On April 23, 1996, 19 year-old Stacey Stites was found murdered on the side of the road in Bastrop county. Stacey’s fiancé, Giddings Police officer Jimmy Fennell was briefly a suspect in her murder.
When Stacey Stites was found, her fingernails were cut to the quick, roughly and not filed, which prevented the medical examiner from collecting any trace evidence. She was strangled with her own belt which left no finger prints.
Investigators never requested a search warrant for the apartment Stacey Stites shared with Jimmy Fennell, the last place she had been seen alive.
The truck apparently used to transport Stacey’s body, which contained fingerprints from only Jimmy Fennell and Stacy Stites, was returned to Fennell six days after the murder (before DPS had even completed all of the necessary forensic testing). Fennell sold the truck the next day.
Fresh beer cans found at the crime scene contained DNA from Stacey Stites and police officers David Hall (who was also a good friend of Fennell’s) and Ed Salmela.
Ed Salmela was originally assigned as lead investigator of Stites' murder. Three months after Samela began investigating the case, he committed suicide.
Dallas police sergeant Mary Blackwell told investigators that she overheard Fennell during an officer training course in 1995. "He said that if he ever found out that his girlfriend was cheating on him that he'd strangle her."
In two polygraph tests, Jimmy Fennell failed the question: "Did you strangle Stacy Stites?"
In 1998, Rodney Reed, a black man who claimed to have been having a secret affair with Stacey Stites (as an explanation for why his DNA was found on her body), was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death. He maintains his innocence and is currently awaiting a ruling on whether he can be retried due to the evidence (including the DNA evidence on the beer cans) that was not released at his trial.
In February 2007, Jimmy Fennell, now a Georgetown police officer, was charged with sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint while he was on the job. He was subsequently fired by the Georgetown Police Department.
Under a deal reached in May 2008, between prosecutors and Fennell’s attorney, Fennell pleaded guilty to felony charges of kidnapping and sexual misconduct.
On June 24, 2008 District Judge Burt Carnes denied the plea agreement that would have given Fennell a two-year prison sentence, 10 years probation and a $5,000 fine. The case will go to trial on Sept. 8.
Fennell is charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, improper sexual activity with a person in custody and official oppression — all of which could exceed two 99-year terms if he is convicted by a jury.