In Seven Days, We All Become Killers

In Seven Days, We All Become Killers November 13, 2019

Her body had been thrown away like trash. It was 3 pm on the same day Stacey Stites went missing that she was discovered strangled with her own belt. Earlier that morning, co-workers and family had already rung the alarm bells when Stacey failed to show up for work. They’d already found her fiance’s truck in a nearby parking lot, which she used to drive to work. The case went, in a matter of hours, from mild concern for her whereabouts to an all-out homicide case.

When Stacey’s body was recovered, examiners collected an unknown male’s DNA.

Stacey was engaged to be married to Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell. It was his truck that she’d used to drive to work each morning, and his vehicle spotted in the parking lot, empty, early on the morning Stacey failed to show up for work. Jimmy very quickly became the prime suspect, but despite the fact that he failed two polygraph tests, the case against Jimmy was dropped. This was partially due to the fact that Carol Stites, Stacey’s mother who lived downstairs from the couple, was willing to testify that she heard just one set of footsteps going down to the truck in the morning. She also said that when she went to tell Jimmy that Stacey didn’t show up for work, Jimmy appeared to have been sleeping and had to get dressed before leaving. This implies that Stacey left their apartment on her own, leaving Jimmy asleep in bed.

A year later, police get a match on the DNA on Stacey’s body. It matched a man named Rodney Reed. The truck Stacey had allegedly been driving was found just around the corner from Reed’s mother’s house, where he was often found. When Reed was first brought in for questioning, he denied knowing anything about Stacey Stites, but when he realized the police had a DNA match, he changed his story. He claimed he had been in a relationship with the girl.

None of what he said mattered, though, as Rodney, a black man, faced an all-white jury as they sentenced him to death.

From here, it seems we have a pretty open and shut case. Especially if we add to the evidence the fact that Rodney Reed had been accused of sexual assault by other women prior to the Stacey Stites murder. Really, it looks like a clear-cut case of guilt. We have his DNA inside her, we have him changing up his story to match the evidence, and we have what would appear to be a history of sexual violence against women. Done and done. Fry him, right?

Not so fast. Before we go over the evidence that has been brought forward since I want to remind you that a death sentence is permanent. Rodney is scheduled to die on November 20th. That’s seven days away. In seven days, this man will most likely be dead and there will be nothing we can do to reverse that if we discover a mistake has been made. As such, it is not his innocence we must prove to delay the death sentence, but rather the mere presence of doubt in this case. Doubt is an indicator that there is a chance we could be getting this wrong. If there is any chance we could be getting this wrong, it is our moral duty to stop this execution.

We are not looking for evidence of innocence. We are only looking for doubt.

In the years since Reed was sentenced to death, loads of new information has come to light.

The first of which is the conviction of Jimmy Fennell in 2007. While on duty as a police officer, Fennell raped a woman in his custody. He was caught and charged with rape and kidnapping and served 10 years in prison after his conviction. Reed had prior accusations of similar behaviour, but no convictions. If we’re going to look at these accusations against Reed as evidence that he could commit the crime against Stites, then we must use Fennell’s conviction in the same way. Now, we are pretty certain each suspect has a similar behaviour pattern.

We have also heard from some of Stacey’s friends who have come forward on behalf of Rodney. They claim to have had conversations with Stacey about the black man named Rodney she’d been sleeping with. These friends also claim that Stacey was afraid of what might happen if Jimmy found out Stacey had been having an affair. They note that Stacey had complained on many occasions about Jimmy’s violent temper.

This information does two things: it corroborates Rodney’s story that he was having a consensual affair with Stacey, and it also gives Jimmy a motive for murder.

Forensic experts testified in Reed’s original trial that the DNA evidence found on Stacey’s body could only have been consistent with sexual assault. Since the trial, this statement has been called out by experts in the field as a complete fabrication; that there is no way to determine if this source of DNA is present in a body as a result of assault or consensual sex. The original experts who made this claim at Reed’s trial have since admitted it was wrong.

Further, forensic experts for the Innocence Project found that Stacey’s time of death was before she left for work, not after, placing her in the apartment with her fiance, Fennell.

A police officer who worked with Jimmy Fennell claimed in a sworn affidavit that Fennell had confided in him just before the murder that he was sure Stacey was sleeping around with a black guy.

The final bit of information that has come to light is the alleged confession by Jimmy to a cellmate that he had killed his “n*****-loving girlfriend”.

There is more evidence to be tested as well, but the state has denied testing. The murder weapon, which was Stacey Stites’ belt, has never been tested for DNA. This could be one piece to the puzzle that tells us which one of these men, if either, killed Stites, but the state of Texas is refusing to test it.

We are left with two suspects, each of whom could have committed this crime. Each of these men has evidence pointing towards his guilt. Each of them is as likely as the other to have been the man who killed Stacey Stites.

You don’t have to like Rodney Reed to know that enough doubt has been cast to halt his execution here. You don’t have to think he has a case of actual innocence to know that putting him to death could be a grave mistake. There are clear and unmistakeable questions about this case and that means there exists doubt.

I am sure that whether you support the death penalty or are as vehemently against it as I am, you can agree that where doubt exists in a criminal case, we must never carry out a death sentence.

We must never execute a man when questions still exist about his guilt, lest we become murderers ourselves.

Sign and share the petition to stop the execution of Rodney Reed and test the evidence that could clear his name: Sign here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jim Jones

    Welcome to Texas.

    Clarence Brandley (Conroe TX)

    T Cullen Davis (Fort Worth TX)

    Robert Durst (Re Morris Black)

    Race matters. Money matters. Evidence doesn’t.

  • Carstonio

    Cases like this are a major reason why there shouldn’t be a death penalty. The sentence can’t be reversed.

    And the racial disparities show that the penalty is essentially a referendum on the likability of the victim. More than the sentenced person usually being black, the victim is almost always white.

  • Dudley Sharp

    Rodney Reed’s Criminal History

    Listen to interview with another Rodney Reed’s intended rape/murder victim Linda Schlueter

    No. 17-1093 IN THE Supreme Court of the United States
    RODNEY REED, Petitioner, vs. THE STATE OF TEXAS Respondent
    https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/17/17-1093/45899/20180507150103836_Reed%20BIO%20FINAL.pdf

    II. THE STATE’S PUNISHMENT CASE

    The rape and murder of Stites was hardly Reed’s first or last foray against women.

    First was Connie York, a nineteen-year-old who had come home late one evening after swimming with friends. 57.RR.34–35. York was grabbed from behind and told “don’t scream or I’ll hurt you.” 57.RR.35–36. When York did not listen, she was 8 repeatedly struck, dragged to her bedroom, and raped multiple times. 57.RR.37–42.

    Reed was interviewed, and, while he admitted that he knew York from high school, he denied raping her. 57.RR.123–24.

    When confronted with a search warrant for biological samples, Reed had an about-face, “Yeah, I had sex with her, she wanted it.” 57.RR.138. The case went to trial four years later, 57.RR.30, 60, and Reed was acquitted, 57.RR.61.

    Next was A.W., a twelve-year-old girl, who was home alone, having fallen asleep on a couch after watching TV. 58.RR.36–42. A.W. awoke when someone began pushing her face into the couch and had blindfolded and gagged her. 58.RR.42–43.

    She was repeatedly hit in the head, called vulgar names, and orally, vaginally, and anally raped. 58.RR.43–49.

    The foreign DNA from A.W.’s rape kit was compared to Reed; Reed was not excluded and only one in 5.5 billion people would have the same foreign DNA profile from A.W.’s rape kit. 58.RR.51, 92; 61.RR.26.

    Then came Lucy Eipper, who Reed had met in high school, and whom Reed began to date after her graduation. 59.RR.10–12. Eipper had two children with Reed. 59.RR.13–14, 19–20 Throughout their relationship, Reed physically abused Eipper, including while she was pregnant, and raped her “all the time,” including one time in front of their two children. 59.RR.14–17, 21, 25–32.

    Afterwards, Reed began dating Caroline Rivas, an intellectually disabled woman. 60.RR.39–41. Rivas’s caseworker noticed bruises on Rivas’s body and, when asked about them, Rivas admitted that Reed would hurt her if she would not have sex with him. 60.RR.41, 61. 9

    Later, Rivas’s caseworker noticed that Rivas was walking oddly and sat down gingerly. 60.RR.43. Rivas admitted that Reed had, the prior evening, hit her, called her vulgar names, and anally raped her. 60.RR.44, 63–65.

    The samples from Rivas’s rape kit provided the link to Stites’s murder. 60.RR.89–90.

    Shortly thereafter, and about six months before Stites’s murder, Reed raped Vivian Harbottle underneath a train trestle as she was walking home. 59.RR.87–92. When she pleaded for her life for the sake of her children, Reed laughed at her. 59.RR.94.

    The foreign DNA from Harbottle’s rape kit was compared to Reed; he could not be excluded, and only one person in 5.5 billion would be expected to have the same foreign DNA profile. 59.RR.95, 113–14; 61.RR.26.

    Finally, and about six months after Stites’s murder, Reed convinced nineteen-year-old Linda Schlueter to give him a ride home at about 3:30 a.m. 61.RR.10, 37–47. Reed led her to a remote area and then attacked her. 61.RR.47–58. After a prolonged struggle, Schlueter asked Reed what he wanted and Reed responded, “I want a blow job.” 61.RR.60. When Schlueter told Reed that “you will have to kill me before you get anything,” Reed stated “I guess I’ll have to kill you then.” 61.RR.60.

    Before Schlueter could be raped, a car drove by and Reed fled. 61.RR.62–64.
    ======

    Rodney Reed: Someone, actually, looks at the evidence
    an interview with Linda Schlueter, KVUE News, ABC (Austin)

    Texas Crime Files podcast episode 2: How Rodney Reed became a suspect
    https://www.kvue.com/article/syndication/podcasts/texas-crime-files-podcast-episode-2-how-rodney-reed-became-a-suspect/269-a361742c-3a53-46d5-a965-f6c4dd2285f0

    ======
    more here:

    Death Row, “Exonerations”, Media & Intentional Fraud
    https://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2019/06/death-row-exonerations-intentional-fraud.html

  • Jim Jones

    This is why previous criminal history is supposed to be suppressed at trial. Otherwise it would prejudice the jury.

    Of course the US now abandons this principle regularly. Because convicting people for crimes they committed is too hard.

    But her fiance has the actual criminal conviction and confessed the crime.

  • Dudley Sharp

    Such is part of the pre trial hearings on what can and cannot be brought up in trial and is decided by the judge. It is not a matter of abandonment, but judicial decision, specifically, guided by the law.

  • Dudley Sharp

    Overwhelmingly it is the crime which determines the outcome.

    Race

    Are you aware that white murderers are twice a s likely to be executed as are black murderers and are executed at a rate 41% higher than for black death ow inmates?

    Class

    99.8% of poor murderers escape execution. It appears. totally, upon ones definitions of poor and rich, as to whether rich murderers, a tiny number and percentage of capital murderers, are more or less likely than 0.2% to be executed, as opposed to poor murderers, the vast number and percentage of capital murderers.

  • Dudley Sharp

    Well no.

    See Race

    The Death Penalty: Fair and Just
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/12/is-death-peanalty-fairjust.html

  • Jim Jones

    Also known as perverting the course of justice. Example: Lana Clarkson and Phil Spector.

  • Bernard T. Windwillow

    If punishment is the goal, then life imprisonment is infinitely more onerous than a gently sedated end of life. Death only appeases the vengeance motivated by loss. The State of Texas does not have my permission to murder this man for revenge in my name. Life imprisonment allows for new evidence and corrections to evidence presented at trial. What is the rush to judgement?