A little after 6 p.m., the state of Texas will execute Larry Swearingen for a crime experts believe he was unable to commit.
Journalist Andrew Purcell detailed the events leading to Swearingen’s impending death in a thorough investigation.
A 19-year-old college student named Melissa Trotter disappeared from her Montgomery College campus, north of Houston, in December 1998. Police set their sights on Swearingen, an electrician who was witnessed having a conversation with Trotter in the college library. Montgomery County law enforcement also found a scrap of paper with the name “Larry” and his phone number in one of Trotter’s books.
After a few days went by, officers tailed Swearingen in an unmarked car and eventually arrested him at his mother’s house over unpaid speeding and parking tickets. His bail was set high. Though Swearingen was questioned about Trotter’s whereabouts, he maintained that he saw her last on campus.
Three weeks later in January 1999, while Swearingen was sitting behind bars, Trotter’s body was discovered in Sam Houston National Forest. Trotter had seemingly been strangled to death by one leg of pantyhose. With the discovery of the body, Swearingen was charged with murder.