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Richard Pryde Boggs (1933 – March 6, 2003) was a California neurologist who was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 for his part in an insurance scheme that involved murdering a man and then giving the victim another person's identity in order to collect a $1.5 million life insurance policy.
Murder and insurance scam
Boggs lured drunk Ellis Henry Greene, 32, into his office, disabled him with a stun gun, and suffocated him with the help of conspirator Melvin Eugene Hanson on April 16, 1988. Boggs then called paramedics, and falsely identified Greene as Hanson. He had forged medical records, and included the real Hanson's birth certificate and credit cards on Greene's body. The detectives called to the scene were initially suspicious of Boggs' story. They reasoned that doctors don't usually handle patients that early in the morning, and the temperature of the body couldn't correspond to the time of death given by Boggs; it was also pointed out on a "Forensic Files" episode that Boggs wouldn't be expected to be treating a heart patient. The coroner's report, however, ruled that the death was due to myocarditis. Hanson's business partner John Hawkins (in a Columbus, Ohio clothing store chain "Just Sweats") was called in to identify the body, which he did. Unknown to the police, Hawkins was working with Boggs and Hanson.
The case was officially closed, and the body was quickly cremated at the behest of Hawkins. Hawkins then collected the million dollar life insurance policy he had taken out on Hanson, cleaned out his bank accounts and disappeared. Hanson also went into hiding, adopting a new identity as "Wolfgang Von Snowden". Meanwhile, Farmers Insurance, which had paid out the insurance policy, obtained Melvin Hanson's driver's license to compare to the picture of the body that was found. They were checking for possible insurance fraud, and what they found led them to hire a private investigator to further investigate the case. At the same time, Columbus Dispatch reporters Robin Yocum and Catherine Candisky began to look into the case, as well as the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division (CDI) and Glendale Police Department. Mike Jones was the lead investigator assigned at CDI. Recognizing that Hanson's driver license photo did not match the coroner's photo of the deceased at Bogg's office, Jones had assistance from CDI investigator Kathy Scholz in reviewing missing person's reports in the LA area. Investigator Scholz located the missing person report of Ellis Greene and soon CDI investigators had positively identified the murder victim.
Hanson was arrested while arriving at DFW Airport from Acapulco, Mexico. He was detained by an alert US Customs officer who detected Hanson was carrying a large amount of US currency. Hanson was then referred to US Customs Office of Enforcement, where agents began an interrogation and discovered numerous inconsistencies in Hanson's story and paperwork he was travelling with. In Hanson's knapsack, which Customs officials searched, they found fourteen thousand dollars of undeclared cash; several stolen identification cards (including the California driver license of Ellis Greene); and a Dade County library book, How To Create A New Identity. The Customs agents made contact with the FBI in Columbus, confirmed an outstanding arrest warrant, and placed Hanson under arrest.
Hawkins escaped from custody and managed to leave the United States despite a flurry of media exposure. His case was profiled on America's Most Wanted and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and reported around the world; Hawkins was eventually captured off Sardinia by Italian police. Both Boggs and Hanson were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Hawkins was convicted of conspiracy to murder and a maximum of 25 years in prison. He got a lighter sentence as he hadn't been involved in the actual murder, though investigators suspected he was the brains of the scheme.
Yocum and Candisky published a book, Insured for Murder detailing the case. The story was also featured in two TruTV series: The Forensic Files episode titled "Mistaken for Dead" and also in the 4th episode of Murder By The Book, which guest starred Jonathan Kellerman. Also, there is "Doctor of Death" in Blood, Lies and Alibis.
In 1992 Edwin Chen, an investigative reporter for the LA Times, wrote a book entitled "Cheating Death", which provides an in depth review of the almost perfect million-dollar murder though it was published before Hawkins was arrested.
Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted profiled the case when Hawkins was still a fugitive of justice. It was through The Oprah Winfrey Show, profiling John Walsh's America's Most Wanted episodes, that an international viewer provided the critical lead for law enforcement to apprehend John Hawkins in Italy. Vanity Fair, 1992, also published an expose on the case.
The 1996 TV movie "If Looks Could Kill" is about this case (in IMDB, it's seen that the focus is on John Hawkins).
Richard Boggs died from a heart attack while serving his life sentence at Corcoran State Prison. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer at the time of his death.
- "3 Accused of Murder in a Plot To Get $1 Million in Insurance". The New York Times. Associated Press. 5 February 1989. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
- BERGER, LESLIE (14 October 1995). "Ex-Fugitive Sentenced--and Married". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
- DEUTSCH, LINDA (10 August 1991). "Luck Ran Out For Fugitive Who Lived The Good Life". www.apnewsarchive.com. Associated Press. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
- "The trail of a hustler: how an international manhunt finally brought down John Hawkins, the former Studio 54 party boy who now faces trial in the U.S. for murder one". Faqs.org. Retrieved 2012-11-23.