The Worst Miscarriage of Justice- Inside The Rodney Reed Case
This week we had planned on talking more about the beginnings of Gypsy Rose & Dee Dee Blanchard’s life but a case with imminent need has come to us.
Rodney Reed has been on death row for 22.5 years for the murder of his lover, Stacey Stites, a murder he says he did NOT commit. Reed was set to be executed on Nov. 20, 2019, but thankfully upon writing this article, Mr. Reed has now been granted a stay of execution.
Reed has exhausted 9 appeals and had 2 prior stays of execution that did not result in being granted a new trial. Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet, from the Innocence Project claims a jury or judge has never heard all the evidence.
Stacey Stites was a 19-year-old woman from Bastrop, Tx. She was engaged to a police officer, Jimmy Fennell but as we see in most true-crime cases not everything is as it seems. Stacey confided in work friend, Alicia, that she wasn’t excited about her upcoming wedding and in fact, she’d been sleeping with a black man named Rodney. Which during the time period & it happening in a small southern town, cheating girlfriend or not, that relationship was going to be problematic. Stacey went on to tell Alicia that she was worried about what Jimmy would do if he found out. He had said during a meeting with their life insurance broker, “If I catch you cheating on me I’ll kill you and nobody will know I did it.”
This was just weeks before Stacey’s body was discovered on the side of a secluded country road. According to the prosecution Stacey left for work at HEB, a local grocery chain, where she worked with Alicia around 3 am on April 23. 1996 but she never arrived. Prosecution suspects that along the 35 mile route from her home to her work that she encountered Reed on foot, he somehow forced his way (as they do not buy his claims of an ongoing relationship) into the vehicle, lured her to secluded area, raped her, strangled her, & left her dead body laying ina field making time of death around 3:45 a.m.
The defense team alleges medically & scientifically this is impossible. Retired NYPD, Detective Kevin Gannon, and Victimologits, Lee Gilbertson, paint a vastly different scenario. They believe that Jimmy Fennell is more likely the person who murdered Stacey. Jimmy, a former police officer, was later found guilty of imprisoning a woman in the back of his police vehicle & raping her after responding to a domestic violence call. Jimmy served 10 years for the crimes and has recently been released.
Kevin & Lee place Stacey’s death closer to between 10 pm and 12 am the night before. Jimmy admits he spent the evening with Stacey and went to bed around eleven. But the defense team for Reed believes Stacey met her demise during that time in her own bathroom. They allege that Jimmy attacked her from behind, wrapped a belt around her neck & both strangled & drowned her. He then put her body in his truck, drove her to the secluded area, staged the crime scene & abandoned his truck a few miles away in a local high school parking lot.
Which makes you wonder how then did Jimmy make it back home? The crime scene itself may give these answers. Found next to Stacey’s body were two beer cans. The DNA tested on them was linked to one of Jimmy’s brothers in blue, Ed Samela. Ed’s DNA could not be excluded while Rodney’s absolutely was excluded.
Ed, the original lead investigator on the case, turned up dead months later by a suspected suicide but his family does not believe he committed suicide. That’s not the only suspicious death surrounding this case. A private investigator, Joe Bryant, conducting an unauthorized investigation into Stacey’s murder was gunned down supposedly by a migrant Mexican farmworker. Again not what people believe to be true.
Jimmy’s friend & neighbor and also another police officer, David Hall, also could not be excluded from the DNA testing on the beer cans. DNA plays a big part in this case. The only evidence that prosecutors had to link Rodney to the crime was 3 sperm heads found inside Stacey’s body. There are no eyewitnesses & Rodney even has an alibi for the entire time that prosecution has for the time of death.
Rodney was hanging out in an empty parking lot next to his mom’s house with a work friend, and cousin, along with several other people until 4:45 am. His cousin left at that time to grab a quick nap and shower before returning at 6:00 am & Rodney & he punched a time clock between 7 am & 5 pm.
Rodney says the biggest mistake he made was a year after Stacey’s murder. The police arrived at Rodney’s mother, Sharon’s, house looking for Rodney regarding a drug-related case. Rodney freely came to the police station to speak with them. After a day of questioning him a detective slams down a picture of Stacey & asks Rodney if he knew her. Rodney feeling misled by the police & knowing Stacey had been engaged to a police officer he lied and said he didn’t know her. Police used that statement & the 3 sperm heads found inside Stacey’s body as the entire basis for his guilt.
The case is indicative of the small-town mentality in the south. A white woman brutally raped & murdered must be the handy work of the somewhat less than upstanding black man & certainly not the white cop fiance with a proven record of extreme violence towards women. With almost no evidence & distorted facts & timelines, a man has been convicted to death.
Members of Stacey’s own family believe that Rodney is innocent. The Innocence Project, members of Rodney & Stacey’s family urge you to contact Governor Abbot on Rodney’s behalf.
I am a very big advocate for the death penalty BUT before executing a man there should absolutely not be a shred of doubt. I don’t know who killed Stacey Stites but I can say this, in the case of Rodney Reed there’s so much doubt I wouldn’t sentence a roach crawling across his shoe to death. To hear more about this case please check out our Youtube channel & listen to our podcast The Good Wives Guide to True Crime on any of your favorite podcast platforms. We will cover this case and hopefully, the new trial that Reed has been granted in February.