In a flurry of new papers seeking to avert Rodney Reed’s execution next month, his attorneys have submitted a new affidavit from a prisoner who says Stacey Stites’s fiance admitted in prison that he had killed Stites because she was having an affair with Reed.
The affidavit of Arthur Snow, a former member of a white supremacist prison gang, was part of papers filed Wednesday by Reed’s attorneys asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Reed’s death sentence based on the significant evidence of his innocence. The attorneys, Bryce Benjet and Andrew MacRae, also are seeking a review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court and a stay of the execution by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The case of Reed, who is scheduled for execution November 20, is among those featured in Injustice Watch’s Unrequited Innocence series about defendants sentenced to death who have not been exonerated despite significant evidence of innocence.
Reed,a black man, admits he was having an affair with Stites, who was white, and the case carried racial overtones. When police first questioned Reed he denied knowing Stites. A prosecutor called Reed’s semen, found in Stites’ body, “the smoking gun” proving guilt at Reed’s trial.
Since trial, forensic experts have contended that Stites was killed hours earlier than prosecutors asserted, which would have put the time of death at a time she was with her fiance, Jimmy Fennell. Snow’s affidavit adds to other defense evidence that implicated Fennell in the crime.
Fennell, then a police sergeant, pleaded guilty in 2007 to sexually assaulting a young woman while responding to a domestic disturbance. The victim received a $100,000 settlement from his police department and several women voiced similar allegations. Fennell served a 10-year sentence and was released in March 2018.
In his new affidavit, Snow contends that he recalls Fennell saying, “’I had to kill my [expletive]-loving fiance,'” when the two were locked up together, using a racial slur..
Snow’s affidavit states the conversation, in late 2010 or early 2011, occurred as Fennell came to Snow seeking the Aryan Brotherhood’s protection “from the blacks and Mexicans at the prison.”
He said he believed Fennell talked of Stites’s death thinking that it would impress a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. During the conversation, Snow’s affidavit states, Fennell was “talking about his ex-fiance with a lot of hatred and resentment. Jimmy said his fiance had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back.”
The affidavit states Snow and Fennell made a deal in which Fennell would pay the white supremacist gang for protection.
According to the affidavit, Snow saw a picture a few years ago of Fennell in the newspaper next to a picture of Reed, whom he had never seen before. Reading the article, he learned that Reed had been convicted of murdering Stites, and he remembered what Fennell had said. “I had planned to come forward back then, but never did,” Snow said, attributing his hesitancy to his gang mentality and fear of being labeled a snitch.
Recently, he saw another article about Reed. “I decided that I had to come forward and tell someone what I knew,” he said.
Snow joins several other witnesses who have come forward since Reed’s execution date was announced.
An insurance salesperson, who asked Reed’s attorneys not to disclose her name given that Fennell is no longer incarcerated, said that Fennell once threatened Stites in front of her. After Stites asked why she needed life insurance at such a young age, Fennell replied, “If I ever catch you messing around on me, I will kill you and no one will ever know it was me that killed you,” she alleged.
A sheriff’s deputy, Jim Clampit, said that Fennell behaved oddly at Stites’s funeral and said something akin to, “You got what you deserved,” to her body.
A colleague of Fennell, Charles Fletcher, said Fennell told him a month before Stites’s death that he believed she was having sex with a black man, though he used strong language including a racial slur. Fletcher also noticed Fennell’s “emotionless” behavior at her funeral.