BASTROP COUNTY, Texas— For the past 21 years, Rodney Reed has been on death row for the murder of Bastrop County woman, Stacey Stites. Reed has maintained his innocence and his lawyers say further DNA testing and testimony from new witnesses could prove Reed did not commit the crime. Stites’ immediate family has held firm to the belief that Reed is guilty.
After two decades of appeals, Reed was scheduled to be executed on November 20, 2019. Reed’s family, a host of celebrities, and several Texas lawmakers urged Gov. Greg Abbott to halt the execution to allow time for examining evidence that raises doubt on Reed’s guilt.
On November 15, 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Rodney Reed a stay of execution.
April 23, 1996: Stacy Stites is found dead
Nineteen-year-old Stacey Stites failed to show up for work at an H-E-B grocery store in Bastrop on the morning of April 23, 1996. Later that day, she is found strangled to death on the side of a road in Bastrop County. Investigators concluded that Stites had been raped. Stites’ fiancé. Jimmy Fennell, a Giddings police officer at the time, was the initial suspect. But DNA evidence did not match Fennell’s profile and the case went cold for a year. Fennell would later serve a 10-year prison sentence for raping a woman in his custody while he was a Georgetown police officer.
1997: Reed is charged with the murder of Stites
Rodney Reed, who initially denied knowing Stites, was arrested after DNA tests showed that it was his sperm found on the victim. Police had access to Reed’s DNA from a separate sexual assault investigation he was involved in. Reed said he and Stites were having a secret affair and had sex the day before her murder. Defense lawyers say witnesses corroborated that there was an affair. Reed’s attorneys also claim that Stites’ fiancé, Fennell, most likely killed Stites after learning of the affair.
May 29, 1998: Reed sentenced to death
Reed is sentenced to death after being convicted of capital murder.
December 6, 2000: First appeal denied
After an appeal from Reed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Reed’s conviction.
October 19, 2005: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sends case back to trial court
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that evidence of prosecutorial misconduct presented by Reed's lawyers met the legal requirements to send the case back to the trial court for further review. A Bastrop County district court judge concluded that there was no credible evidence that the state was in the wrong.
December 17, 2008: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirms Reed’s conviction
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Reed’s attorneys failed to prove that prosecutors suppressed evidence in Reed’s 1998 trial.
November 2014: Execution date set
A judge orders Reed to be executed on March 5, 2015.
February 12, 2015: Attorneys Ask for Delay in Rodney Reed Execution
Reed’s attorneys said the medical examiner who performed the first autopsy on Stites questions his original testimony. The attorneys filed the request based on laws passed after Williamson County man Michael Morton was cleared of killing his wife. That law allows attorneys to bring the case back to court if they find new evidence that can overturn the conviction.
February 24, 2015: 10 Days Away From Execution, Reed Family Celebrates Another Chance
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a stay, halting the March 5, 2015 execution. The court issued the stay to allow for testing of crime scene evidence.
April 12, 2017: Death Row Inmate Rodney Reed Loses DNA Appeal
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refuses DNA testing of additional evidence in the case. They said Reed’s attorneys were intending to “unreasonably delay” his execution.
June 25, 2018: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Reed’s Case
U.S. Supreme Court declines to review the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that refused DNA testing of additional evidence in the case.
June 26, 2019: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Denies Rodney Reed Appeal
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Reed's appeal that argued evidence used to convict him in the murder of Stacey Stites was false. In the appeal, Reed claims that the state presented "misleading and scientifically invalid expert testimony" and did not disclose new evidence, which "violated his right to due process."
July 26, 2019: Execution date is set
At the request of prosecutors, a state judge ordered that Reed be executed on November 20, 2019.
October 5, 2019: Witnesses Come Forward, Claim Rodney Reed is Innocent
Attorneys for Reed asked that his upcoming execution date be canceled based on new evidence. Two witnesses, who knew Stites’ fiancé, reportedly have information that supports Reed's innocence. Based on the affidavits, an insurance salesperson said the victim’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, threatened to kill Stites while applying for life insurance.
October 19, 2019: Kim Kardashian West Advocates for Texas Death Row Inmate Rodney Reed
Reality star Kim Kardashian West takes to Twitter to ask Gov. Abbott to stop Reed’s execution. Soon after, several more celebrities take to social media and television to advocate for Reed.
A growing, bipartisan group of state lawmakers ask Gov. Greg Abbott to halt Reed’s execution. More than two dozen Democrats and Republicans who are members of the House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus sent the governor a letter. They say more time is needed to examine "compelling" evidence that raises doubt about Reed's guilt.
November 15, 2019: Texas Court of Appeals Issues Stay of Execution
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Rodney Reed an indefinite stay of execution, meaning he no longer has an execution date. The appeals court returned the case to the trial court in Bastrop County so it can review Reed's claims that he is innocent. The stay of execution came just hours after the Texas’ parole board unanimously recommended a 120-day reprieve for Reed.