James Dailey is on death row in Florida, accused in the murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio in 1985. But is he guilty or innocent, and what is the evidence against him?
The body of the girl was found, nude, floating in an inland waterway near Indian Rocks Beach in Florida. She had 31 stab wounds to her body, including many on her hands, which indicated she tried to shield herself from the attack. A medical examiner determined she was probably still alive when she was dragged into the water and left to drown, according to The New York Times Magazine.
Dailey was sentenced to death in the case, and attorneys with The Innocence Project are working to free him.
Here’s what you need to know:
Jack Pearcy Was a Suspect in the Murder Case & Dailey’s Housemate Who Tried to Shift Blame to Dailey
There was no physical or forensic evidence tying Dailey to the murder of Boggio, and a motive in the case was not identified, according to The New York Times magazine. Dailey told authorities he was asleep during the early morning hours when Boggio was killed. Pearcy woke him up, saying he needed to talk and they went to a nearby causeway. Pearcy’s girlfriend and longtime friend told investigators she saw the two men come back together, and that Dailey’s jeans were wet.
Pearcy had a history of violence against women and pursued the teenager, the article said. He picked her up the afternoon before the murder, when she was trying to get a ride with a twin sister and her friend. The girls stayed with Pearcey, Dailey and other housemates, drinking wine coolers and smoking marijuana. The other two girls went home, and Pearcy took Boggio to a beachfront bar. She was last seen at the bar around midnight, disheveled and barefoot.
Pearcy acknowledged driving Boggio to the place she was killed, but said he picked up Dailey before they went to the water. He confessed to stabbing Boggio at least once, but claimed Dailey was the killer.
Dailey’s attorney at his murder trial told his client he should not take the stand in his own defense because he did not think his explanation for having wet pants was believable, Dailey told 20/20.
“I wanted to get up and tell what really happened,” he said. “I don’t know why– my attorney at that trial said that he didn’t want me to testify because he couldn’t believe that we played Frisbee.”
Josh Dubin, Dailey’s post-conviction attorney, also spoke to 20/20 about the case.
“There was no evidence at all. The evidence that they had was the word of a fraud and a con man, this guy, Paul Skalnik,” he said.
Skalnik Was Released 5 Days After Dailey Was Sentenced to Death
Skalnik testified at Dailey’s murder trial, saying Dailey approached him in a pod to confess to the murder. Dailey denied that it was physically possible to confess to Skalnik on 20/20. Skalnik was known as a snitch throughout the jail, and he was in protective custody in a single cell, while Dailey was in a pod in the same wing.
“I would have had to yell my confession to him, and there’s always guys sitting at the table right there, playing cards,” he said on the show.
He added about 16 other people would have heard the confession. According to The New York Times Magazine, investigators questioned other inmates in the jail, asking whether they heard any confessions. They all denied having information, and word circulated in the jail that the case needed information from an informant.
Chelsea Shirley, Dailey’s former appellate attorney, also said the confession was implausible.
“According to Paul Skalnik, as he’s walking down the hallway, Dailey shouts at him through this double layer of bars, ‘Oh hey, let me talk to you,'” Shirley said. “So according to Skalnik, they talk. Mr. Dailey says, you know, he killed her.”
Skalnik testified at Dailey’s murder trial, and Dailey was sentenced to death. Five days later, he was released from jail and left town.