Texas Co-Ed Killer Wins Reprieve
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; 11:33 PM
CONROE, Texas -- An appeals court on Tuesday halted the scheduled execution of a man convicted of abducting and strangling a college student eight years ago.
The execution of Larry Swearingen, set for Wednesday, was halted so questions about evidence used against him at his capital murder trial can be reviewed, lawyers said.
Swearingen's attorneys had appealed in state and federal courts, arguing that the presence of specific insects from the site where 19-year-old Melissa Trotter's body was found in the Sam Houston National Forest disputes evidence that Swearingen killed her.
"The insect evidence is powerful proof that Ms. Trotter died when Mr. Swearingen was in the custody of Montgomery County police," his appeal said.
Prosecutors had opposed the request but acknowledged Tuesday that because of the short time until the scheduled execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals needed more information.
"At some point, once they get that information, the execution can be reset as long as they don't find any problems," said Marc Brumberger, an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County.
James Rytting, one of Swearingen's lawyers, said the case would be returned to the trial court.
"It is good," Rytting said Tuesday. "He doesn't die tomorrow."
Swearingen has acknowledged speaking with Trotter at the college but says he had no involvement in her December 1998 slaying. Prosecutors say the evidence against him includes pantyhose used to strangle Trotter that were found outside Swearingen's trailer.