June 7, 1998|
Byline: Cassandra Lindsay
Texas death row inmate Clifford Boggess said he's a changed man from the
drugged-up kid who killed two men during the summer of 1986--still he's looking
forward to his execution June 11.
In fact, he asked to be lethally injected that day. It will be his 33rd
birthday, one of many birthdays he's celebrated in the Ellis Unit of the jail
in Huntsville, Texas.
"My reasons (for his request) are twofold, " Boggess said from behind thick
glass windows and iron grating. "It serves as a symbol to my friends and love
ones and other people that my passing is actually my birth into a new life. My
eternal life, so it is a birthday in a sense and secondly, I just like the idea
of leaving the world on the day I came into it."
He speaks to God with the fresh glow of the newly converted, wearing the white
uniform of the death house and being confined 23-hours a day in an iron cage
for the violent murders of two grandfathers. When he talks, he tosses around
words like "manic depressive", "emotional abuse" and "pent-up aggression" as
someone who has learned the power of psychobabble. He keeps eye-contact with
whomever he is speaking, seems amiable and intelligent.
Boggess talks fast and at length about the subjects which hold his interest:
religion, his artwork and the death penalty. Gone are the wild hand gestures
and booming voice when he speaks of why he murdered Roy Vance Haxelwood in
Whitesboro and Frank Collier in St. Jo. Boggess becomes quieter, his voice
lowers and becomes calmer.
"I was born to a manic depressive mother. At 11 months of age I was taken from
my natural family for neglect and abuse by the state in Georgia where I was
born," Boggess begins his tale.
He was adopted at the age of 2 when his natural mother signed away her parental
rights to him after regaining custody of her seven other children. His
adoptive parents got a divorce when Boggess was 3 and moved him to St. Jo to be
reared by his grandparents.
"Even once I got to Texas with a stable environment with people who were trying
to raise me, well, I'd say I showed up with some deficits. A lack of coping
skills," Boggess said.
He was an honor student in school who couldn't make friends. It was a lonely
childhood full of strict rules and the push do things the right way, he said.
Boggess got his first taste of independence at Cook County College, but dropped
out after a semester because "partying" became [h]is major.
"Once I was away from home I started partying more, driniking more, doing more
drugs, chasing the girls...," he said.
In 1984 he joined the Army, got married and divorced and kicked out of the
service for partying too much. In 1985 he moved back home, got a job and tried
to clean up his act. Boggess said he wanted to go back to school and was
trying to save money to pay for college. By June, 1986 he had built up some
savings, quit drinking, smoking and doing drugs.
Then the engine in his truck blew up, that is what set him off on a crime spree
that left two innocent men dead, he said.
"All I can say is at this time it hit me wrong. it was June 13, 1986 the first
bad Friday the 13th I'd ever had. I'd just turned 21 two days before and I
decided that's it. That tears it up, no matter what I do or how hard I try
none of it works...I'm through, I give up and I don't care anymore," he
Boggess went out bought some beer and smokes, went down to the city park and
took five doses of LSD and that is how it all began, he said. Boggess spoke
expansively about the incidents leading up to the murders, but would speak only
briefly about them. He said he killed Mr. Collier and Mr. Hazelwood, both
senior citizens, for money to continue partying.
Mr. Collier was working in his grocery store in St. Jo when he was murdered
July 23, 1986. At Boggess' trial in 1987, prosecutors provided evidence that
Boggess told five people about how he murdered Mr. Collier, according to
"According to testimony, Boggess told of cutting Collier's throat twice,
hitting him in the face and head, jumping on his chest and stabbing him,"
stated a Wichita Falls Times-Record article.
Boggess said the death was so violent because of aggressive behavior caused by
"It was my drug of choice," he said.
After killing Mr. Collier, Boggess made his way to Whitesboro where he murdered
Mr. Hazelwood Aug. 17, 1986. Mr. Hazelwood was in his shop R & L Swap Shop
when he had been shot in the back and in his chest.
Boggess was being held in the Grayson County Jail the next day charged with
murdering Mr. Hazelwwood. He pleaded guilty in January, 1987 and was given a
He pleaded innocent when he was charged with the murder of Mr. Collier. A jury
found him guilty after deliberating for an hour and eight minutes. He was
sentenced to death.
Boggess started off his prison life by filing appeal after appeal, until, he
said, he found Jesus inside the walls of the Texas Department of Corrections.
He studied several religions before converting to Catholicism. Now he looks at
life with a different perspective, he said, he has admitted to murdering Mr.
Collier and Mr. Hazelwood and says he regrets what he has done.
He wrote letters of apology to the Collier and Hazelwood families, but hadn't
received any replies. The families couldn't be reached to comment for this
Boggess spends his days writing letters, praying and drawing. His death row
artwork has received quite a bit iof attention since he went to jail 12 years
ago. It was shown in New York City and it will be shown in Houston until July
15. He said his artwork is a way to get his message about God and death row to
"I will not get out," he said. "But my message will."
As for the death penalty, Boggess is firmly against it. Not because he is
about to be put to death himself, he said, but because Jesus said it was wrong.
He quotes the Bible story of the adulterous woman condemned to death that Jesus
"I feel like a life without parole is more just and moral punishment than the
death penalty," he said. "My punishment ends in 15 days. Life without parole
goes on for decades and decades until I die an old man, unless some crackhead
in a prison gang doesn't get me first."
Boggess said he is looking forward to his execution June 11. He has gotten rid
of what he calls his "material possessions" and has said his goodbyes to
friends and family. He said he feels at peace.
"In 15 days my punishment ends. I'm free," he said. "I'm gone. To think
(prison life) would go on and on for another 40 years or so would be horrible.
It might be what I deserve, but it would be horrible.