© 1998-2015 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)

© 1998-2016 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)

A Summary Of The Six Expert’s Post-Conviction Findings That Support Larry Swearingen’s Actual Innocence In The Murder of Melissa Trotter


Nineteen-year-old college student Melissa Trotter disappeared on December 8, 1998 after being seen that afternoon on the campus of Montgomery College in Conroe, Texas. She was seen earlier that day with an acquaintance, Larry Swearingen, but she wasn’t seen leaving the campus with him. Three days later on December 11, Swearingen was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants and was booked into the Montgomery County Jail. He remained jailed the entire time until Melissa Trotter’s body was discovered north of Conroe in the Sam Houston National Forest on January 2, 1999.


After Larry Swearingen’s conviction in 2000 of murdering Melissa Trotter and his sentence of death, the following six experts, four forensic pathologists and two forensic entomologists, independently examined the evidence to determine when she died and/or when her body was placed in the forest. The experts have provided written statements that unanimously agree the scientific evidence establishes Melissa Trotter’s body was placed where it was found on or after December 18. That is a week after Larry Swearingen was jailed. The Montgomery County District Attorney has provided no scientific evidence to counter the conclusion of the six experts.


Dr. Joye Carter  -- Performed Melissa Trotter’s autopsy and was the Harris County Chief medical examiner at the time of Larry Swearingen’s trial (Carter is currently the chief forensic pathologist in in Marion City, Indiana.) -- Affidavit of Joye M. Carter, M.D., October 31, 2007

Earliest Trotter could have been placed in the forest was December 19, 1998 based on the condition of her bare torso and her internal organs. Also, Trotter was weighed at 109 pounds on November 23 during a visit to her doctor’s office, and her body weighed 105 pounds on January 2, so she only lost 4 pounds of body weight when “substantial weight loss will normally occur in bodies left for a three week period in the type of environment in which Ms. Trotter's body was found.


Dr. Luis Sanchez -- Forensic Pathologist (current Harris County medical examiner) -- Testimony of Louis B. Sanchez, July 2, 2007

Earliest Trotter could have been placed in forest was December 18, 1998, “10 to 15 days” prior to discovery of her body based on condition of her internal organs and body.


Dr. Lloyd White -- Deputy Tarrant County Medical Examiner -- Statement of Lloyd White, M.D., March 29, 2007 and (Supplental) Statement of Lloyd White, M.D., December 12, 2007

Earliest Trotter could have been placed in the forest was December 23, and it possibly was no sooner than December 27 or 28 based on the appearance of her heart. White observed “the muscle is still red and relatively fresh looking . . . the appearance of the heart is what one would expect to find upon an autopsy of a recently deceased individual.”


Dr. Glenn Larkin -- Forensic pathologist -- Report of Dr. Glenn Larkin, March 29, 2007 and Addendum to Medical Report, October 1, 2007

Earliest Trotter could have been placed in the forest was December 23, 1998 based on the condition of her body, and the condition of her pancreas suggests it may not have occurred until December 29. Also, at autopsy Trotter weighed 113 lbs clothed and  105 lbs nude, when “medical records show that approximately two weeks before December 8, 1998, Trotter weighed 109 pounds at her doctor's office. The weights are remarkable in that they demonstrate very insubstantial or no loss in body weight. ... a body will lose up to 90% of its weight, in less time than 25 days, when exposed under temperature conditions prevailing in the Conroe area between December 8, 1998 and January 2, 1999.”


Dr. Dael  Morris -- Forensic Entomologist -- Entomology Report of January 2007 and Statement of Dael Morris, March 29, 2007)

Earliest Trotter could have placed in the Sam Houston National Forest was December 18, 1998, based on the colonization of maggots (blow flies) in her body, based on what their growth rate would have been considering the temperature records from December 8 to the discovery of her body on January 2, 1999.


Dr. James Arends -- Forensic Entomologist -- Statement of Dr. James J. Arends, January 19, 2007 and (Supplemental) Statement of Dr. James Arends, March 26, 2007

Earliest Trotter could have been placed in forest was December 18, 1998 based on growth rate of blow flies colonization in her body given the temperatures in the area from December 8, 1998 to January 2, 1999.


You can click here to sign a PETITION opposing Larry Swearingen’s execution without considering the new evidence of his innocence.


Larry Swearingen’s official website is here


There are additional case documents on Larry Swearingen’s page on the Innocents in Prison Project International website.


Read “The Science of Murder” about Larry Swearingen’s case in the current Texas Monthly magazine.



© 1998 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)