Execution date set for Georgia man convicted of 8-year-old’s murder

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., in prison since 1976, to be put to death May 17
Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. has been in prison since Oct. 19, 1976

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. has been in prison since Oct. 19, 1976

The man convicted of kidnapping and killing an 8-year-old girl in 1976 is scheduled to be executed May 17, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. has been in prison since Oct. 19, 1976, after his conviction in Cobb County. Presnell, also convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl, was sentenced to death. The 68-year-old will be the 54th Georgia inmate put to death by lethal injection.

Presnell was convicted in 1976 for the kidnapping and drowning of Lori Ann Smithy, 8, and for the rape of a 10-year-old girl. Investigators say the girls were kidnapped as they walked to Russell Elementary School in south Cobb. Lori Ann tried to run away and was drowned in a stream. Presnell was 22 at the time.

After his first trial, Presnell appealed his murder conviction several times.

During a retrial in 1999, key testimony was provided by the victim who survived, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. She told the court Presnell snuck up behind them, pushed them into a Plymouth Duster and spread a blue blanket in a wooded area as he played out fantasies he had read about in pornographic paperbacks.

Then he took Lori Ann away and pushed her face into a shallow Nickajack Creek until she drowned, according to forensics evidence.

During the trial, Presnell’s mother and other relatives testified that his life should be spared because his mind was warped by a childhood of incest and abuse. His attorneys presented a collection of toys, embroidered stuffed animals, and objects that Presnell had made, citing them as a major life achievement while on death row.

Presnell is set to be executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson at 7 p.m. May 17.