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At 73, he’s set to be executed for 1985 murder of 14-year-old Pinellas girl

James Dailey was 41 when he was sentenced to die. Three decades later, Florida is set to impose the ultimate sentence.

The day James Dailey has spent almost half his life awaiting is finally here: The 73-year-old death row inmate finally has an execution date.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Dailey’s death warrant on Wednesday. The state of Florida has scheduled Dailey to die by lethal injection on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio.

She was 14 and in the seventh grade when she was killed three decades ago. A prosecutor once called her murder “one of the most heinous crimes in Pinellas County history.”

RELATED STORY: Here are the 46 men sent to death row by Tampa Bay area courts

Shelly, her twin sister Stacy and Stephanie Forsythe were hitchhiking near St. Petersburg the night of May 5, 1985, when they encountered Dailey and Jack Pearcy. They went to a bar, then to Pearcy’s home.

Two of the girls later went back home. Shelly stayed behind, then got in a car with Dailey and Pearcy.

The next morning, Dailey was seen returning home shirtless, wearing wet jeans.

James Dailey, 73, is set to be executed on Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. He has spent 32 years on Florida’s Death Row.
James Dailey, 73, is set to be executed on Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. He has spent 32 years on Florida’s Death Row. [ Florida Department of Corrections ]

The teen’s body was found the next day near the Indian Rocks Beach bridge. She had been beaten, choked, stabbed 31 times and then held underwater until she drowned. Her clothes were found on the shore nearby.

She had 18 defensive wounds on her hands, the medical examiner testified.

“This woman fought like an animal for her life,” Assistant State Attorney Robert Heyman told a judge at Dailey’s 1993 re-sentencing hearing.

Pearcy told detectives Dailey killed the girl. Pearcy was convicted first and sentenced to life in prison, but then refused to testify against Dailey. Now 64, Pearcy is serving his sentence at Sumter Correctional Institution.

RELATED STORY: Tampa serial killer Bobby Joe Long is executed in silence

At his 1987 trial, Pinellas County jail inmates testified that Dailey shared with them brutal details of the murder.

“I just lost it,” Dailey reportedly told one of them. “No matter how many times I stabbed her, she would not shut up.”

It took the jury 68 minutes to recommend the death penalty.

Whether or not Dailey sexually assaulted the 14-year-old is unclear. A 1987 story in the then-St. Petersburg Times noted that Dailey killed her after she fought off his “unwanted sexual advances.” But the Times also wrote that a judge concluded he killed the girl so that she wouldn’t tell police he has sexually assaulted her.

After Dailey was sentenced to death in 1987, the victim’s father Frank Boggio told the Times how eager he was to see her killer in the electric chair.

“I’ll be pleased when they strap him in the chair,” he said.

But his family said the father never knew peace after his daughter’s death. He died of cancer before Dailey was again sentenced to death in 1993. Florida stopped electrocuting prisoners in 1999 and now uses lethal injection.

RELATED STORY: Victim’s relative waves goodbye as Patrick Hannon executed

Dailey was an Air Force veteran who served three tours in Vietnam. He is from Kansas but fled to California after the murders, was captured and extradited back to Florida.

After he was convicted of Shelly’s murder in 1987, he wrote a letter to the judge asking that he be put to death. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison. He got the death penalty, but that was later overturned by an appellate court.

When he was re-sentenced in 1993, he told the court that now he wanted to live. He was again sentenced to death.

Dailey actually got the worst of both worlds. He was 41 when he was convicted and has spent 32 years on Death Row.

This is the third death warrant the governor has signed since taking office in January, and the second involving a Tampa Bay inmate. Tampa serial killer Bobby Joe Long was executed on May 24.

There are 21 inmates from Pinellas County among the 341 currently on Florida’s Death Row. Six of those Pinellas inmates have spent more time awaiting execution than Dailey.

While he has wavered over whether he wished to live or die, Dailey was always adamant that he was framed by the authorities.

“I was railroaded big-time,” he told the court in 1993.

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