People Magazine Investigates Recap for Is Rodney Reed Innocent?
People Magazine Investigates: Is Rodney Reed Innocent? opens with Stacey Stites’s life being profiled. She was the baby of the family and very athletic. She was outgoing and popular, especially with the boys.
In the spring of 1995, she went to the Smithtown Jamboree with her friends to enjoy a day of food and fun. While there, she met a guy named Jimmy Fennell, who was training to be a police officer. The two of them hit it off right away, despite being opposites.
The couple began to date and eventually get engaged. They planned to marry on May 11, 1996. They were both working and looking forward to beginning their lives together.
THE DAY OF THE MURDER
On April 23, 1996, Stacey fails to arrive at work. Everyone is worried because she never missed work without calling. Her concerned co-workers call her mom, who says she heard Stacey leave for work. She then calls Jimmy, who says Stacey borrowed his car to go to work. The car is gone, so they call the police and begin looking for her.
The police find the truck, but no Stacey. What makes it even more unusual is the fact that the truck was found in a high school 26 miles away. Investigators go to look into this, where they find half a braided belt. The truck is then brought into the impound lot and investigated.
Later on that day, a real estate agent finds Stacey’s body on the side of the road. He calls 911 and it is discovered that Stacey is missing a shoe, earring and has multiple wounds on her body.
Several other disturbing discoveries are made, including sexual assault, which resulted in her death. DNA is found on her body and in the truck, which should have made it easier to find the killer.
THE 1ST SUSPECTS
Jimmy is the main suspect. He gives details of their last day together and even takes a polygraph test. Both times he takes the test, he fails. He demands a lawyer, but offers his DNA sample.
He was eliminated as a suspect, but remained a person of interest. Investigators look into anyone with a possible connection to Stacey, including old boyfriends and friends.
After Stacey’s funeral and ten days after the murder, another woman named Mary Ann Arldt disappears. She is later found dead. Evidence shows that she was killed in the same way as Stacey. However, an acquaintance of hers, David Longhorn confesses to killing her. He also admitted to killing Stacey.
DNA evidence eliminates David and Jimmy as suspect.
A DISTURBING TWIST
Another woman Linda Schlueter was attacked six months after Stacey’s death. She was in town to visit friends when a man asked her for a ride. He guilted her into agreeing to do, which led to her being attacked. A random car driving by was her saving grace. She went to the police station and gave them a description of her attacker, who was a tall African American man.
Several months later, she has to pick her attacker out from a line up, which leads to Rodney Reed becoming a lead suspect. He was already arrested on a drug charge and had a history of sexual assault against women. Investigators do a DNA comparison between him and the DNA found on Stacey and get a match.
Rodney is questioned in the case, but denies everything. However, there is enough evidence to charge him in Stacey’s murder. He ends up changing his story, saying that he was having an affair with Stacey. He says he did not kill her, but they would meet for sex on her way to work.
Rodney’s defense attorney says he is innocent, but her family says it is not possible that the affair took place. Rodney also was charged with several other rapes, but acquitted on the case that went to trial.
THE TRIAL BEGINS
The case went to trial, but the defense argues that while Rodney and Stacey may have had sex, there is lack of his DNA in her truck. He was found guilty by the jury and know his life is on the line.
The other women who were attacked by Rodney are questioned, but the defense tried to challenge their stories. However, he was given the death penalty, allowing the victims and Stacey’s family thinking that justice was served.
Despite being convicted, he appealed his case, still saying that the relationship with Stacey was consensual. He claims he only knew she was dead when he saw the story of her death on the news.
MORE SHOCKING TWISTS
During this time, Jimmy is charged with rape while on duty. He took his victim to a secluded area, where she was found in a similar fashion to Stacey. This led to him once again becoming a suspect in the murder. Things look even more grim when people come forward saying that Jimmy once said he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt if she cheated and that he told her she got what she deserved while looking at her body at the funeral.
More people come forward saying that Jimmy confessed to killing Stacey, including his cell mate.
This leads to the case being reopened and Kim Kardashian even coming forward in Rodney’s defense. On November 15, 2019, five days before Rodney’s execution, it is decided that an appeal would happen and while he will remain in jail, his life would be spared.
Jimmy was released from jail in 2018, while Rodney awaits his appeal, set to take place in 2021.
The victims are upset that their rapist is allowed a second chance, while they are unable to have one themselves.
As of right now, the case remains unsolved.