New hearing set in Rodney Reed case

Rodney Reed (KXAN Photo)
Rodney Reed (KXAN Photo)

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN ) – Death row inmate Rodney Reed, convicted in the 1996 sex assault and murder of Stacey Stites, has a new mid-October hearing set in Bastrop County District Court. The defense will present new evidence that it says identifies the killer as Jimmy Fennell, the victim’s fiance.

Reed has maintained his innocence since his 1997 conviction. Over the past two decades, Reed’s defense has presented a raft of new evidence, poking holes in the medical examiner’s forensic conclusions and uncovering new witnesses that say they knew about a clandestine relationship between Reed and Stites.

In the upcoming writ of habeas corpus hearing in October, Reed’s attorneys will present evidence that Fennell gave conflicting statements to police about his whereabouts the night Stites was killed and dumped half-clothed along a rural Bastrop County road. In May, the Court of Criminal Appeals remanded that aspect of Reed’s habeas application back to the trial court for further factual development, findings of fact and conclusions of law, according to court records.

“The Court’s decision reflects a mountain of exculpatory evidence that has come to light over the nineteen years since Mr. Reed’s trial,” said Reed’s attorney Bryce Benjet in a written statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to present this important new evidence at the hearing in October, and will continue to pursue every lead in our search for the truth in this matter.”

Fennell, a former Giddings and Georgetown police officer, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for kidnapping and improper sexual act with a person in custody. A woman under his arrest accused him of rape in 2007. Fennell took a plea deal in 2008 and is set to be released in September of 2018, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.

Reed’s attorneys say Fennell gave conflicting accounts about his actions the night his fiancé was strangled with a belt. Fennell told police he was at home the night of April 22, 1996, and the following morning. Fennell said he had been at home and fell asleep before Stites left early in the morning to drive from Giddings to an H-E-B grocery store in Bastrop, according to court records. She never arrived for her morning shift.

Reed’s defense team says it has evidence that Fennell told a different story to Bastrop Sheriff’s Office Deputy Curtis Davis. In a recorded interview, Davis said he was with Fennell the morning Stites disappeared, after it was reported, and Fennell said he had been out the night before drinking and came home late. Fennell’s statement to Davis could cast doubt on his alibi.

Reed’s hearings will take place from Oct. 10-13.

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