On August 21, 2019 at 6:47 p.m., Larry Ray Swearingen was executed by lethal injection for the 1998 kidnapping and murder of Melissa Trotter, a nineteen-year-old college student from Willis, Texas. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office prosecutors and supporting staff members are pleased that this phase of the Trotter family’s long ordeal is now over.
In 2000, a Montgomery County jury found Swearingen guilty of capital murder and found there is a probability that he would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. The late Honorable Fred Edwards accepted the jury’s verdict and sentenced Swearingen to death on July 11, 2000. Over the last nineteen years, Swearingen’s attorneys have relentlessly attacked the validity of the jury’s verdict, but their numerous allegations were refuted in the habeas corpus hearings conducted in the district court. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has repeatedly affirmed Swearingen’s conviction and sentence and “has cataloged the extensive evidence of Swearingen’s guilty which the State adduced at trial.” Over the last 20 years, in both Federal and State courts, Swearingen has filed what the courts have referred to as “a convoluted tangle of habeas applications, pro se motions, mandamus actions, and amended pleadings, and legal machinations, seeking to overturn his conviction and postpone his death sentence.” Every State and Federal Court, including the Supreme Court of the United States, which has heard these claims have repeatedly rejected them. Additionally, the courts have found that Swearingen’s legal filings have mischaracterized testimony and evidence in the case and have found all of Swearingen’s allegations to be false. Although some of Swearingen’s advocates have continued to raise those allegations despite their rejection on judicial review, there is absolutely no logical reason based on the facts to continue to harbor any doubts regarding Swearingen’s guilt.
Swearingen’s trial occurred long before current Montgomery County District Attorney Brett W. Ligon took office. Upon election in 2009, District Attorney Ligon undertook an independent review of the fairness of the proceedings in Swearingen’s case. The District Attorney ultimately determined that Swearingen received a fair trial, and the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming and unassailable. The investigation conducted by Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department detectives was thorough and professional, and the District Attorney is grateful for their unflagging assistance during the ensuing post-conviction litigation.
As detailed below, before Swearingen committed the Capital Murder of Melissa Trotter he had already built a long resume of violent acts towards women and we do not want those victims of Swearingen’s violent crimes to be forgotten. Just like Melissa, those victims have also finally received justice and hopefully some sense of closure in this case.
• In 1992, Swearingen was convicted of shooting at and then kidnapped at knife-point his wife and sexually assaulted her at a remote location in woods off Airport Road in Montgomery County, Texas (according to punishment phase testimony during trial).
• In 1993, Swearingen’s female neighbor testified that he broke into her house, went through her lingerie and cut the legs off a pair of pantyhose (according to punishment phase testimony during trial).
• In 1994, Swearingen tied up, gagged and sexually assaulted a young female after forcing her to don pantyhose from which the crotch had been removed (Punishment stage testimony at 35 R.R. 212-220).
• In 1997, Swearingen choked his 9-month-pregnant wife nearly to the point of unconsciousness, because of an accusation of infidelity (bill of exception at 36 R.R. 237-41).
• In August of 1998, Swearingen handcuffed, choked with his hands and sexually assaulted his former fiancé (according to punishment stage testimony during trial).
• In September of 1998, Swearingen again abducted his former fiancé at gunpoint, and forced her to drive to a remote dirt road in Sam Houston National Forest before releasing her (according to punishment stage testimony during trial).
• Swearingen was under indictment for the kidnapping and sexual assault of his former fiancé when he kidnapped, raped, and murdered Melissa Trotter.
Nineteen years is too long to wait for justice, but Melissa Trotter’s parents—Sandy and Charlie—have exhibited incredible patience during the protracted legal proceedings in this case. We hope that the imposition of Swearingen’s sentence will provide them and the other members of the Trotter family a measure of peace, and we will always remember and respect their courage and composure.