Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?
A Texas man was put to death yesterday for the December 1998 abduction, rape and murder of 19-year-old college student, Melissa Trotter. He was the 12th inmate put to death this year in the U.S. and the fourth in Texas. He maintained his innocence up until the very end. So did Texas just execute an innocent man? Not hardly. Larry Swearingen had a long history of violence and depravity. During his trial women who had a past relationship with him testified to the extent of his volatile actions. One woman testified that he abducted her, tied her to a tree and raped her. His previous fiancé testified that he abducted her and raped and assaulted her as well. Melissa Trotter was last seen leaving her community college in Conroe, and her body was found 25 days later in a forest near Huntsville. As investigators search for clues they find the name Larry and a phone number in her room which did in fact turn out to be his name and number. They also learn that Melissa was seen speaking with a man at a marina driving a red dually truck with damage to the back end. Larry Swearingen drove a red dually truck with back end damage. Melissa had been found strangled by the leg off a pair of pantyhose that was tied around her neck. A pair of pantyhose missing one leg was found at his residence. Carpet fibers were found on Melissa and her hair was found in his truck. A letter was sent to Larry in prison written in Spanish. The letter was from a woman claiming that her boyfriend was the real killer of Melissa Trotter. A search of Larry’s cell finds an English to Spanish dictionary, notes with words in English and Spanish and eventually an inmate admits to writing the letter for Larry. Swearingen even went so far as to try and convince an inmate to take the blame for the crime.
The main contention in the case came from questions concerning the length of time Melissa’s body was in the woods, DNA evidence found under her nails and the pantyhose found at his residence. The DNA evidence found under Melissa’s nails was not Swearingen’s. Experts claimed Trotters body was in the woods for 25 days but through Swearingen’s own research her body couldn’t have been in the woods longer than 2 weeks, research that later would prove, some say, valid. While in prison executions dates were set, stayed, postponed and reset. His lawyers fought for years to keep him from execution. Swearingen went so far as to convince convicted serial killer, Anthony Shore, to take the blame for the killing in an elaborate plan that was eventually found to be just a hoax. When questioned, Anthony Shore admits that Swearingen approached him with the plan, with (as he says) tears in his eyes begging him to help. Shore says he believed Swearingen and thought this was an opportunity for him, as a man who took so many innocent lives, to save the life of another man that he believed was innocent. Regardless of whether you believe he was innocent or guilty, time ran out for Larry Swearingen Wednessday, August 21st, 2019.
Texas has ten more execution scheduled for this year.