'People Magazine Investigates' : Was the Wrong Man Sent to Death Row for the 1996 Murder of Texas Woman?

Monday's People Magazine Investigates episode explores the strangulation death of 19-year-old Stacey Stites and the conviction of Rodney Reed who has maintained his innocence since the beginning

rodney reed
Rodney Reed. Photo: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

On April 23, 1996, the body of a woman was found hidden in the bushes along a rural road in Bastrop, Texas. The investigation revealed she had been beaten, raped and strangled.

Stacey Stites, 19, was weeks away from marrying her fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a local police officer, when her body was discovered.

Prosecutors quickly turned their attention to Rodney Reed, then 28, after his DNA was recovered from Stites' body, according to the New York Times. After first denying any involvement, Reed admitted to having an affair with Stites, which is discussed on Monday night's episode of People Magazine Investigates: Is Rodney Reed Innocent?, airing at 10 ET/9 CT on Investigation Discovery and streaming on discovery+. (An exclusive clip is shown below.)

Prosecutors pursued the case despite Reed's claims that he was in a consensual relationship with Stites. In 1998, a Texas jury convicted Reed of capital murder and sentenced him to death row, where he maintained his innocence.

On Nov. 20, 2019, Reed was scheduled to be executed when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott grant Reed a 120-day reprieve, according to the Times. Later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals blocked Reed's execution and his execution has been suspended indefinitely.

At the time Reed heard the news, Kim Kardashian, one of many celebrity voices who had been advocating for the court to hear new evidence, was with the inmate, according to her Twitter.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/kim-kardashian/" data-inlink="true">Kim Kardashian</a>, rodney reed
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"Today, I had the honor of meeting #RodneyReed in person and the privilege of sitting with him when he got the news that the highest court in Texas had issued a stay of execution and remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration," she tweeted. "Words cannot describe the relief and hope that swept over the room in that moment."

Meanwhile, Reed's appeal hearing has been rescheduled for July 19, according to court records obtained by the Austin America-Statesman.

According to the Times, at least three people have come forward with new testimony regarding Stites' fiance, who has denied killing Stites. It is possible that Reed's defense team will subpoena Fennell.

People Magazine Investigates: Is Rodney Reed Innocent?, airs Monday at 10 ET/9 CT on Investigation Discovery and streams on discovery+.

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