LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After a mysterious and sometimes torturous 15-year odyssey, the 1999 murder of Bullitt County teen Jessica Dishon ended quickly and quietly Thursday, when her uncle -- Stanley Dishon -- softly confessed that he was responsible for her death.
The surprise plea, which came a day after prosecutors and the defense met for mediation, all but puts to an end a high-profile murder case that had befuddled and at times embarrassed officials in Bullitt County. Investigators there overcame a myriad of past mistakes and the arrest and mistrial of a different person, Jessica's neighbor.
Prosecutors and investigators stressed that they had the right man this time, and that justice had finally come for Jessica's friends and family.
"She was a 17-year-old who didn't need to die that way," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Ferguson, who choked up as he spoke to reporters after the plea.
"Our county needed this, Jessica needed this, her family..." Bullitt County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Murdoch said, his voice also cracking with emotion. "This case has been very rough for our community.”
In a quiet voice, Stanley Dishon told Nelson Circuit Court Judge Charles Simms III that he was guilty of killing Jessica as well as incest, sodomy and rape charges in four other cases.
The murder charge was amended to manslaughter and Dishon, 56, entered an Alford plea, meaning he maintained his innocence but acknowledged there was enough evidence for a jury to convict him. A kidnapping charge was dismissed.
The sentences for all the charges would run together under the plea deal, for a total of 20 years in prison, with Dishon becoming eligible for parole in about 16 years. He will be formally sentenced by Simms in March.
Stanley Dishon said little during the guilty plea in Bardstown, answering most questions and acknowledging his guilt with a brief, "Yes, sir."
When told he had a right to a trial, Dishon paused and talked briefly with one of his attorneys, Jennifer Wittmeyer. "I don't want to go to trial, I want to take the deal they offered," he told Simms.
Defense attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
Edna Dishon, Jessica's mother, a constant presence in court through the years, cried and hugged family before and during the hearing. Mike Dishon, Jessica's father, sat near Edna -- though they are no longer married. Both declined to talk with reporters.
The Bullitt County Sheriff's Department, which had been much maligned for its handling of the case over the years, held a press-conference after the guilty plea, with Captain Murdoch saying "there is no doubt" in the minds of those who worked the case that Stanley Dishon "was the only one involved in this murder."
Murdoch praised the work done by many in the department, including Sheriff Dave Greenwell, who as a rookie deputy in 1999 was the first on the scene when Jessica vanished from her home. Murdoch singled out Det. Lynn Hunt, who spearheaded the investigation after getting a call from Louisville Metro Police Detective Gary Huffman on June 6, 2013.
Huffman had been interviewing an inmate in an unrelated case. At the conclusion of the interview, Huffman asked the inmate if he knew of any unsolved homicides.
That inmate would go on to give three interviews to investigators about Stanley Dishon confessing to killing his niece because he was jealous she had a boyfriend and that he feared she was going to reveal his sexual abuse. That interview led to another inmate who provided similar details.
Also, family members of Stanley Dishon described 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. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005.
According to 2013 court records, after Stanley Dishon drove to the home of his 17-year-old niece on Sept. 10, 1999, to confront her, the two argued and he chased her around the yard -- choking the teen before she fell.
An inmate who served time with Dishon said Stanley told him Jessica learned he had molested his own daughter and stepdaughter and wanted nothing more to do with him and "was going to tell."
More stories about this case
- ?INDEPTH | Inmates say Stanley Dishon said he killed niece, Jessica, to stop her from revealing sex abuse
- Court records: Stanley Dishon strangled niece Jessica with a scarf
- New judge in Stanley Dishon case also likely to step aside because of link to case
- Prosecution will not seek death penalty against Stanley Dishon
- IMAGES: Prosecutors announce surprising new evidence in Jessica Dishon murder case
Chris Turner contributed to this report.
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