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November 22, 2014

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A little late, witness in ‘show and tell’ figure’s trial recants his testimony

Woman convicted decades ago is already out of prison

Sandy Shaw

Sandy Shaw

For nearly 22 years, Sandy Shaw has been known as the “show and tell” killer.

Witnesses told police that the then-15-year-old showed some of her Rancho High School friends the body of 21-year-old James “Cotton” Kelly in the desert after she arranged his 1986 slaying, participated in it and bragged about it.

This week, however, three months after Shaw was paroled after more than two decades behind bars for her role in the killing, she and her lawyer obtained a sworn affidavit from a key witness who says Shaw didn’t do much showing and telling, after all.

In the five-page document signed Monday, David Fletcher, an old friend of Shaw’s, swears he is the one who took other teens to view the body in the week after the slaying, not Shaw.

Fletcher also now backs other aspects of what Shaw has said all along, including that she never intended for Kelly to be slain and that she didn’t tell him and another witness that she took part in the killing. Fletcher also alleges a prosecutor forced him to lie on the witness stand during Shaw’s trial.

Fletcher was 17 at the time.

Shaw and two male friends, Troy Kell and William Merritt, lured Kelly to the desert, where Kell shot him six times in the face.

Shaw has always contended that she simply wanted her friends to rough up Kelly to get him to stop stalking her. Fletcher, a 40-year-old air-conditioning technician who is married with two teenagers of his own, now says the same.

He says he was in the process of testifying to that and contradicting at least one other prosecution witness at Shaw’s preliminary hearing in 1986 when then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Seaton abruptly asked for a recess and hauled him into a backroom.

“He said, ‘Dave, if you go out there and I don’t hear what I want to hear, I’m putting you in jail,’ ” Fletcher told the Sun on Wednesday.

In that room with him and Seaton, Fletcher said, were two uniformed officers, as well as Fletcher’s mother and girlfriend, who is now his wife.

Fletcher said in the affidavit that Seaton told him the officers were prepared to arrest him for “grave robbery.” On one of the visits to the site of the killing, Fletcher’s stepbrother had removed rings and a watch from Kelly’s body, and Fletcher later sold the jewelry at a pawnshop, Fletcher said.

“I did not want to go to prison, so I testified the way Dan Seaton told me to, and in doing so, I perjured myself on the witness stand,” he said.

Seaton could not be reached for comment.

Fletcher said he stepped forward at Shaw’s request after Shaw was paroled Dec. 17 because he thought her role in the killing had been wrongly portrayed all these years and she had served too much time in prison.

He said he regrets his 1986 testimony and believes it helped convict her.

“My actions have been a burden to me all of these years, and it is with great relief that I now bear witness to the truth,” he said.

Fletcher and Las Vegas Sun columnist Jack Sheehan are to talk about the case on “Face to Face With Jon Ralston” today on Cox cable channel 19.

District Attorney David Roger, who tried cases with Seaton before his retirement several years ago, said he doesn’t believe Fletcher’s story.

“If her good friend felt that she was wrongly convicted and spending years behind bars, why didn’t he step forward earlier?” Roger said.

Roger described Seaton as a “hard-charging prosecutor” who sometimes “pushed the envelope” during closing arguments in big cases. But, Roger added, “his ethics were beyond reproach.”

Shaw, now 37, is giving Fletcher credit for coming forward even if it is many years late.

“I think it was big of him to step up and do that,” she said Wednesday. “It took a lot of courage.”

Shaw said being branded the “show and tell” killer was “embarrassing” and “humiliating.”

She also figures “that aspect probably kept me in prison longer.”

Shaw said she doesn’t know yet what she and her lawyer, William Terry, will do with Fletcher’s affidavit. Terry did not return phone calls, but Shaw said Terry has been gathering other evidence on her behalf to try to set the record straight about her case.

“They tried to dehumanize me and make me out to be this coldblooded killer, and that wasn’t true,” she said. “I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the justice system. All I can do is hope that people do the right thing, and the truth will eventually come together.”

Shaw said she and her lawyer have obtained “a lot of information that would turn the case upside down,” but she’s not interested in retrying the case.

“Regardless of how much misconduct there might have been, a life was lost,” she said. “I’m not trying to take away from that in any way, shape or form.”

Shaw said she’s trying to move forward. Her priority is to get a job.

“I want to be productive,” she said. “I want to have a normal life like anybody else. I’ve missed out on a lot.”

Jeff German is the Sun’s senior investigative reporter.

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