Drug Testing Denied for Larry Swearingen

April 14, 2014

Larry Ray Swearingen was scheduled to be executed in February of 2013, but he was granted an indefinite stay of execution by then newly elected Judge Kelly Case of the 9th State District Court.  Forty-two-year-old Larry was scheduled to be executed for the kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, which occurred on December 8, 1998, in Montgomery County, Texas.  Larry has been on Texas' death row for the past 14 years and has had a total of four execution dates.

Larry is represented by lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York, who believe that the evidence shows Larry is innocent.  Melissa's body was remarkable well preserved for having been lying in the woods for several weeks.  Her internal organs were nearly perfectly preserved.  Decay of internal organs usually begins less than a week after death.  If Larry had killed her, she would have been in the woods for over three weeks.  Experts for the state argued that the cold weather could have preserved her body.

In February of 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Judge Kelly Case's ruling to allow additional DNA testing.  The Court of Criminal Appeals refuses to allow testing on several items because Larry cannot prove that biological matter is on the items.Scrapings from under Melissa's fingernails, which does contain biological matter, has also been rejected for additional testing because, even if the DNA of someone other than Larry is discovered, it would likely not be enough evidence to convince a jury at retrial of Larry's innocence.  At Larry's original trial, the jury was informed that blood flakes were found under Melissa's fingernails.  Those blood flakes belonged to an unidentified person, yet the jury still convicted Larry.


Larry was born in Montgomery County, Texas on May 21, 1971.  He completed school through the 11th grade.Until his arrest, Larry worked as an electrician/mechanic.  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prior conviction for burglary of a building, for which he received probation.After his arrest for murder, the probation was revoked and he was given a two-year sentence.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.


Swearingen had been arrested on December 11, 1998, for unrelated outstanding warrants.  He quickly became the police's prime suspect in Melissa's murder.  The trailer, which Swearingen lived in with his wife, was searched by the police.  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 of 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 first being arrested for Melissa's murder.  Swearingen alleges he was in jail at the time of Melissa's death.  Several times after Melissa went missing, police searched the Sam Houston National Forest, never finding her body.  Swearingen maintains that someone must have placed the body there after police searched the area and while he was in jail.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Melissa Trotter.  Please pray for strength for the family of Larry Swearingen.  Please pray that Larry will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.



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