biographical data

Virgil Presnell Jr. biography: 13 things about Atlanta, Georgia man


Lois Cole‘s son Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. was an unemployed high school dropout living in an apartment in Atlanta, Georgia, United States when he abducted a girl, then 10, and her friend Lori Ann Smith, 8, who were walking home from school in Smyrna, Cobb County on May 4, 1976. He drove the girls to Cobb, Sumter County, Georgia where he killed Smith and raped the other girl, who was able to escape.

Hours after the crimes, Presnell was arrested at his apartment in Atlanta. Here are 13 more things about him:


  1. On August 26, 1976, he received the death sentence after a Cobb County Superior Court Jury found him guilty of murder, rape, kidnapping and kidnapping with bodily injury. His original execution date was set for November 5, 1976. 
  2. On January 8, 1980, he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia, which was denied by the superior court. On March 19, 1980, the application for certificate of probable cause he filed to appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia was denied.
  3. On June 15, 1981, he filed his first federal habeas petition, which the district court dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies.
  4. On September 6, 1984, the second state habeas corpus petition he filed in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia was dismissed as successive. On November 16, 1984, the Supreme Court of Georgia denied his application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal.
  5. On May 15, 1985, he filed a second federal habeas petition, which was granted by Honorable Robert L. Vining, Jr. as to his death sentence based on an improper burden-shifting instruction. On January 11, 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the decision of the district court and remanded with instructions.
  6. On July 11, 1990, Vining reversed his death sentence again due to an improper closing argument by the prosecutor in the sentencing phase of trial. The district court denied relief on all other grounds. On April 15, 1992, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of relief with respect to the death sentence.
  7. In 1992, his death sentence was vacated during Federal habeas corpus proceedings.
  8. From February 22, 1999 through March 16, 1999, the Superior Court of Cobb County conducted his re-sentencing trial. He was ultimately given the death penalty again. He appealed the re-sentencing verdict.
  9. On July 16, 2001, the Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed his convictions and sentences. He filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on May 13, 2002. On October 16, 2002, he filed a state petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia. 
  10. On March 15, 2004, he filed an amended petition. On June 2, 2004, an evidentiary hearing was held. On December 30, 2005, the Superior Court of Butts County denied his petition for habeas corpus relief in its entirety.
  11. On March 30, 2006, he timely filed his application for certificate of probable cause to appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia, which was denied on November 6, 2006. He timely filed his federal petition for writ of habeas corpus on June 1, 2007 and filed an amended petition on February 12, 2008.
  12. On May 16, 2022, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a clemency request from him but Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shermela Williams issued an order temporarily prohibiting the state from proceeding with his execution.
  13. He was 68 years old when a judge halted his execution on May 16, 2022. He is scheduled to be executed by injection of the sedative pentobarbital scheduled at 7:00 p.m. on May 17, 2022 at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Butts County, Georgia.

(This is a developing story. More details will be added.)


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