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Judge denies innocence claims of Pinellas death row inmate

James Dailey’s defense team tried to argue that Jack Pearcy recently confessed that he alone is responsible for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. But in March, Pearcy refused to testify

LARGO — A trial judge on Friday denied James Dailey’s latest effort to prove he is innocent of the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio, a crime for which he awaits execution.

Dailey’s defense hoped that his co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, might exonerate him. They obtained a signed statement from Pearcy in December which stated, “I committed the crime alone.”

But in a court hearing in March, Pearcy refused to testify and claimed he is the one who’s innocent. Pearcy has given inconsistent statements over the years about who was responsible for the murder.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa concluded in an order issued Friday that there is no new admissible evidence to warrant a new trial.

Related: Dailey's co-defendant refuses to testify in Pinellas death penalty case

It is unclear what will happen next. Dailey, 73, still has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Unfortunately, the trial court ruled today that it could not consider the overwhelming evidence of Mr. Dailey’s innocence, including Jack Pearcy’s repeated confessions that he committed the murder alone, because of its view concerning a number of technical legal requirements," Dailey’s lead defense attorney, Josh Dubin, said in a statement Friday. "We respectfully disagree with the Court’s ruling and will continue to fight for justice for James Dailey. He did not murder Shelly Boggio.”

In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Dailey’s execution, setting a Nov. 7 date. But a federal judge later granted a stay of execution to give his attorneys more time to research and argue their case.

No new execution date has been set.

Dailey and Pearcy were found guilty in separate trials in the murder of Boggio. Her 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 ultimately drowned.

The two men were among the last people seen with the girl. Prosecutors suggested the motive for the crime was sexual.

When Pearcy was later arrested in his native Kansas, he said it was Dailey who stabbed the girl and that he had tried to stop the attack.

Although Dailey got the death penalty, Pearcy was sentenced to life in prison.

In subsequent appeals, Dailey argued that he had nothing to do with the crime and that he was asleep at home when the murder occurred. No physical evidence linked Dailey to the crime. Complicating the case was the testimony of three jailhouse informants who claimed Dailey made incriminating statements to them.

One of those informants, Paul Skalnik, was a notorious snitch who testified in numerous cases and got lenient treatment.