AUSTIN, Texas - Heather Stobbs, the cousin of Stacey Stites, a Bastrop County woman murdered more than two decades ago, is speaking out. She believes the wrong man sits on death row for the crime.
Rodney Reed is set to die for the murder in a few weeks, but Stobbs believes her cousin's ex-fiance Jimmy Fennell is the real killer.
“Yes, I don’t have any doubt in my mind,” Stobbs replied when asked if she thought Fennell was guilty of the crime. “There is really nothing that could convince me that Jimmy Fennel didn’t do this.”
Fennell, a former cop, has been a free man since finishing out a 10-year prison sentence in 2018. He was there for sexually assaulting a woman in his custody.
“[The sexual assault] that kind of switched my whole viewpoint on him, and I kind of realized what a pattern of behavior this was for him.” said Stobbs.
Fennell was considered a suspect in the original investigation, but ultimately, Rodney Reed was charged after his semen was found in and on Stites’ body.
Reed, who has been implicated but never charged in a number of sexual assault cases, claims he and Stites were having an affair.
“Once you look at that and say okay, that could be a possibility, everything that exonerates Rodney Reed falls in line,” Stobbs said.
Stobbs says Stites’ immediate family has never bought the idea that there may have been an affair.
“In order to think that Rodney's innocent you have to accept that [Stites] was unfaithful.” she said.
Stobbs says her view on the case has divided the family, leading to a falling out with her aunt, Stites’ mother and her cousins, Stites’ sisters.
“When my opinion didn’t align with their opinion that’s when all that you’re a traitor, you’re not a member of the family, stuff happened,” Stobbs said.
Robert Phillips, Fennell’s lawyer, paints Stobbs as a lone estranged relative who “won't be at the Thanksgiving table.”
Stobbs is not Stites’ only relative to come forward. Multiple cousins and one now deceased uncle have joined her, writing letters calling for a new trial for Rodney Reed.
“I can’t just keep my mouth shut about it. It’s not right, and the situation isn’t right whether Stacey’s my cousin or not,” she said.