Texas death row inmate executed

Larry Swearingen is pictured in a handout image courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (AFP Photo/HO)

Washington (AFP) - A Texas man convicted of raping and strangling a 19-year-old college student was executed by lethal injection Wednesday, the fourth in the state so far this year.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed the death of Larry Swearingen at 6:47 pm local time at the state prison in Huntsville.

According to US media, the 48-year-old maintained his innocence until death, with his lawyers arguing that DNA under the victim's fingernails was not their client's.

The US Supreme Court denied a stay of execution on Wednesday evening.

Swearingen was convicted in 2000 in the death of Melissa Trotter, a college student with whom he had struck up a casual relationship, according to The Houston Chronicle.

The teenager was seen with Swearingen on December 8, 1998, the day she disappeared, and forensic evidence linked her to his car, the paper said.

Trotter's body was found by hunters in the woods weeks later with part of a pair of pantyhose wrapped around her neck and the other half found in his house, the paper said.

Additionally, his wife said their trailer was in disarray when she came home the evening of Trotter's disappearance.

Swearingen's defense team emphasized that no biological or DNA evidence was ever found.

His execution was stayed five previous times.

Swearingen's last words were: "Lord forgive them. They don't know what they are doing."

It was the 12th execution this year in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which said all had occurred in five states across the US south: Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida.