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Jury Calls for Life in Prison for Doctor in Murder-Swindle

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jurors chose life in prison without parole--rather than death in the gas chamber--Monday for a Glendale physician convicted of murdering a stranger and faking the victim’s identity in a $1.5-million insurance scam.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for three days in a second penalty-phase hearing for 57-year-old neurologist Richard P. Boggs, in the April, 1988, slaying of a Burbank accountant.

Boggs was convicted of murder along with eight related counts of fraud and assault with an electric dart gun in July after fewer than two days of deliberation in the guilt or innocence phase of the trial.

The original jurors favored the death penalty by a 10-2 vote. When they deadlocked, prosecutors empaneled a new jury and again sought the death penalty in the second hearing.

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“All the evidence was totally against him,” juror Carol Grazioli said after Monday’s verdict. “But there was no proof or accounting of where Boggs was (when the murder occurred). Without proof of where he was, I can’t commit him to death.”

Boggs was ordered back to court Feb. 1 for sentencing by Superior Court Judge Florence Marie Cooper. Boggs was found guilty of luring Ellis Henry Greene, 32, to his office, where the victim was subdued with an electric dart gun and suffocated. Then, according to prosecutors, the doctor called paramedics and misidentified Green’s body as that of Melvin Hanson, a friend and patient.

The prosecution convinced jurors that Boggs was part of a scheme by Hanson and John Barrett Hawkins, Hanson’s business partner in a failing Ohio athletic clothing firm, to collect on insurance. Hanson took out several life insurance policies, naming Hawkins as the beneficiary, prosecutors said.

After Greene was killed and misidentified as Hanson, prosecutors said, the two partners and Boggs shared in the insurance.

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Police opened an investigation five months after Greene’s murder when an insurance investigator asked the Department of Motor Vehicles for a copy of a thumbprint of the supposed victim, Hanson, and it turned out not to match that of the real victim, Greene.

Hanson is awaiting trial on charges of murder and conspiracy.

After Greene was killed, Hanson allegedly fled to Mexico, underwent plastic surgery and took the name of Wolfgang von Snowden. He was arrested coming back into the United Staters.

Hawkins, who prosecutors say collected $1 million and disappeared, is being sought.

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During the second penalty hearing, Boggs insisted that he did not kill Greene. The doctor claimed that he misidentified Greene’s body because Hanson had threatened to expose his homosexuality and ruin his medical practice if he did not sign a phony death certificate.


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