After deliberating less than two days, a jury Thursday found Glendale physician Richard P. Boggs guilty of first-degree murder in an elaborate scheme that involved killing a stranger, misidentifying the body as that of a friend, and fraudulently collecting on the friend's life insurance policies.
Prosecutors said it was " almost the perfect crime."
The 57-year-old, pasty-faced neurologist showed no emotion as the verdicts--guilty on nine separate counts, including criminal conspiracy, filing false insurance claims, grand theft and assault with a stun gun--were read. He continued his usual practice of writing on a yellow legal pad.
The six-man, six-woman Superior Court jury also found that Boggs killed "for financial gain" and "while lying in wait," two special circumstances that make him legally eligible for the gas chamber.
Superior Court Commissioner Florence-Marie Cooper set July 30 for the penalty phase of Boggs' trial. After hearing further testimony, the panel will recommend a sentence of either life without possibility of parole or death, the only alternatives.
Jurors were ordered not to discuss their decision until the conclusion of the trial.
The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Al MacKenzie, was not in the downtown Criminal Courts Building for the verdicts and could not be reached for comment.
Glendale Police Sgt. Jon Perkins, the detective who had doggedly pursued the investigation, said he was "absolutely ecstatic."
"All I cared about was the homicide; everything else was there. You always have doubts, but especially about this case. It was not your typical murder and there was no smoking gun. We had to depend upon the jury to supply that strand of rope we couldn't supply, to hook up those issues that were not clear-cut.
"It's sweet," he added, smiling.
Defense attorneys Dale Rubin and Charles Lindner left the courtroom without comment.
During final arguments, the defense conceded that Boggs was guilty of insurance fraud. However, they argued that the conspirators had not killed, but rather had somehow gotten the body of a "recently deceased" person from the morgue for their purposes.
They argued that prosecutors had not proven a homicide, citing the testimony of one expert witness who attributed the death to alcohol and "poppers," a stimulant.
Clearly, the jury did not buy that argument, arriving at guilty verdicts on some of the counts Wednesday, shortly after receiving the case, and the rest on Thursday.
Boggs, who did not testify at his trial, was accused of having picked up Ellis Greene of North Hollywood, a 32-year-old Burbank accountant, in a bar in April, 1988, luring him to his medical office, subduing him with a stun gun and suffocating him.
Boggs then summoned paramedics and misidentified Greene's body as that of his "patient," one Melvin Hanson, a close friend who had taken out several life insurance policies naming a third friend, John Hawkins, as beneficiary.
Hawkins, Hanson's business partner in the failing athletic clothing company Just Sweats Inc., collected on a $1-million policy and disappeared from view before the mix-up was discovered.
Routine inquiries from an insurance company representative led authorities to compare the victim's fingerprints with Department of Motor Vehicles records, and photographs of the corpse with his driver's license identification. Neither matched. Five months after the murder, the body was identified as that of Greene.
Hanson, now known as Wolfgang Von Snowden, was arrested--despite plastic surgery and a name change to mask his identity--and is awaiting trial on similar charges.
Hawkins remains at large.
Authorities had hoped that one of the two alleged co-conspirators would agree to testify against Boggs. "It doesn't matter anymore," Perkins said Thursday.