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SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Bullitt Commonwealth's Attorney's office told a judge on Thursday that they would not seek the death penalty against Stanley Dishon in the murder trial of his niece, Jessica.
"This is terrific news," defense attorney Melanie Foote Hollingsworth told reporters after the announcement, which came near the end of a hearing where the defense repeatedly asked special Judge Charles Simms III to order the prosecution to turn over evidence.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Ferguson did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The prosecution turned over audio of several interviews, including of Jessica's parents, videos of the scene where Jessica's body was found in 1999 and photos of her body, among other evidence.
Also, Bullitt County Sheriff's Detective Lynn Hunt said in court that she has sent out more than 80 pieces of evidence for testing, a fact defense attorneys did not know.
Simms told prosecutors to get the defense a list of the items that were being tested. Hunt said it will take months before any results are ready.
Other evidence requested by the defense can not be found or is with other agencies, such as the FBI, which initially began investigation the case when Jessica disappeared on Sept. 10, 1999, from her Bullitt County home.
Ferguson said in court he would turn over the testimony presented to the grand jury that indicted Dishon for murder in October. Previously, prosecutors had turned over grand jury testimony from the wrong case.
And Simms ordered the prosecution to turn over grand jury testimony that was used to indict David "Bucky" Brooks, who was initially charged with murdering Jessica.
Also, Simms gave prosecutors 30 days to produce other evidence, or at least say that they no longer possess the items, such as the investigative files of detectives who worked the Dishon murder case and bloody sheets collected for testing.
Simms said he will try to get information himself from the FBI, including results of polygraph tests taken by other suspects in the case, including three taken by Brooks, and those of Joshua Dunford and James Coulter, who were seen with Jessica the night before she disappeared.
The defense asked for any DNA evidence from a coke bottle and chip bag that were collected by investigators from a trash can after someone said they saw Jessica discard them after she was reported missing.
But Hunt testified Thursday that those items were never tested and she will have to try and find them.
The defense also wants any promises or agreements given to two prison informants who told investigators Stanley Dishon confessed to killing Jessica as well as correspondence between these witnesses and investigators.
The discussion about the informants took place at the bench Thursday.
Jessica vanished from her driveway on Sept. 10, 1999. Police have said she was dragged from the front seat of her car as she was leaving for school.
Her body was found 17 days later about seven miles away in a site known as the Salt River bottoms, a dumping ground for trash, stolen vehicles and other contraband. She had been beaten and strangled.
In a recent interview, defense attorney Jennifer Wittmeyer said the evidence provided so far against Stanley Dishon is "weak," noting that only about 150 of the 1,128 pages of evidence turned over to the defense has anything to do with her client and relies heavily on statements from the two jailhouse informants.
The rest of the evidence, at least so far, is from past investigations into Brooks, Dunford and Coulter.
The informants claim Stanley Dishon told them he confronted and then strangled his niece, out of anger, jealousy and fear that she was going to reveal that he had been having sex with the 17-year-old.
Also among the evidence, family members of Stanley Dishon describe his odd behavior around the time the teen was killed and investigators say they caught Dishon in several lies during an interview in which he denied having anything to do with the murder.
Stanley Dishon also has a criminal history of sexually abusing young girls. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to two counts of sodomy, entering an Alford plea, meaning he maintained his innocence but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict him. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005.
Stanley Dishon repeatedly denied having any involvement during a nearly two- hour interview with investigators, saying the prison informants were lying. Detectives pushed Dishon, telling him they had evidence pointing to his involvement.
"I don't care what you got. I did not do anything to harm my niece," Dishon said. "I know that. … I did not murder my niece. I am innocent."
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