AUSTIN (KXAN) — With his November execution date fast approaching, Rodney Reed’s family is doing all it can to try to stop it.
On Tuesday, one day before “Wrongful Conviction Day,” Reed’s family joined students with the University of Texas’ Amnesty International chapter. They want people to write letters to the Governor and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Reed’s behalf.
Reed — and the Innocence Project, which recently filed a U.S. Supreme Court petition to stall the execution — say more DNA testing will prove he did not kill 19-year-old Stacey Stites in 1996. Stites, a bride-to-be who worked at H-E-B, was found dumped on the side of a rural road north of Bastrop after a search that began when she didn’t show up for work that morning.
While Reed was not looked into initially, he became a suspect when investigators ran his DNA as part of a separate alleged sexual assault case that was later dropped, the Reed defense says.
BACKGROUND: Murder in the Lost Pines: The Rodney Reed Case
Authorities said Reed’s DNA matched evidence found in the Stites case, and he was arrested and charged with capital murder in 1997.
Reed claims he had a secret and consensual relationship with Stites, which explains the DNA match. Reed’s legal team has continuously pointed the finger at Stites’ then-fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, as the killer. Investigators considered Fennell a suspect, prior to Reed’s DNA match.
Fennell was later accused of raping a woman in his custody while he was a Georgetown Police Office in 2007. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges, served 10 years in prison and was released in 2018.
Reed’s family has been fighting for a new trial for years, and he has tried to appeal the case at least eight times over two decades. He filed a lawsuit in federal district court last month against the state for repeatedly denying requests for DNA testing.
Reed’s attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last week to overturn a lower court’s decision not to grant him a new hearing.