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As James Dailey faces execution, co-defendant says, ‘I committed the crime alone.'

In a new court filing, Dailey’s attorneys say Jack Pearcy has signed a declaration in the death of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio.
James Dailey, 73, faces execution for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: A photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. [Times, Florida Department of Corrections]
James Dailey, 73, faces execution for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: A photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. [Times, Florida Department of Corrections]
Published Dec. 27, 2019
Updated Dec. 27, 2019

Lawyers for James Dailey, who could face execution as soon as next month, have made a new plea for a court to reconsider his case by claiming that another man is prepared to take sole blame for the crime.

In a court paper filed Friday, Dailey’s defense says his co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, has signed a new declaration claiming responsibility for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio.

“James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio,” the document reads. “I committed the crime alone. James Dailey was back at the house when I drove Shelly Boggio to the place where I ultimately killed her.”

The document bears Pearcy’s signature and the date of Dec. 18, 2019. It is similar to a previous affidavit filed in the case. But when called to testify in court about that document in 2018, Pearcy said some of it was not true and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

A mug shot of Jack Pearcy was taken at the Pinellas County jail when he was brought back from prison to testify in the case of co-defendant James Dailey. [Dan Sullivan]

The court paper filed Friday says attorney Joshua Dubin visited Pearcy in prison Dec. 18. After signing the affidavit, Pearcy expressed a willingness to testify at a new hearing. He also requested that his family members not attend the hearing, the document states.

Related: Doubts linger, but James Dailey is set to die for murder of Pinellas girl

Dailey and Pearcy were convicted of Boggio’s murder in separate trials. Her nude body was found one morning in May 1985 in the Intracoastal Waterway, near the Walsingham Road Bridge in Indian Rocks Beach. She had been beaten, choked, stabbed 31 times and held under water until she drowned.

Shelly Elizabeth Boggio was 14 when she was murdered May 5, 1985. The Kenneth City girl was beaten, choked and stabbed 31 times, then held underwater until she drowned, authorities said. [Tampa Bay Times]

Pearcy and Dailey were seen with Boggio the night before she was found dead. The men lived together with Pearcy’s girlfriend. When investigators questioned Pearcy, he implicated Dailey. But there was no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony linking Dailey to the crime.

Pearcy was tried first and found guilty. Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but a jury recommended a life sentence.

In Dailey’s case, the state relied on the testimony of three jailhouse informants, all of whom came forward shortly before the trial with claims that he had made incriminating statements. Defense lawyers have questioned the reliability of those informants. They include Paul Skalnik, whose prolific history as a jailhouse snitch was the subject of an investigative report published this month by ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine.

Related: Serial jailhouse informant Paul Skalnik has deep local history

Dailey, 73, has been on death row since 1987.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Dailey’s death warrant in September. Dailey was 15 days away from execution in November when U.S. District Judge William Jung granted him a temporary stay of execution. The judge did so to give Dailey’s federal attorneys more time to research and present their claims.

Since then, all of Dailey’s appeals have been turned down.

In one of several orders in the federal case, Jung called the suggestion that Pearcy is a credible witness “a stretch.” He also wrote that Pearcy’s account of what occurred the night of the murder has changed “numerous times” through the years.

Related: Judge who granted execution delay rejects Dailey appeals

Coincidentally, the day Pearcy is said to have signed the new affidavit, Dec. 18, was one week after the Tampa Bay Times received a reply to questions it had messaged to Pearcy in prison.

But the reply to the Times on Dec. 11 contradicted the affidavit: “The answer to both your questions is Dailey killed Shelly by himself."

In 2018, when Pearcy testified, he told the court that he had spoken with his family and prosecutors after signing that affidavit, Dailey’s attorneys note in their filing Friday.

"I spoke with all my family,” Pearcy told the court at the time. "And they told me I needed to do what I thought was right and that I needed to not make a rash decision since my parole just got denied for seven years and think about what I was doing.”

Dailey’s stay of execution will expire Monday.

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