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An investigative report that followed a wave of advocacy for Rodney Reed, who was sentenced to death after being convicted for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites and last week granted a stay of execution, has led some to question their opinions of his innocence and the petition to free him.
Texas news outlet KVUE published a report on Thursday that looks into past allegations of rape and assault against Reed, some of which remain unresolved. Actor and comedian Amanda Seales on Sunday posted a video on her Instagram expressing her discomfort with the resurfaced allegations. Seales said the petition did not provide these details and denied the millions who signed it a “wholesome” picture of the case.
“The fact that his DNA has been linked to several other rapes, that there are women who are alive today to speak about how he raped them, the fact that he actually had nine appeals and it had been left out is incredibly disconcerting to me, and it should be to you,” the Insecure star said.
According to the KVUE report, a few days after Stacey Stites’ murder, 19-year-old Linda Schlueter said she was attacked by a Black man in Bastrop, Texas, who she later identified as Reed. Schlueter said Reed slapped her head against the steering wheel when she was trying to give him a ride home, and she managed to escape when she saw other cars approaching them.
Before the alleged attacks on Stites and Schlueter, KVUE reported, Reed was facing accusations of rape of a woman with intellectual disability in 1995 also in Bastrop, but the case was not tried.
KVUE also reported on a case in Wichita Falls, Texas, in which a white woman claimed that a Black man grabbed her and raped her when she was on her way home. Reed’s DNA was found inside of her, but Reed claimed the sex was consensual and that the victim wanted to hide it because of their racial differences. In alleged rapes that took place in 1989 and 1995, Reed’s DNA reportedly matched DNA found on the victims. The 1989 victim was a 12-year-old girl who was bitten on her face; the victim in the 1995 case could not identify her attacker, but Reed’s DNA was a positive match.
In her 10-minute video, Seales called the movement to free Reed “propaganda” and said it “was presented to people like you and me with very decisive, clear-cut intention to not include the entire bigger picture of Rodney Reed as he presents as a criminal and a danger to women.”
On her Instagram post, some commenters agreed with Seales while others argued for his right to be heard again. Some said that even though they agreed with her, it didn’t take away from the larger conversation on the nature of the criminal justice system.
“I completely hear you about the lack of information being presented to people about his other crimes,” one user commented on Seales’ video. “I personally don’t regret signing the petition because this case was a complete miscarriage of justice.”
Some commenters agreed that the other cases deserve their justice but said each case should be handled individually.
“LIES. ALL LIES,” he wrote. “Sooooooo many lies in this video.
“People. Be careful what you listen to out here,” King continued. “Amanda called herself Google searching the case for a few hours and said a lot of factually incorrect stuff that does real harm.”
Other supporters of Reed said Seales was spreading “misinformation” and “smearing” Reed’s character.
“Ms. Seales is obviously misinformed and didn’t fact-check her information,” Tiffany McMillan, who started a Facebook page to rally for Reed, told the Daily Dot. “Had she, she would’ve discovered none of these ‘complaints’ have been brought forth, prosecuted, or resulted in convictions. This is the sad part of the racist ‘Texas justice’ system whereby prosecutors smear the character of an innocent black man to create a false narrative to scare the public.”
Seales did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comments.
Pressure built the past few weeks to free Reed, including statements of support from celebrities Janelle Monae, Meek Mill, and Kim Kardashian. The European Union also got involved, garnering global attention for the case. Reed was granted a stay of execution on Friday, just a day after the KVUE report.
By Monday afternoon, the celebrities who had supported Reed had not responded to Seales’ concerns. Kardashian shared a tweet promoting an interview on the Today Show about “how the country came together in support of Rodney Reed.”
Kardashian’s tweet generated responses mostly about her outfit, but others on Twitter expressed their concerns after watching Seales’ video.
Tell the whole story before you galvanize people to a cause. @amandaseales didn’t say @shaunking 's cause is illegitimate. She said there are layers to the cause that need to separated and dissected individually. #RodneyReed— Journalist (@ShaylerRichmond) November 18, 2019
So this Rodney reed character was linked to several other rape cases in which he was positively identified by the victim and by DNA evidence. See why I’ll rather die than support a man? He should have been executed— Abortion Is Healthcare (@Dzaddy18) November 18, 2019
Ok soooo there is more to the Rodney Reed story and I’m troubled by it.— DaBaby’s Right Dimple (@McKenzieRadio) November 18, 2019
What about the other women that are alive, that was raped by Rodney Reed? Do their testimonies not matter?— jUSt B (@babiBOOBIE) November 18, 2019
Some on Twitter said they felt guilty for signing the petition, which currently has almost 3 million signatures.
i feel disgusting for ever supporting rodney reed.— jae | #BLM (@jaelynharding) November 18, 2019
There are various conclusions, but given the case has so many variables, Seales’ concern about fact-checking seems to have resonated with many in the era of “clicktivism.” Reed’s most avid supporters remain adamant that he’s innocent.
“The man has not had an opportunity to defend himself in the court of law and has not been tried or convicted of these crimes, which we all as Americans demand and deserve,” Ryan Polomski, who has made several films about Reed, said in a statement addressed to Seales on Monday. “I have been working on and studying this case for 16 years and I know the intimate details of both of these extraneous cases involving DNA on which you speak, and they are both absolutely 100% bogus and it can be proven beyond a shadow of doubt in a courtroom that Rodney is also innocent of these crimes.”
The statement was shared with the Daily Dot via a Twitter page “Free Rodney Reed.” The Facebook page for the same account echoed Polomski’s concerns that Reed has repeatedly been denied a request to access the DNA evidence used against him.
“We look forward to the upcoming hearing where Rodney will be able to present all of the evidence to prove he did not rape or murder Stacey Stites,” the “Rodney Reed: Innocent on Texas Death Row” page said in a message to the Daily Dot.
Polomski’s statement further stated that the investigator on the case, David Board, was a “racist cop in town” who was in full control of the DNA evidence. Polomski said the 12-year-old girl later identified another man as her attacker, and the incident took place before Reed moved to Bastrop. Polomski further claimed Schlueter was a long-term acquaintance of Stites’ fiance Jimmy Fennell, who reportedly confessed to killing Stites years later. Fennell was then serving a prison sentence for abducting and sexually assaulting a woman while on duty as a cop.
Polomski also offered an answer to what many may have been thinking as they examine the details of the case: It’s not a coincidence that one man got connected to so many rape cases.
“And that is exactly what the corrupt prosecutors and complicit dirty police officers in this case want you to say, which is exactly why they filed these bogus charges on top of the capital murder charge and let them sit on his record untried,” Polomski wrote.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty, which started the Change.org petition for Reed, did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque