TEXAS — Less than a month before Rodney Reed is set to be executed, a former inmate claims someone else confessed to the murder that sent Reed to prison amid a groundswell of celebrity support to stop the execution.
Reed has spent more than 21 years on death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. He was convicted in the assault, rape and strangulation of Stites, but has insisted that he is innocent as his execution is set for Nov. 20.
Former inmate Arthur Snow Jr. filed an affidavit in court earlier last week saying Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, confessed to the murder years ago.
Snow had been serving a sentence for forgery at a DeWitt County, Texas, prison in 2010 when he made a deal with Fennell, who sought protection from other inmates. Snow was then a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a neo-Nazi gang, according to the document.
In his affidavit, Snow said he was with Fennell in the prison yard when Fennell started bragging about killing Stites.
“Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a Black man behind his back,” Snow wrote.
“Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n- loving fiancé,’” he added. “My impression was the Jimmy felt safe, even proud, sharing this information with me because I was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
“I think Jimmy assumed that his confession would impress me and earn him credibility with the Aryan Brotherhood,” he added.
Snow said he learned about Reed’s case a few years ago when, jailed in Texas’ Hays County for a different offense, he saw a photo of Fennell along with an article about Reed in the newspaper.
Snow realized Reed was in prison for a murder that Fennell had confessed to him, Snow said in his affidavit.
While more recently in Hays County jail for another crime, Snow decided to come forward after he saw another article about the case, his affidavit said.
Fennell’s attorney, Robert Phillips, says Snow is a career criminal and his claim is not credible nor in the “world of reality.”
Fennell served time in prison for rape but has since been released, converted to Christianity and is helping people with drug addictions, Phillips said.
Police identified Fennell, a former police officer, as a suspect during their investigation into Stites’ killing, but he was never charged.
Last week, Reed’s attorneys filed an application for clemency as they attempt to block his execution. Snow is among a few witnesses who have emerged in recent weeks suggesting that Reed is innocent.
Bryce Benjet, a senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project and Reed’s lead counsel, said evidence clearly showed that Reed did not kill Stites.
“Mr. Reed’s execution is less than one month away, meaning Texas is frighteningly close to executing an innocent man,” Benjet said in a statement. Between the medical and scientific evidence, and multiple new, credible witnesses, the original case trial has been completely deconstructed and disproven.”
In October, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West urged Gov. Greg Abbott to intervene in the case and “do the right thing” for Reed.
Rihanna, LL Cool J, Gigi Hadid, Meek Mills and other celebrities have since joined her in trying to stop the execution, prompting hundreds of thousands to sign an online petition in support.
Singer Rihanna tweeted: “One Click!!! SIGN this petition if you don’t believe the Government should kill an innocent man,” and tagged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Innocence Project said Reed, who is Black, was convicted by an all-white jury. The organization know for investigating such criminal cases points out what it calls weaknesses in the case, saying that the murder weapon has never been tested for DNA evidence and forensic experts have admitted to errors in their testimony.
Reed’s attorneys have fought for a new trial for years, and a court stayed his execution in 2015 because of new witness testimony and forensic analysis. The court eventually ruled against Reed
“We must come together to prevent a gross injustice,” actress Yara Shahidi tweeted.