the execution | frontline online
clifford being visited by alan austin
photo of the headline

Boggess Ready for Execution -The Herald Democrat

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 said.

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 published reports.

"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 methamphetamines.

"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 life sentence.

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 article.

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 others.

"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 saves.

"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.

home . the story . who was clifford boggess? . on videotape . artwork . letters . readings
discussion . tapes & transcripts . press . for educators
frontline online . pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation