Things That Matter

Eight New Witnesses Implicate Stites’ Fiancé, A Former Cop, Pointing To Rodney Reed’s Innocence

Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but eight new witnesses have come forward to corroborate Reed’s claims that the victim was in an abusive relationship with convicted felon and former cop Jimmy Fennell. Nineteen-year-old Stacey Stites was murdered in April 1996 in Bastrop, Texas. A year later, a 29-year-old black man named Rodney Reed was arrested and charged with capital murder. The prosecution argued that the presence of Reed’s semen in Stites’ body was evidence of her brutal sexual assault and murder. The all-white jury sentenced Reed to die by lethal injection, currently scheduled for Nov. 20, 2019.

Now, eight witnesses have come forward to testify to Stites’ fear of fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, who was the initial person of interest in the crime. The witnesses believe that when Fennell learned that Stites was having a consensual affair with Reed, Fennell strangled her to death.

Rodney Reed is being represented by the Innocence Project.

Rodney Reed has always claimed his innocence, and that he and Stites were in a consensual relationship. Now, witnesses have come forward to prove it.

Credit: FreeRodneyReed.com

At the time of Reed’s trial, nobody would testify to their consensual relationship. Now, two witnesses have come forward to recall Stites’ own account of her relationships with Reed and with her abusive fiancé, Fennell. One of those witnesses is Rebecca Peoples, who worked with Stites at an H-E-B grocery store. As any friendly co-workers do, Stites and Peoples confided in each other. Stites told Peoples that “she was having a relationship with a black man,” and that “she was afraid of her fiancé,” according to the most recent Writ of Habeas Corpus. Peoples never shared her testimony because she “did not realize that it was important and no one ever approached [her].”  

In addition, Stites’ own family and friends, Alicia Slater, Lee Roy Ybarra and Calvin “Buddy” Horton, have come forward to attest to the knowledge of a relationship between Stites and Reed.

The prosecution portrayed Stites’ engagement as “happy,” but new sworn testimony reveals that Fennell was abusive to Stites.

Credit: @S_PaceXM / Twitter

Former Bastrop County Sherriff’s Office Deputy, Richard Derleth, has come forward to recall what other H.E.B. employees shared with him at the time of Stites death. “Members of the [H.E.B.] staff would keep a lookout for Jimmy Fennell to see if he would come into the store,” Derleth said during sworn testimony. “They told
me that if they saw Jimmy coming into the store, they would tell Stacey
and she would run and hide from Jimmy” for fear “he would start a fight with her.” Derleth shared the information with “some members of the
Sheriff’s Office” but is “not sure what was done with the information.”

William Sappington lived below Fennel and Stites’ apartment. His son, Brent, has testified that he overheard “screaming and banging” upstairs. Brent’s wife, Vicki, recalled that her father-in-law “expressed concern that Mr. Fennell was verbally abusive toward Ms. Stites, that he feared Mr. Fennell was also
physically abusive, and that he had reported his concerns to local
law enforcement, but officers dismissed his concerns.”

Jimmy Fennell served a 10-year sentence after kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman while on duty as a police officer.

Credit: @MutantLifeForce / Twitter

In 2008, Fennell pled guilty to kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman he had been dispatched to protect. He also pled guilty to attempting to cover it up by threatening to kill the woman if she told anyone. While he was imprisoned, he sought protection from Arthur Snow, a member of the “whites-only” Aryan Brotherhood at the prison. “Jimmy said he needed protection from the blacks and Mexicans at the
prison,” Snow said in sworn testimony. 

Fennell traded commissary for protection, and later, while in the rec yard, Snow recalls a troubling conversation. Fennell started talking about Stites “with a lot of
hatred and resentment. Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around
with a black man behind his back. By the way Jimmy spoke about this
experience, I could tell that it deeply angered him. Toward the end of the
conversation, Jimmy said confidently, “I had to kill my n****-loving
fiancé.”

Nearly 3 million Americans have signed a petition calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to delay Reed’s execution.

Credit: FreeRodneyReed.com

Reed has maintained his innocence since day one. The murder weapon, a belt used for strangulation, has never been tested for DNA, despite multiple requests by Reed’s attorneys, all of which have been denied. Reed has been imprisoned for 21 years.

Hurricane Hanna Battered Texas But Did It Actually Knock Over Part Of Trump’s Border Wall?

Things That Matter

Hurricane Hanna Battered Texas But Did It Actually Knock Over Part Of Trump’s Border Wall?

Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

It’s official: hurricane season is in full swing and Texas has been hit hard by the first hurricane of the 2020 season to make landfall in the United States. And it potentially claimed a very high-profile victim: a segment of Trump’s beloved border wall.

On Sunday, a viral video started circulating on Twitter showing a segment of the wall tumbling over in strong winds. However, government officials have since claimed that the video is old news and that Hanna didn’t actually bring down any segment of border wall.

A video that went viral on Twitter on Sunday shows a section of the border wall toppling to the ground amid fierce wind and rain.

As Hurricane Hanna made landfall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ravaging towns and cities in its path – a viral video started to make its rounds on Twitter. The video showed a segment of the border wall falling over in what appeared to be very strong winds, like something you’d find in a hurricane.

The video posted to Twitter by journalist Yadith Valdez on Sunday shows construction workers standing by and watching as fierce gusts knock the steel structure to the ground.

The video served as yet another reminder that Trump’s border wall is useless and detrimental to the regions and people it’s targeting. Some pointed out that just last week, Trump was bragging about his vanity project, calling it ‘the most powerful and comprehensive border wall structure’ in the world.’

Well if this viral video is any proof, that’s simply not true.

However, some have called the validity of the footage into question, noting that it’s unclear when and where it was recorded.

Mexican news outlet Debate claimed in an article that the video was filmed at a section of wall dividing Texas from Ciudad Camargo in the state of Tamaulipas. However, Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff refuted that report in a tweet, saying that Customs and Border Patrol officials told him the video was not recorded in the Rio Grande Valley. 

‘Unclear where it was filmed, but based on desert terrain, daytime recording and style of bollards, I’m guessing these are images of a monsoon out west, prob Arizona,’ Miroff wrote.

And for their part, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement: “The video circulating on social media appears to be from June 2020 when high winds caused several border wall panels that were pending additional anchoring to fall over at a construction site near Deming, New Mexico.”

The clip became the target of widespread ridicule as critics likened the collapse to President Trump’s re-election campaign.

Credit: DAEMMRICH PHOTOGRAPHY / Getty Images

While the debate of where and when the video was recorded will continue to linger on, it is obvious that part of Trump’s expensive border wall between the United States and Mexico was toppled by strong winds at some point and people couldn’t help but make jokes about the construction that was a big part of the president’s campaign four years ago, which he vowed to make Mexico pay for.

Regardless of questions over the origin of the video, Trump critics had a field day with jokes about the collapse. Best-selling author Rick Wilson tweeted: ‘I have a Trump wall joke but it blows.’ 

Another man tweeted in response to Wilson: ‘I have a trump wall joke but I know it will fall flat.’ 

Yet another critic added: ‘I hope the Trump Wall is still under warranty. I’d hate to see Mexico have to pay for it a second time.’

Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna inflicted major damage across Texas and northern Mexico.

Although many were talking about Hanna’s potential effect on the border wall, many cities and towns in the region were badly hit by the storm. She first made landfall near South Padre Island, Texas as a Category 1 hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical depression.

The storm dumped more than 12 inches of rain along the US-Mexico border as it tore through the area with winds of up to 50 miles per hour.  

The section of Texas that was hardest hit is also dealing with a severe outbreak of Covid-19, complicating efforts by officials to respond to the disaster.

Candace Valenzuela Is Poised To Become First Afro-Latina Elected To Congress

Things That Matter

Candace Valenzuela Is Poised To Become First Afro-Latina Elected To Congress

CandaceFor24 / Instagram

Candace Valenzuela is the official Democratic nominee for Texas’s 24th Congressional District. After winning the run-off election, Valenzuela is now poised to become the first Afro-Latina elected to Congress.

Candace Valenzuela is the Democratic nominee for Texas’s 24th Congressional District.

Valenzuela is running to represent a suburban district that sits in the middle of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. The seat was left empty after Republican Congressman Kenny Marchant gave up the seat. Rep. Marchant gave up the seat after facing two tough campaigns by Jan McDowell in 2016 and 2018. In 2018, Rep. Marchant won by 3 points in 2018, a much smaller victory than his 17 point lead in 2016.

Valenzuela proved that she was a force in the race with her ad “Four Walls.”

During the campaign, Valenzuela released an ad that offered hope to her constituents. Valenzuela got very honest about her childhood facing homelessness with her mother following domestic abuse. According to the campaign ad, Valenzuela grew up learning the true meaning of a home.

Valenzuela joined the school board in her district because of the importance of school in her stability as a child. With her run-off election behind her, Valenzuela will be competing against Beth Van Duyne. The Republican woman is running a campaign calling for local law enforcement to work closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in deportations.

Valenzuela has spoken out on the current economy and how she had to navigate it when she left college.

“What happened was that I graduated into the height of the recession. I had this $150,000 degree, but I didn’t have parents that were very well-connected,” Valenzuela told Yahoo News. “Both my mom and dad were enlisted military. I was having a really hard time finding a job that lined up with my experience, and I wasn’t alone. So, I ended up taking a job, and another, and another, because that was the only way I was going to be able to cover my health insurance, which was incredibly expensive. I had a pre-existing condition that made my health insurance even higher.”

Valenzuela is now gearing up for her general election in November with hopes of flipping a Republican seat.

Texas’s 24th Congressional District has been a longheld Republican seat and recent elections show that hold slipping. It is telling that Rep. Marchant retired from his role in the House of Representatives after decades. Best of luck, mija!

READ: Rep. Henry Cuellar Defeats Progressive Challenger Jessica Cisneros In Texas