“Anne, who did this to you? Who did this?” Patti Cannady asked repeatedly as she tried to comprehend the scene before calling 911 for help.
Cannady got no answer on that Monday morning two weeks ago, she said Monday in New York, where she and her husband, Guy Cannady, spoke exclusively with TODAY’s Matt Lauer. And until her death six days later, Pressly, who had sustained traumatic head injuries that would prove to be fatal, never regained consciousness.
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A horrific discovery
Patti Cannady was remarkably composed as she talked about the most horrifying scene a parent could imagine.
“It’s the most shocking thing that anyone could ever see in their entire life,” she told Lauer. “I couldn’t even grasp what I was seeing ... I went through the house calling for her and I found her and she was still alive; she was still alive, trying to breathe. I was just telling her how much I loved her, that I was going to get help. So I called 911 and they stayed with me until the first officer arrived.”
Patti and her daughter had been uncommonly close, exchanging phone calls every day. When Pressly took over as the morning news anchor for KATV in Little Rock a few months earlier, Patti Cannady took to calling her every morning just to make sure she woke up in time to start work at 5.
Guy and Patti Cannady live in South Carolina, but they were visiting their daughter and old friends in Little Rock. At the age of 26, Pressly had a career that was taking off. She had landed a small role in Oliver Stone’s film “W.,” which premiered in Little Rock the weekend before she died. She had also hosted a “Paws on the Runway” charity fashion show that weekend at the governor’s mansion.
On the Sunday evening before she was attacked, Pressly had dinner with a friend and attended a party for a coworker. She last exchanged text messages with friends around 10:30 that night.
Sometime between then and 3 a.m., when Patti Cannady called Pressly and got no answer, someone entered the young woman’s home and viciously beat her in her bed, leaving her with multiple skull fractures, broken ribs and fatal blunt-force trauma injuries.
A mother’s intuition
Usually, when Patti Cannady visited Pressly, she stayed with her daughter in her white bungalow in an upscale, country-club neighborhood. But, she told Lauer, she and her husband had stayed with friends on this trip because they didn’t want to interfere with their daughter getting the rest she needed for her early-morning job.
When Patti called her daughter Monday morning, Oct. 20, and got no answer, her mother’s intuition told her something was wrong. But, she said, she didn’t immediately think the worst.
“When she did not answer the call, I got in my car and went over. I just thought maybe she’d been called in early or had overslept,” she said, adding that Pressly was so driven and professional, oversleeping seemed out of the question.
The family has a deep Christian faith, and Patti Cannady has said she felt she was meant to be the one to find her daughter. She considers it a blessing.
Because of their faith, both Cannadys have insisted that their daughter’s life be celebrated instead of mourned. The memorial service for her, attended by hundreds, was upbeat and positive, and Pressly’s parents have established a journalism scholarship fund in her memory.
The couple said they’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction of care and concern and love they’ve experienced since the attack.
“I think the world is going to miss Ann,” Patti Cannady said. “The image is one of love — from the whole United States, and actually from the world. Everyone has reached out to us. We have been loved, and we’re just so grateful for the outpouring of sympathy from everyone.”
“Ann was well known for her personality, for her love of life, for the approach that she took to her job, to her friends, to her faith,” added Guy Cannady. “So it was incredibly gratifying, heartwarming for us as a family, to know that she was loved personally and professionally as much as she was.”
A final gift
Although reports from the hospital in the week after the attack seemed to offer encouragement, Pressly’s parents knew that her survival was uncertain. On Saturday afternoon, Oct. 25, doctors finished another battery of tests and told the Cannady’s that their daughter would not survive. They agreed to allow surgeons to harvest her organs for donation.
“We found out almost exactly to the minute 24 hours later that six families had been the recipient of Ann’s gift of organ donation,” Guy Cannady said. He said it is a perfect legacy of giving from a woman who gave so much.
“What a blessing,” Patti Cannady said of the gift of life Pressly provided to six others. “This is what Ann would have wanted. She was always driven. She loved the Lord. She was a Christian. And that’s why her service was joyful and a celebration of her life. She would not want us to be mourning, because that wasn’t her style. That wasn’t her way.”
Patti Cannady said that if others take anything from her story, it is that you can never tell your children too often how much you love them.
“When Ann left the driveway at our friend’s home Sunday evening at 9:30, Patti said, ‘Love you, Ann,’ ” Guy Cannady said. “Ann said, ‘Love you. Mom.’ ”
“I ran down the driveway after her as she was backing out,” Patti recalled. “I told her how much I love her. My encouragement to everyone is hug your children, love your children. Never feel like you’re doing too much to show how much you love them.”
Police still have not identified a suspect in the vicious murder. They have DNA and other evidence taken from Pressly's home, and they know that her purse and other belongings were taken. They have said they are treating it as a random crime rather than the act of a stalker.
“There is a suspect out there. There is somebody who did this crime,” Little Rock Police Lt. Terry Hastings told NBC News. “We don’t know who that person is. We have evidence that would point to a person, but we need some direction to put it in.”
A $48,000 reward has been offered for anyone providing information leading to the assailant’s arrest.
“Somebody knows who this person is,” Hastings said. “That’s who we need to call.”
If you have information that could lead to the arrest of Anne Pressly's killer, call the Little Rock Police Department's Crimestoppers Tipline at 501-371-INFO. You do not have to leave your name. A $48,000 reward is offered.
To contribute to the Anne Pressly Reward Fund being offered for information leading to the arrest of her killer, or for information about the Anne Pressly Scholarship Foundation for those interested in pursuing journalism degrees, send mail to:
P.O. Box 77
Little Rock, AR 72203