The state of Texas will once again attempt to execute its fourth death row inmate on Wednesday.
Pending a federal block or Governor’s reprieve, Montgomery County’s only death row prisoner — Larry Ray Swearingen — will be put to death at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit for murdering a college student in Willis. This is the sixth time that Swearingen has been scheduled for execution over the past two decades.
Swearingen, 48, was convicted of the 1998 kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter of Willis, a student at what then was known as Montgomery College, near Conroe. Her body was found in January 1999 some 20 miles away in Sam Houston National Forest south of Huntsville, nearly a month after she was last seen leaving the school library.
According to prosecutors, Swearingen became angry that Trotter rejected his sexual advances. He strangled her with pantyhose, and left her body in the woods where she remained until about 25 days after the crime was committed.
Swearingen has maintained his innocence since being arrested for the murder, alleging he was in jail at the time of her death, which is debated. He maintains that Trotter’s body must have been placed in the national forest after police searched the area and while he was in jail. Swearingen has also questioned everything from autopsy results and entomology to cell phone forensics and an analysis of torn pantyhose.
A rally opposing his execution is scheduled Tuesday outside the courthouse in Montgomery County, and is expected to continue at the Huntsville Unit.
The condemned prisoner still has a few chances to avoid the death chamber. In recent days, his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection practices, as well as a pair of false testimony claims after the state crime lab retracted trial testimony about blood found under the slain woman’s fingernails.
The state of Texas has executed three men in 2019, after a scheduled execution was halted last week from a late stay of a Houston-area man with concerns that he might be too intellectually disabled to execute.
There are currently 10 execution dates on the calendar throughout the rest of 2019.