Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Texas executed a man who maintained his innocence in the 1998 killing of a Houston college student, authorities said.
"Lord forgive them. They don't know what they are doing," he said as his last words.
Swearingen, 48, was sentenced to death in July 2000 for the abduction, rape and death of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, a community college student he said was his friend.
Trotter was last seen alive Dec. 8, 1998. Her body was found Jan. 2, 1999, by hunters in the Sam Houston National Forest with a leg from a pair of pantyhose tied around her neck.
Police had suspected Swearingen was involved in her disappearance and arrested him days after she was reported missing on traffic violations.
Swearingen said he was innocent right up until his death.
In a statement to the Washington Post, he said he was wrongly treated by the Texas justice system.
"Today, the state of Texas murdered an innocent man," he said.
For 20 years, his lawyers argued his innocence, saying the evidence exonerated him.
However, Kelly Blackburn, assistant district attorney with the Montgomery County district attorney's office, has no doubt Swearingen killed Trotter.
"I've never been more confident of the guilt of Larry Swearingen than I am today," said Blackburn, who has been in charge of the case since 2010. "An innocent man is not being executed tonight. The man who abducted, raped and strangled Melissa Trotter is being executed."
Swearingen had five stays on his sentence and had requested one more last week on the grounds that the state sponsored "false and misleading" trial testimony from an analyst concerning blood flecks found under Trotter's fingernails and that the state "manufactured" evidence that the torn pantyhose used to strangle Trotter matched pantyhose found at his house, according to court documents.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied his stay on Aug. 16, stating that Swearingen's claims "could not possibly have made any difference to the outcome of his trial" based on the amount of circumstantial evidence against him.
The court document ended with a summary of the evidence, stating even if his claims were true it wouldn't explain away that Swearingen was the last person to see Trotter alive, that her hair was found in his truck, that she was found dead in the same clothes she was last seen wearing with Swearingen and that he told other inmates "Yeah, I did it."