Updated: Monday, November 13, 2017 10:26 am EST
Larry Ray Swearingen was scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Thursday, November 16, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. His execution has been stayed. Forty-six-year-old Larry is convicted of the kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter on December 8, 1998, in Montgomery County, Texas. Larry has spent the last 17 years of his life on Texas’ death row.
Larry's execution has been stayed due to an error by the Montgomery County District Clerk's Office, who sent the execution paperwork to the wrong location. Due to this error, a new execution date will have to be requested. Additionally, new DNA testing has been approved in Larry's case, after being agreed upon by both sides. Among the items that will likely be tested is a rape kit, the ligature used to strangle the victim, finger nail scrapings, and hair. Previous attempts to have these items tested were eventually overturned by higher courts, who ruled that the results could, in no way, overcome the mountain of evidence against Larry.
Larry was born in Montgomery County, Texas on May 21, 1971. He attended school through the 11th grade. Larry worked as an electrician/mechanic until his arrest. Larry had one prior conviction for burglary of a building, for which he received probation. After his arrest for murder, the probation was revoked and he was given a two-year sentence.
Melissa Trotter was a student at Montgomery College in Conroe, Texas. She met Swearingen in the beginning of December 1998. On December 8, 1998, Melissa and Swearingen were observed together in the library. They were seen leaving the campus together by her biology professor, who later identified the man with Melissa as Swearingen. After leaving campus that day, Melissa was never seen or heard from again. On January 2, 1999, her partially nude body was found by two hunters in the Sam Houston National Forest.
On December 11, 1998, prior to Melissa’s body being discovered, Swearingen was arrested for unrelated outstanding warrants. After Melissa’s body was discovered, he quickly became the police’s prime suspect. Police searched the trailer in which Swearingen lived with his wife. Inside, police discovered a pack of cigarettes, the same brand that Melissa smoked, and a lighter that was similar to the one Melissa had used. Neither Swearingen nor his wife smoked.
Melissa had been strangled using a small piece of hosiery, which had been cut from a pair of nylons. Police did not find a pair nylons when searching the trailer, however, Swearingen’s landlord found the missing hosiery in a bag of trash while he was cleaning the trailer in preparation for new tenants. The found hosiery’s cut marks, matched the cut piece of hosiery used to kill Melissa.
Swearingen has maintained his innocence since being arrested for murder, alleging he was in jail at the time of her death. Police searched Sam Houston National Forest several times, never finding Melissa’s body. Swearingen maintains that Melissa’s body must have been placed there after police searched the area and while he was in jail.
Larry Swearingen has received seven previous execution dates. Many of his execution dates have been stayed to allow further DNA testing, however, higher courts overturn the ruling ordering the tests. Some evidence in the case, including a rape kit, has never been tested. Larry’s attorneys have already announced that they plan to appeal the execution date and again request additional DNA testing.
Death row inmate Anthony Shore (read more here) has alleged that Larry asked Anthony to confess to the murder of Melissa Trotter. Allegedly, in an attempt to escape punishment, Larry convinced Anthony to confess to Melissa's murder. As part of the conspiracy, Larry had given Anthony numerous documents about the murder, including a hand-drawn map of where the body was located and where Larry had hidden physical evidence of the crime. Anthony, who was scheduled to be executed on October 18, 2017, has had his execution stayed to allow time for the allegations to be fully investigated. Larry and his attorneys deny any such conspiracy. For the past week, divers have searched part of a lake indicated on the map, in an attempt to find new evidence. They were unsuccessful, however, officials noted that the evidence could have been buried under the sand and silt at the bottom of the lake or it could have eroded due to the significant amount of time it had spent in the water. Additionally, storms and currents could have carried the evidence to a new part of the lake.
Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Melissa Trotter. Please pray for strength for the family of Larry. Please pray that if Larry is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason that evidence will be presented prior to the execution. Please pray that Larry may come to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.