To meet Anne Pressly was to be elevated by the infectious joy she took in life.
Bradley stood with two other friends of the slain news anchor in front of the Little Rock house in which Pressly was brutally beaten a week ago in what police believe was a random robbery. Yellow crime scene tape still girdled the property, and candles and flowers brought by friends and strangers lined the sidewalk and filled the driveway.
Turn for the worse
Pressly, who had had a small role in the movie “W.,” had been discovered in her bed at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 20, by her mother, who drove to her daughter’s house when Pressly didn’t answer her customary wake-up call. She was covered in blood and unconscious, and her purse and some other belongings were missing.
The popular, 26-year-old rising star had suffered severe blunt-force trauma to her head and upper body. Numerous bones were broken in her face and her skull had been broken in several places. She clung to life all week and seemed to improve on Friday. But on Saturday, she took a turn for the worse and died.
Her family and closest friends remained too shattered to speak publicly about their loss.
“Their hearts are crushed,” Dr. Bruce Sanderson, a family friend and former neighbor, said of the family. “But they have such strong faith in God and Jesus and are standing on that promise that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. That has sustained them.”
Pressly had come with her family to Little Rock while she was in her mid-teens and became friends with Sanderson’s two daughters, who lived across the street. Even then, everyone who met her knew she was headed places.
“She was a vibrant young lady, and always full of fun; very charismatic,” Sanderson told Lauer. “Everyone loved Anne and loved to be around her. She made everybody feel good just being in her presence.”
Her first big scoop
Lauren Trager, who joined Bradley and Sanderson in talking with Lauer, was a radio reporter in Little Rock who remembers meeting Pressly when both were covering a visit to the city by former President Bill Clinton. There had been a big media crush for the appearance and a group interview, but Pressly hung around after the other reporters had left, hoping to get a one-on-one with Clinton, and Trager stayed with her.
“It was actually the first day I met her. I was new to the market, new to the business,” Trager told Lauer. “Anne and I decided to stay and by chance grab him individually for an interview. She knew right away the question to ask him to get him to come over to us. And sure enough, she shouted it out and he came over.”
Trager said Clinton talked to just her and Pressly, giving them the story that no one else had.
“That was the first time out of many after that that I was impressed with just her drive and her determination as a journalist,” Trager said.
Police have investigated the possibility that Pressly was the victim of a stalker, but continue to say that she was apparently the victim of a random attack. They have recovered DNA evidence from the scene, and there is an unconfirmed report that her credit card was used at a nearby gas station not long after her mother discovered her.
‘A bright light’
Her friends can’t imagine her having an enemy.
“If you knew Anne — everyone that knew her — she just couldn’t have an enemy; just the sweetest person, a hard worker dedicated to everything she put her mind to,” Bradley said.
Bradley had worked as Pressly’s producer before joining the overnight shift at the ABC affiliate at which both worked. In that role, she would see Pressly every morning when she came in to prepare for the morning show on which she was the news anchor.
“She would come in early in the morning, and whenever she got there, we were done with our show and we were all tired in the newsroom and everybody was just dragging because it had been a long night,” Bradley recalled. “But the moment when she would walk in that newsroom, it was like a bright light would come on. She was so happy, she was smiling. It was like a breath of fresh air.
“It’s just so unreal that she’s not with us anymore. It’s just hard to deal with.”
Pressly’s family was too distraught to appear on TODAY, but her parents, Guy and Patti Cannady, released a statement to the media.
“We want everyone to know how much we love and miss Anne,” they wrote. “We do not want her passing to be in vain. We take this as an opportunity to remind others of the things important to Anne, and that is faith, love, families, and those around her. We are confident in our belief that many positive results will come from her death.”