Larry Swearingen was executed last August in Texas for the rape and murder of Melissa Trotter. Trotter was a community college student that disappeared from campus on December 8, 1998. Trotter's body was found January 2, 1999 in a national forest, according to the crew. The 19-year-old had been strangled.
Prior to his execution, Swearingen had repeatedly requested additional DNA testing in the Trotter case -- this was the crux of his legal case.
But prosecutors – and higher courts – repeatedly deemed such testing unnecessary due to the “mountain of evidence” pointing to Swearingen’s guilt.
Through it all, Swearingen maintained his innocence in Trotter’s murder.
Years after Melissa Witt's murder, in February of 1999, Swearingen became a person of interest by authorities in Fort Smith as they reviewed the case file of Melissa Witt.
Melissa Witt disappeared from the parking lot of Bowling World in Fort Smith, Arkansas on the evening of December 1, 1994. Her nude body was recovered in the Ozark National Forest roughly six weeks later on January 13, 1995.
The murders of Melissa Witt and Melissa Trotter are remarkably similar and the circumstances warrant a closer look at Swearingen in Witt’s abduction and murder.
There are important points that seem to tie the cases together:
1) Larry Swearingen had ties to Arkansas, including family that live within 200 miles from the location of Melissa Witt’s abduction. A receipt for an auto repair ties Swearingen to Arkansas in the days leading up to the murder.
2) Both girls had a first name of Melissa.
3) Both girls were the same age.
4) Both girls had the same type of physical appearance.
5) Both had personal possessions taken from them by the killer. Melissa Witt’s clothing, purse and jewelry were taken. Melissa Trotter’s backpack and jewelry were taken.
6) Both girls were dumped in a national forest located 50 miles away from the site of the abduction.
7) Both were college students.
8) Both girls were abducted in the same week, exactly four years apart.
9) Both girls were found with cigarette butts near their body.
10) Both girls had a lack of defensive wounds on their body.
11) Both girls had been strangled.
12) Relatives of Swearingen indicated he was familiar with the area where Melissa Witt's body was discovered.
13) Authorities found Melissa Witt's name, date of her murder, and the name of the former lead detective in her case, Jay C. Rider written down in his jail cell and hidden under his mattress.
A timeline tracking Swearingen’s movements close to the months surrounding the time of the murder of Melissa Witt was constructed. Police learned he was a journeyman electrician who traveled through the Southeast, along the east coast and as far north as New England in search of work. Police also learned that Swearingen was in Arkansas in November of 1994 -- just days before Melissa Witt was abducted and murdered.
Prior to his death, Swearingen’s attorney refused to allow him to speak to anyone regarding the Melissa Witt case.
So the question remains the same: Did Larry Swearingen kill Melissa Witt?