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World & Nation

Texas executes man who killed college student in 1998

Larry Swearingen
Larry Swearingen, 48, received a lethal injection for the December 1998 killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.
(Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

A Texas death row inmate who argued that his conviction was based on junk science was executed Wednesday for the abduction, rape and killing of a suburban Houston community college student more than 20 years ago.

Larry Swearingen, 48, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the December 1998 killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. She was last seen leaving her community college in Conroe, and her body was found nearly a month later in a forest near Huntsville, about 70 miles north of Houston.

Swearingen, who had always maintained his innocence, was the 12th inmate put to death this year in the U.S. and the fourth in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. Eleven more executions are scheduled in Texas this year.

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“Lord, forgive them,” Swearingen said after the warden asked whether he had a final statement. “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

Then, as the lethal dose of pentobarbital began, he said he could “hear it” going into a vein in his arm, then that he could taste it.

“It’s actually burning in my right arm. I don’t feel anything in the left arm,” he said.

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