A man convicted of committing murder at age 15 is telling the victim's family he can only imagine their pain, but he says he didn't kill the pet shop owner 28 years ago.

Johnny Small testified Monday at a hearing that could lead to his release. A Superior Court judge will consider whether Small should have been convicted now that a childhood buddy recanted testimony accusing Small of shooting Pam Dreher execution-style in 1988. Judge W. Douglas Parsons is hearing the matter without a jury.

Small told Dreher's family from the witness stand he can only imagine what they've been through, but "I swear on my life I didn't do it."

State lawyer Sandra Wallace-Smith noted Small never claimed innocence in several written statements trying to get courts to re-examine his case.