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New trial denied for Lancaster ex-con who killed girlfriend outside Fort Mill apartment

The Lancaster ex-con who shot his former girlfriend and mother of one of his children 14 times in January 2012 in Fort Mill was denied a new trial Monday, although he had already admitted to the killing.

James Enrico Diago, 41, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in December 2012 to the execution-style shooting of Jackie Craine, 34, and the attempted murder of her teenaged son. Both Craine and her son, Jackel Clinton, were in Craine’s sport utility vehicle outside apartments in Fort Mill when Diago shot both of them. Clinton broke through a window and escaped after his mother was gunned down.

Diago had threatened Craine many times before that day yet on the morning of the killing became enraged after Craine told him again she wanted him out of her life. Diago, a felon who could not legally have a gun, opened her car door and shot both Craine and Clinton. At the time of his plea, Diago was called by prosecutors a “ticking time bomb,” and Diago apologized for his crimes.

Yet Diago filed a lawsuit against his court-appointed lawyers, called a post-conviction relief claim, after admitting the crimes.

Diago’s lawsuit, heard Monday, was denied by Judge Ernest Kinard, said Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit deputy solicitor. However, Diago claimed in sworn testimony Monday several statements that were the opposite of facts known to witnesses, police, prosecutors and even his own lawyer. Among the claims Diago made that are refuted by facts in the case are:

•  Diago claims to have called 911. The 911 tape from the incident, where Jackie Craine calls 911 for help, clearly showed Diago threatening Craine and even captured the sounds of Diago firing the gun at Craine. That tape was played in court at the time Diago pleaded guilty.

•  Diago claimed that he did not shoot Craine’s son, and that the son was not even in the vehicle, despite the son being wounded in the chaotic scene and having to flee. The son required emergency surgery and testified at Diago’s guilty plea of being shot in the same incident where his mother was murdered.

Diago stated in court Monday that he should have been able to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, known generally as a heat of passion killing. However, facts of the case and sworn testimony from law enforcement and other witnesses showed that after Craine told Diago to leave that morning, he took the keys from her vehicle and went to another apartment to get a gun, then came back and killed her. His leaving the scene and coming back showed the case to be a premeditated murder.