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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

[TX] Fiance' of murdered Stacy Stites - Ex-Sgt. Fennell - pleads guilty on other charges

Previous entries:
[TX] Who chopped off the fingernails of Sgt. Fennell's slain fiance'?
[TX] Police Sgt .Fennell fired for refusing to come answer questions

Website: http://www.staceystites.com

Former Georgetown officer pleads guilty in assault case
Houston Chronicle
May 21, 2008
[Excerpts] A former Georgetown police officer accused of raping a drunk woman while on duty in October has pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and one count of improper sexual activity with a person in custody. Jimmy Lewis Fennell Jr., 35, entered the plea Tuesday... The charges against Fennell brought renewed attention to the 1996 death of Fennell's fiancee. He was a suspect in the 1996 strangling of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County until investigators ruled him out. At the time, he was a Giddings police officer... Fennell originally was charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, improper sexual activity with a person in custody and official oppression — all of which could have exceeded two 99-year terms if convicted by a jury... [Full article here]

Central Texas man on death row maintains innocence as many believe his trial was unfair The Dallas Morning News
By EMILY RAMSHAW eramshaw@dallasnews.com
May 6, 2008
[Excerpts] Jurors sentenced Rodney Reed to death after DNA evidence showed he'd had sex with 19-year-old Stacy Stites, found strangled in the brush off a remote country road... But a decade since Mr. Reed, who is black, first proclaimed his innocence, the case that rocked the small Central Texas town of Bastrop remains on appeal – amplified by an online movement to free Mr. Reed and continued scrutiny of Texas' use of the death penalty in racially charged cases... Mr. Fennell, who was set to marry Ms. Stites in three weeks, was initially a suspect – but apparently not a serious one. The pickup was returned to him promptly after the murder, defense attorneys say, before forensic testing on it was finished. Mr. Fennell sold the truck a day later. And investigators never got a search warrant for the apartment Mr. Fennell – then a Giddings police officer – and Ms. Stites shared, even though it was the last place she'd been seen alive... [Full article here]

8 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 21, 2008

    Former Georgetown officer pleads guilty in assault case
    Houston Chronicle
    May 21, 2008, 2:23PM

    GEORGETOWN, Texas — A former Georgetown police officer accused of raping a drunk woman while on duty in October has pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and one count of improper sexual activity with a person in custody.

    Jimmy Lewis Fennell Jr., 35, entered the plea Tuesday. Under the plea deal, prosecutors and Fennell's attorney, Bob Phillips, asked for two years in state jail for the charge of improper sexual activity with a person in custody, and 10 years of probation for the kidnapping charge.

    Fennell would surrender his peace officer's license but would not have to register as a sex offender under the deal.

    Fennell could not be reached for comment. His attorney said only Fennel could say why he accepted the plea deal but "I imagine avoiding the risk of consecutive life sentences was high on the list."

    Sentencing for Fennell was set for June 24 in District Judge Burt Carnes' court. The judge can accept the deal or change it. If Carnes changes the deal and Fennell doesn't agree, the case could go to trial.

    The charges against Fennell brought renewed attention to the 1996 death of Fennell's fiancee. He was a suspect in the 1996 strangling of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County until investigators ruled him out. At the time, he was a Giddings police officer.

    Stites' slaying led to the 1998 conviction of Rodney Reed, who is on death row. At the March hearing, Reed's attorneys argued the actual killer was Fennell.

    Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet said Fennell's plea agreement Tuesday is relevant to his client's appeals.

    "This confirms everything we have been saying, and now Jimmy Fennell has acknowledged his abuse as a police officer," Benjet told the Austin American Statesman for its Wednesday editions. He said he plans on using Fennell's guilty plea for another appeal.

    Phillips, Fennell's attorney, did not seem worried.

    "That's the same Rodney Reed who originally denied even knowing the dead girl until being confronted with the fact that his semen was inside her vaginal vault," Phillips said. "Then his statement was 'Oh, that Stacy Stites, that's the one I was having an affair with.

    "So is a convicted killer and notorious liar who is trying to avoid the death penalty at any cost, including straining the credulity of any thinking person, to be believed?"

    Officials say that last fall, Fennell and another officer responded to a domestic disturbance call in which a woman and her boyfriend were fighting. Fennell was accused of driving the intoxicated woman from her home to a secluded area, asking her to dance for him and then sexually assaulting her, according to court documents.

    Fennell was fired Dec. 20. On Jan. 3, he was put back on paid administrative leave. He resigned from the department Jan. 10.

    Fennell originally was charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, improper sexual activity with a person in custody and official oppression — all of which could have exceeded two 99-year terms if convicted by a jury.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/5794676.html



    Central Texas man on death row maintains innocence as many believe his trial was unfair
    The Dallas Morning News
    By EMILY RAMSHAW eramshaw@dallasnews.com
    May 6, 2008

    AUSTIN – Jurors sentenced Rodney Reed to death after DNA evidence showed he'd had sex with 19-year-old Stacy Stites, found strangled in the brush off a remote country road.
    Rodney Reed

    But a decade since Mr. Reed, who is black, first proclaimed his innocence, the case that rocked the small Central Texas town of Bastrop remains on appeal – amplified by an online movement to free Mr. Reed and continued scrutiny of Texas' use of the death penalty in racially charged cases.

    While Mr. Reed sits on death row, his attorneys are standing by his theory: that he was having a secret, interracial affair with Ms. Stites and that Ms. Stites' police officer fiancé found out and killed her.

    And they're arguing that Mr. Reed's trial was botched from the get-go – from sloppy police work and lack of legal counsel to a dearth of evidence linking Mr. Reed to the murder. No blacks were chosen for Mr. Reed's jury.
    Stacey Stites

    "From all outward appearances, there is certainly tremendous doubt about Rodney's guilt," said Jim Marcus, a University of Texas law professor who has represented death row clients at the state and federal level but is not involved in Mr. Reed's defense. "At the very least, there is no question vital information that should've been before the jury was not."

    Mr. Reed's attorneys know they face an uphill battle. Courts maintained his conviction before, and state prosecutors say nothing has changed.

    "They've got the right man," said Debra Oliver, Ms. Stites' sister. "Every time we go through this, we have to relive her murder. I absolutely believe Rodney Reed is the man who did this." Mr. Reed declined to be interviewed for this story.

    Not found with pickup

    Investigators started searching for Ms. Stites on the morning of April 23, 1996, after she failed to show up for an early shift at the Bastrop H-E-B grocery. The red pickup her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell Jr., said she'd taken to work was recovered at the high school, but Ms. Stites' body was found in a remote, wooded area. She was half dressed and appeared to have been strangled with her own belt.
    Also Online

    Video: Watch a trailer for a documentary on the Rodney Reed case.

    Mr. Fennell, who was set to marry Ms. Stites in three weeks, was initially a suspect – but apparently not a serious one. The pickup was returned to him promptly after the murder, defense attorneys say, before forensic testing on it was finished. Mr. Fennell sold the truck a day later. And investigators never got a search warrant for the apartment Mr. Fennell – then a Giddings police officer – and Ms. Stites shared, even though it was the last place she'd been seen alive.

    A year after the murder, investigators matched the semen found in Ms. Stites' body to Mr. Reed, then 29, whose DNA was already on file over a previous sexual assault charge. Prosecutors charged him with Ms. Stites' murder, alleging he'd stopped Ms. Stites on her way to work, raped, strangled and sodomized her, then dumped her body before leaving the truck at the high school.

    Mr. Reed had been accused of rape several times in the past – though the one time he was charged and tried, he was acquitted. The other accusers were women he knew or had dated in the past.

    Defense attorneys called the state's case an unlikely stretch. None of Mr. Reed's hair or footprints were found on or near Ms. Stites' body. There was no indication of how Mr. Reed, allegedly on foot and without a weapon, had stopped Ms. Stites in her car. A search of the red pickup found only Mr. Fennell's and Ms. Stites' fingerprints, though Mr. Reed was the one who had allegedly abandoned the car at the high school.

    "The state's theory that whoever had sex with [Ms. Stites] killed her was flawed from the very beginning," said Reed attorney Morris Overstreet, who went before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this month to request a new trial.

    Prosecutors believed the semen would be enough for a Bastrop County jury. It was – along with the fact that Mr. Reed's own story changed.

    At the time he was questioned about Ms. Stites, Mr. Reed was in jail for an unrelated cocaine charge, and he denied knowing her. When the DNA evidence against him was revealed, he told investigators that he'd been having an affair with Ms. Stites and that he'd had sex with her the day before the murder. He said they kept it a secret because of Mr. Fennell's position with the police department and because they feared racial discrimination over the relationship in their small town.

    At Mr. Reed's trial, a state expert testified that the semen collected by investigators had to have been planted in Ms. Stites' body that morning – not the night before. Since the trial, forensics specialists retained by the defense have argued that's not necessarily the case.

    Relationship witnesses

    The purported relationship was never fully fleshed out in his trial. Mr. Reed's camp says it's because his original attorneys didn't do their job; they say they've now got affidavits from nine witnesses who can vouch for the relationship.

    "They railroaded my son," said Mr. Reed's mother, Sandra. "I knew Stacy. She came to our house. I know my son is innocent."

    But prosecutors say the affair theory is outlandish. They say the witnesses, many of whom are family members or have criminal records, aren't trustworthy and have changed their stories.

    "There is no credible evidence the relationship ever existed, no reliable witness testimony," said Assistant Attorney General Tina Miranda. "To claim something has been excluded is absolutely ridiculous."

    Mr. Reed's attorneys also note that the trial never touched on beer cans found near Ms. Stites' body. Repeated DNA tests on saliva found on the cans ruled out Mr. Reed. But they couldn't rule out another local police officer – a close friend and neighbor of Mr. Fennell's.

    Mr. Reed's attorneys say the beer cans never came up in court because prosecutors didn't turn the DNA report over to them before trial. State attorneys vehemently deny they withheld the report; Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott, said that in 2001, a court concluded that the state provided the lab reports to the defense attorney.

    The attorney general's office helped Bastrop County prosecutors with the trial.

    Ryan Polomski, a filmmaker whose graduate thesis on the Reed case evolved into an award-winning documentary, said there are enough questions about the trial to give pause.

    "Am I 100 percent sure Reed didn't do it? No," he said "But I am 100 percent sure he didn't get a fair trial."

    Now, two additional witnesses have also joined the defense roster. One woman has testified she saw Ms. Stites and Mr. Fennell arguing outside a convenience store hours after Mr. Reed was alleged to have killed her. Another, a Dallas-area police officer, was in a police academy class with Mr. Fennell and said she heard him say he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt if he ever found she had cheated on him.

    State attorneys call these claims far-fetched; they say that the convenience store witness didn't come forward until after Mr. Fennell arrested her for drunken driving and that no other police officers in Mr. Fennell's academy class recall hearing the belt comment.

    "My client has been long ago vindicated by a jury and various appellate courts of any involvement in the Stacy Stites killing," said Bob Phillips, Mr. Fennell's criminal defense attorney. The insinuation that Mr. Fennell was involved "would be laughable if it weren't so outrageously unfair."

    But recent charges against Mr. Fennell are adding fuel to the fire for those who believe he could've played a role in Ms. Stites' killing. Last year, he was indicted for allegedly kidnapping and raping a woman in his custody while on a domestic disturbance call for the Georgetown Police Department. Mr. Fennell has resigned from the department while he awaits trial.

    "I'm not going to try our case in the press," said Mr. Phillips. "My client feels innocent because he is innocent."

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/050608dntexreed.3b18127.html

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  2. Regarding the beer cans with the officer's DNA... couldn't they have been left in the truck from a previous time and possibly have been dragged out of the truck along with Miss Stites body after Reed murdered her? If this was the case than the only thing Fennell and the other two officer's are guilty of is drinking in Mr. Fennell's truck. Just a thought.

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  3. Fennell gets 10 years
    By Isadora Vail | Friday, September 26, 2008, 10:58 AM

    Former Georgetown Police Sgt. Jimmy Lewis Fennell Jr. showed little emotion this morning as state District Judge Burt Carnes sentenced him to 10 years behind bars.

    Fennell pleaded guilty in May to felony charges of kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody. The charges come from an Oct. 26 incident in which Fennell responded to a domestic disturbance call at a woman’s home, and according to court documents, he forced the woman to come with him in his patrol car, dance for him and have sex with him.

    Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said today despite what he calls a flawed investigation by the Georgetown Police Department, he was satisfied with the case.

    “I think this case shows that officers are not above the law in Williamson County and they do not get treated differently from other offenders,” Bradley said in a press conference after the sentencing.

    Bob Phillips, Fennell’s defense attorney, said his client chose not to say anything for the duration of the near year-long case because of a pending federal lawsuit against Fennell and the Georgetown Police Department.

    “My client made some horrible and inexcusable mistakes,” Phillips said during closing arguments, though he chose not to expand on what those mistakes were.

    Outside of the courtroom, Phillips added that he does not expect Fennell to appeal the judge’s decision since he pleaded guilty to the charges.

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  4. I was at the trial he is guilty I do wish they would have tried him for the 3 other sexual assualts especially the one he was on bond for but they got him for the capital murder. Stacey was a sweet and loving girl I could easily see her stopping for someone that acted like they needed help especially if she had seen them where she worked. What the article forgets to tell is that the semen was ejaculated in her body as she lay dying. That means it happend while she was being strangled not hours before.

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    Replies
    1. more truth !!!! I love it!!!!

      Delete
  5. I am so sorry to all who knew Stacy. This is beyond horrible or anything imaginable. I hope those who love her don't keep thinking about the horror. I know she wouldn't want that. It's painful for a stranger like me to think of... so must be so hard for her people. It changes our understanding of this world.

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  6. Did they give Reed a lie detector test? Fennell failed his, so I am curious what Reed's would show.

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  7. Facebook video: All In with Chris Hayes
    Chris Hayes visits Texas death row
    "Rodney Reed, convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites, is just weeks away from execution. He maintains his innocence and spoke with Chris about the possibility of being granted a stay. His full story will air on “All in with Chris Hayes” at 8pm next month."
    https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=446971582134539&set=vb.153005644864469

    ReplyDelete

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