Before a stay was granted last week,death row inmate Rodney Reed was scheduled to be executed Thursday, March 5 for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites.
It isn't the first time Reed has counted down his remaining days, and it may not be the last. In an interview that lasted about an hour with TWC News, Reed discussed everything from the original police investigation to what has kept his hope alive for the past 18 years.
"I really don't try to entertain death because once you get consumed with something like that, it takes away from you. I just don't try to entertain anything like that,” he said. "For the time being everyone has a date, and I've been here almost, right at 18 years. I'm kind of numb to how to ride this roller coaster."
Reed's roller coaster launched in 1996 when the body of 19-year-old Stacey Stites was found on the side of the road in Bastrop. Reed was having an affair with Stites, who was engaged to former cop Jimmy Fennell Jr. at the time. After her fiancé was dismissed as a suspect, investigators turned to Reed.
Then, in 1998, a Bastrop jury found Reed guilty of Stites' murder.
"It was a numb feeling, it was just unreal,” Reed said. “It was unreal."
Reed's semen was found in Stites' body, and that was what the state used to convict him. He admits he lied about not knowing Stites when questioned by police, but says he was scared of what would happen if Fennell found out.
"She told me that if Jimmy found out that he would kill her, and I figured it was a figure of speech,” Reed said. “Like when you're kids and you come home late and 'My mom will kill me,' or something like that. I thought it was just a figure of speech, and then she's dead."
Along with Stites' body, investigators found a belt that is believed to be the murder weapon. The untested DNA that could be on the belt may be the key to Reed's exoneration. Reed says he's hopeful that there will be a DNA evidence hearing, and that this time around, that evidence will work out in his favor.
"Because of the way the system is structured, you have to prove the alternative suspect," Reed said. "I'm very optimistic that if the courts are willing to acknowledge this evidence that we have, because this evidence is not made up. If they're willing to acknowledge it, I feel like they will give me the better judgment on this."
Reed said he had no idea the death penalty even existed until he learned that's what the prosecution was seeking in his case. Eighteen years later, Reed tries not to entertain the possibility that his life could be cut short on death row. He says his family has been his rock for the past 18 years and they're the ones that have motivated him to continue to fight to prove his innocence.
TWC News reached out to Fennell for an interview, but our request was denied. The former Georgetown police officer is in the middle of a 10-year prison sentence for raping a woman who was in his custody.