State habeas relief. The Georgia Supreme Court denied Presnell’s appeal on November 6, 2006.
Federal habeas corpus proceedings (2007-2021)
Presnell filed a habeas corpus petition in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on June 1, 2007. On May 22, 2017, the district court denied Presnell federal habeas relief. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s denial of relief on September 16, 2020. Presnell v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison975 F.3d 1199 (11th Cir. 2020). The United States Supreme Court denied Presnell’s appeal request on October 14, 2021. Presnell vs. Warden, GDCP(2021).