Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen, who had proclaimed his innocence for two decades, was executed on Wednesday, reports the Texas Tribune. Swearingen, 48, was convicted of strangling Melissa Trotter, a 19-year-old community college student he had said was his friend. Multiple state courts had taken five execution dates off the calendar over the years to look into different issues surrounding Swearingen’s conviction, but prosecutors and Trotter’s family remain convinced he was her killer. The Supreme Court denied an appeal shortly before his scheduled execution time of 6 p.m. “Lord forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing,” Swearingen said before he was put to death.
Trotter had been missing for weeks before her body was found by hunters in the Sam Houston National Forest on Jan. 2, 1999, with a leg from a pair of pantyhose tied around her throat. Law enforcement had already identified Swearingen as the main suspect in her disappearance, arresting him on traffic warrants three days after Trotter had last been seen with him on Dec. 8, 1998. Based on what judges have since called a mountain of circumstantial evidence, he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. Swearingen assembled scientists who concluded that Trotter was killed within two weeks of being found, more than a week after Swearingen was already behind bars. They also argued against the science used by state experts who matched a leg of pantyhose in his home to the piece used to strangle Trotter. They balked at the courts’ dismissal of blood flecks found under Trotter’s fingernails that did not match Trotter or Swearingen.