Stacey Stites’ family believes that when Rodney Reed was convicted in the murder of the 19-year-old Texas woman and sentenced to death, the right man was put behind bars.
Their beliefs have not changed in the decades since then, according to interviews they have given in recent days. While a public outcry led by celebrities like Kim Kardashian West have called to “Free Rodney Reed,” Stites’ family believes she received justice at trial. They have said the publicity given to the case has failed Stites and forgotten her story.
ABC 20/20 is examining the case in a new episode, “Death Row Interview,” which airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, December 11, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
Stites Became Pregnant With a Daughter at Age 15 & She Spoke Out for the First Time in 2019
Stites became pregnant with a daughter when she was only 15 years old. The daughter, Demi Nugent, was adopted by a couple at her church through an open adoption.
“I mean it takes a really strong person at 15-years-old to decide to put your child up for adoption so that they have a better life, because you’re too young, and she couldn’t take care of me,” Nugent told Fox 7 in 2019. “But, she wanted to be a part of my life and see me grow, and she doesn’t get to do that.” she said, adding, “I don’t know how anybody else feels but I’m angry. I’m angry that I don’t get to know her and neither do my kids, and I’m angry that she’s not, it’s not about her, it’s about somebody else.”
She said she thinks her mother’s story has become lost through coverage of the Reed case.
“I just want it to be over, I don’t want it to be on the news anymore. I don’t want it to be thrown in my face constantly, I just want her to be known as the person that she was. A beautiful, loving person.”
Stites’ sister, Debra Oliver, provided a statement to media after Reed’s execution was halted. She said those advocating for Reed do not know the full story of the case.
“Today was supposed to be the day that this nightmare ended. Thanks to celebrities and politicians that didn’t take the time to learn about the facts, today changed. Today we start fighting back, to get justice for ALL of Rodney Reed’s victims,” the statement said, according to KVUE.
Her family members spoke to ABC 20/20, denying the claims Reed had a relationship with Stites and said they were “100% positive” Reed killed her.
“I find that people have not heard all of the evidence,” Oliver said.
Stites’ other sister, Crystal Dobbs, wiped tears from her eyes during the interview.
“Trying to defend my sister,” she said.
“And the lies told about her,” her mom, Carol Stites, added.
Stites’ Brother Died By Suicide After She Was Murdered
Stites’ mom, Carol Stites, lost two children in two years, Austin American-Statesman Reporter Dave Harmon wrote in a 1998 article following Reed’s murder trial. Carol Stites told him her son never got over his sister’s death, and died by suicide nine months before the trial began.
“Because of what [Reed] did to my daughter, my son took his own life,” she told Harmon after Reed’s verdict was read.
Her family members told Harmon they were relieved by the guilty verdict, but they also expressed sympathy toward Reed’s family members.
“It feels good that justice was served and the system works. But our hearts go out to (Reed’s) family. They obviously love him,” Stites’ sister, Debra Rangel, told Harmon.