HOUSTON – After 19 years of appeals, stays of execution and claims of innocence, Larry Ray Swearingen was executed by the state of Texas for the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter.
Swearingen gave a brief final statement: “Lord forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Swearingen then seemed to narrate his own death by claiming he could “hear” the lethal drugs going into his veins, that his right arm was burning while his left arm was numb. The head of the trial bureau for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Kelly Blackburn also witnessed the execution and called Swearingen’s words a final act of manipulation from a murderer.
“Larry Swearingen has no conscience,” Blackburn said. “Larry Swearingen needs to be removed from the annals of history as far as I'm concerned.”
Trotter’s mother, father, brother, uncle and grandfather also witnessed Swearingen’s execution. They chose not to speak publicly but had the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Jeremy Desel read a statement from the family. The victim's mother, Sandra Trotter, stood close to Desel to make sure the family’s words were relayed properly and her daughter’s memory honored.
“This process has been overwhelming, we want to praise God for getting us through this horrific ordeal,” Desel said. “We want Melissa to be remembered as a happy, loving, kind spirit with a beautiful smile.”
Melissa Trotter, 19, disappeared from what is now called the Lone Star College campus near The Woodlands on Dec. 8, 1998. Swearingen was arrested on outstanding misdemeanor warrants Dec. 11, 1998, and was considered a suspect in Trotter’s disappearance. Trotter’s body was found in a remote area of the Sam Houston National Forest on Jan. 2, 1999.
Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to death in July 2000. In the 19 years he has been on death row, he has avoided five previously scheduled executions. Numerous appeals over the years helped win some of these stays but never led to a retrial of the case. Ultimately, each appeal failed, including another appeal filed this month and dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Swearingen maintained his innocence to the end.
“An innocent man was not executed, at all. I stand here today more sure of that than I've ever been,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn pointed out the evidence against Swearingen was scrutinized several times during the appellate process and during a hearing before a trial judge and his conviction stood.
“A bad man got what he deserved tonight, so, it's a good day,” Blackburn said.
Desel said Swearingen donated his body to the UT Health-Science Center for medical research.