BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — In the last hours leading up to a hearing that could determine whether Rodney Reed gets a new trial, a group in Bastrop plans to pray all night for his case.
The prayer vigil began at 8 p.m. Sunday and will go until 8 a.m. Monday. Faith leaders, family members and other Reed supporters are gathering inside the Kerr community center.
Reed, accused of killing then 19-year-old Stacey Stites back in 1996, has maintained his innocence, despite a conviction that came a year later.
Stites was a soon-to-be bride whose body was found dumped on the side of a rural road north of Bastrop when she didn’t show up for work at HEB one morning.
Eyes turned to Reed when investigators ran his DNA as part of a separate sexual assault case that his defense said was later dropped, but his DNA was found to match evidence in Stites case. Reed has claimed he had a secret, consensual relationship with Stites, and his legal team blamed Stites’ fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell. Fennell was the last to see her alive at their apartment in Giddings nearby, however investigators ruled him out due to lack of evidence.
Reed’s case has since gained national news coverage and the attention of several celebrities who have come to his defense due to the twists and turns of the case.
Meanwhile, those who live in the Bastrop area are preparing for the national attention Reed’s case will once again bring to their small community over the next couple of weeks.
Several locals spoke to KXAN Sunday, saying they’ve spent the past 25 years hearing about and discussing the case.
“I’ve heard it around on the streets. They’ll come to the bars. I’ve heard it on the news. I’ve heard it, I mean, on Facebook– a little bit of everywhere,” said Ernest Benitez.
Most who spoke to KXAN Sunday said they want Reed to be granted a new trial.
“I’m happy and disappointed at the same time, because while it’s getting national attention, things are moving, but how slow the ball is moving comparatively to how many people are talking? What’s the disconnect?” asked Melody Brand. “Is it like, ‘Oh, it’s old. We’re going to sweep it?’ Or is it systemic racism? Or is it like, ‘Oh, that’s Bastrop.'”
“I want, the justice to be served, I mean, good or bad,” Benitez said. “I don’t want a good man to be did wrong or a bad man to be out free. I just want the right thing to happen.”
Once the vigil wraps up Monday morning, the prayer group will hold a convocation before Reed’s hearing begins. They’ll be asking the district court to motion for a re-trial for Reed.