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Published:February 25th, 2015 12:54 EST
Documentary 'State Vs. Reed' Brings Back in Clear Focus Stacey Stites Murder!

Documentary 'State Vs. Reed' Brings Back in Clear Focus Stacey Stites Murder!

By John G. Kays

I was glad to hear that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed the execution of Rodney Reed for the murder of Stacey Stites, in April of 1996. At that time, I lived in an apartment in North Austin, just off of Rundberg. As I watch these recent reports of a very old but enduring murder case, I`m beginning to have flashbacks; the story was all over the news and I followed it fairly closely, but seriously, that was nearly 20 years ago! 

As such, I spent some time this morning reviewing what I could find on the internet. I found three good resources: the Wikipedia entry for Rodney Reed is a great spot to start with; then there`s an Austin Chronicle piece from May 24, 2002 (Who Killed Stacey Stites?, by Jordan Smith), which is still up; and finally, we have this new documentary, State vs. Reed, produced by Frank Bustoz and Ryan Polomski.

I just viewed State vs. Reed on YouTube, and am gradually getting more current on the Stacey Stites case. I`ll need to qualify that statement by saying the highly charged and dramatic sequence of events, or better, developments, emanating forth from that day and night in Bastrop, April 22, 1996, might require a considerable amount of time, before any noticeable command of the information is achieved (I`m getting there...).

With this humility in mind, I still feel confident in saying (or in thinking to myself), Rodney Reed did not kill Stacey Stiles! Reed even had a good alibi for the time when they believe Stacey really lost her life. I`m talking about Reed`s friend, Chris Aldridge, who was with Rodney that night (4/22/1996), at the Bastrop Community Center, since they had construction work scheduled for the next day (Who Killed Stacey Stites? - Aus Chron). 

 The fact that evidence is pushing back Stites time of death to late on the 22nd, helps to validate Aldridge`s alibi for Reed quite a bit more; and to think Chris never was called to testify by the defense in the original trial, more clearly highlights the absurdities and injustices inherent in the initial proceedings (both the investigation and the trial). 

This is only one example of the problems here; the new documentary points out quite a few others also. I`ll mention merely 3, then type some words on what is of most interest to me here, even though some may consider it a sidebar to the main story (it`s anything but that; rather, it`s centrifugal!). 

One, the crime scene (probably not the real CS, an isolated field in Bastrop), was completely compromised by law enforcement officers when processed; two, Jimmy Fennel Jr.`s apartment in Giddings, probably the actual crime scene, never got processed; three, Fennel`s red Chevrolet pickup truck, probably used to move Stacey Stites body, in order to initiate a coverup, was returned promptly to the good old boy, then he immediately sold it to a local dealership. Just the tip of the iceberg!

Here`s what most fascinates me here; try to separate out what the police did. I mean all the police; Giddings, Bastrop, even The Texas Rangers. What do you get? You have to ask yourself, who wanted to protect Jimmy Fennel? Why would they be willing to do so? Did other officers aid Fennel that night, creating a phony crime scene? 

Did David Hall and Ed Salmela follow Jimmy that night, toting cans of Busch to take off the edge? Their DNA was on the empties jettisoned haphazardly in an open field? Gotcha! Why did these trained police officers toss empty beer cans, smudged with fingerprints, at the (fabricated) crime scene? How could they be that stupid? Was Ed Salmela murdered in early August of 1996 for what he knew? 

Was it Jimmy Fennel who pulled the trigger on his good friend, effectively silencing him? Who else could have done it? Ed didn`t commit suicide, that`s for sure! To summarize in a simple way this chilling Texas Tale, the sadistic Fennel strangled Stacey Stiles because she was having an affair with a black man, Rodney Reed. 

Then he gets some help from his fellow cop friends (makes you wonder why this was done?). At a later date, Jimmy gets rid of Ed Salmela, afraid he might come forward with the real story on Stiles. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, various Texas police agencies cement a vast conspiracy of a coverup, put in place by the dastardly Jimmy Fennel, who for unknown reasons, had a lot of pull with fellow police officers, even if it was a blackmailing-type of clout. Untangling this mess 20 years later is a chore, but we`re getting there!