Real Name: John Barrett Hawkins
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Fraud and Murder
Missing Since: 1989
Details: Authorities are searching for John Hawkins, who was involved in a life insurance scam that resulted in the murder of Ellis Henry Greene.
At 7:10AM on April 16, 1988, paramedics responded to an emergency call from the Glendale County medical office of Dr. Richard Boggs. Inside, they found the body of a young man lying on the floor of the examining room. Boggs identified the man as "Melvin Eugene Hanson" who had come into the office complaining of chest pains. Boggs claimed that Hanson had been his patient for seven years, and that he had recently been experiencing heart trouble. Boggs claimed that Hanson had asked to meet with him at his office at 5AM for an EKG and other medical tests. According to Boggs, after the tests were completed, he let Hanson lay down in the examining room. A few minutes later, he heard a loud thud and found Hanson lying unconscious. He claimed that he called 911 but the line was busy. He tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him until paramedics arrived.
At first, the death appeared to be natural. However, when paramedics examined the man's body, there appeared to be inconsistencies with Boggs's story. Rigor mortis appeared to set in, which meant that the man had died before the time Boggs claimed. Also, the EKG was determined to have been last used before midnight, not at 5AM. Suspicious, paramedics called the police. Boggs was questioned; police were suspicious of his story. It seemed unlikely, at the time of the morning, that Boggs would have gotten a busy signal from calling 911. Three credit cards and a birth certificate in Hanson's name were found on the man's body. However, no photo ID was found. Boggs gave police the name of Hanson's emergency contact: his business partner, John Hawkins.
Police were reluctant to question Boggs further, as he was a respected doctor in Southern California. He had built up an extremely lucrative medical practice. However, in the late 1980s, he suffered personal and business problems. There were rumors that he was overextended. His practice and medical license were in jeopardy by the time of the incident.
When the body was examined at autopsy, the coroner noted that the man appeared to be younger than the stated age of forty-six. However, the body could not be examined further when Hanson's business partner, John Hawkins, arrived. The two had co-owned a successful clothing store chain. Hawkins made it clear that he had to settle Hansons' affairs quickly since he had to return to his business to Ohio. He made arrangements with the local mortuary to have the body cremated. A few days later, the body was cremated and the ashes scattered.
Two months later, on June 9, 1988, a detective received a call from an insurance company that stated that Hawkins was about to be paid $1 million in life insurance for Hanson's death. The company asked if any photographs of the body had been compared to photographs of Hanson; a comparison had not yet been done. Several weeks later, investigators received a photocopy of Hanson's driver's license. It was obvious that Hanson was not the man that died in Boggs's office.
Police used fingerprints from the dead body to compare with prints from missing person's reports. The body was identified as a thirty-two-year-old Hollywood bookkeeper named Ellis Henry Greene. Police went to re-question Hawkins, only to discover that he had vanished. His car was later found at a nearby airport. Despite the evidence, Boggs continued to insist, however, that the man in his office was Hanson.
Police looked through Boggs's records. They found that he had made frequent calls to both Hanson's business number and Hawkins's personal number. They also discovered that he had received calls from a man named Wolfgang Von Snowden. He had spoken to the man on the same day that Ellis was found dead.
On, January 29, 1989, at Dallas International Airport, a suspicious man was interrogated by customs officials. $14,000 in cash was found in his bag. Customs agents also found false IDs, along with an ID for "Wolfgang Von Snowden". Most importantly, however, they found a driver's license for Ellis Henry Greene. The agents determined that Snowden was wanted by authorities. The man was identified as the real Melvin Eugene Hanson. Boggs was also arrested a few days later; he continues to maintain his innocence. Ellis's BAC was .29 at the time of his death, so authorities believe that he was lured to the office and killed. Since he was cremated, the exact cause of death will never be known, although authorities suspect he was either drugged, poisoned, or suffocated. By time the authorities figured out the details, Hawkins was on the run from justice.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the December 6, 1989 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Hawkins was profiled on America’s Most Wanted and The Oprah Winfrey Show during his flight from justice. The case was later documented on Forensic Files, The New Detectives, Blood, Lies, and Alibis, and Snapped: Killer Couples after Hawkins was captured.
Results: Captured. In 1991, an America's Most Wanted viewer recognized Hawkins as a former boyfriend. The viewer gave investigators enough information to locate Hawkins in Sardinia, Italy, where he was arrested on August 2. On January 2, 1992, while awaiting deportation, Hawkins tried to escape his Cagliari jail, but was caught in the courtyard. After returning to the United States, he was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy. He was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. He was released after serving twenty years.
At Boggs's trial, a witness stated that he had been attacked by Boggs with a stun gun two weeks before Ellis's murder. It is believed that Boggs intended to murder the witness; however, when the attempt failed, he decided to find another victim (which happened to be Ellis). Boggs and Hanson were convicted of murder, fraud, and conspiracy; they were sentenced to life in prison for their part in the murder. Boggs died of a heart attack in 2003 while serving his sentence.
- Puzzle of Mystery Man's Death Stymies FBI Fraud Probe - September 15, 1988
- 3 Accused of Murder in a Plot To Get $1 Million in Insurance - February 5, 1989
- Phony EKG part of death deception - May 1, 1989
- Extradition fought - May 2, 1989
- Hearing begins - September 15, 1989
- The case of the Hollywood drifter unfolds like a classic mystery - October 6, 1989
- Prospective Jurors Asked If They Watched TV Show - October 23, 1989
- The Rise and Fall of Dr. Boggs: How a Mysterious Death in the Doctor's Office Brought a Once-Promising Career to an End - October 29, 1989
- Murder, Fraud Suspect Arrested on Italian Isle - August 4, 1991
- Luck Ran Out For Fugitive Who Lived The Good Life - August 10, 1991
- Italian Court OKs Extradition of Man Sought in Insurance Fraud-Murder Case - January 12, 1992
- Ex-Fugitive Sentenced--and Married - October 14, 1995
- Notorious Swindler Recounts Notorious 'Just Sweats' Case, Including His Mysterious Vanishing Act - May 21, 2014
- Released From Prison After 20 Years, SoCal Man Finds Calling In Counseling Troubled Teens - November 3, 2014
- Richard Boggs at Murderpedia
- Ellis Henry Greene at Find a Grave