Local News

Boggess Found Guilty of Murder

Posted March 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— The crime more than a year ago was shocking and the penalty Monday was severe. A jury has found Todd Boggess guilty as charged.

In August 1995, 17-year-old honor student Danny Pence was murdered in Durham County. Now convicted of committing that murder, Boggess could face the death penalty.

Sharlene Pence,the victim's mother says this isn't closure for her, but it is the right verdict.

Boggess was found guilty on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and obtaining property by false pretense.

Brian Aus, Boggess' attorney, says he's hoping the jury will not decide on the death penalty, given Boggess' history of abuse as a child.

Sharlene Pence says nothing will change for her, regardless of the outcome.

Durham County jurors deliberated less than five hours over two days before finding Todd Charles Boggess guilty in the death of 17-year-old Daniel Lee Pence.

The sentencing phase of the trial was scheduled to begin today.

Jurors will have to decide whether to sentence Boggess, 21, to death of life in prison without parole for Pence's murder.

District Attorney Jim Hardin Jr. said after the verdict Monday that in seeking a death sentence, he will present evidence about the impact of Pence's death on his family.

Over defense objections, Judge Orlando F. Hudson ruled that such evidence is admissible.

``Apparently the North Carolina Supreme Court will allow the state some ability to bring humanity to the victim,'' the judge said.

Hudson also said that - at the request of defense lawyers - statements of a co-defendant in the case probably will come under jury review for the first time during the sentencing phase of Boggess' trial. The co-defendant is Melanie Gray of Durham, who was 14 at the time she allegedly participated in the crimes.

The victim's family considered the ordeal over, regardless of what the jury decides should be Boggess' fate.

``It's rather bittersweet,'' Sharlene Pence, the victim's mother, said after the verdict. ``I'm leaving the death penalty up to God. This is justice for Danny. He's not here, but he knows.''

Jurors also found Boggess guilty of obtaining property by false pretenses. Boggess' mother, Linda Boggess, rushed sobbing from the courtroom, making no comment.

Pence was kidnapped at Wrightsville Beach on Aug. 22, 1995 and his battered body was found in the woods in northern Durham County, police said.

Prosecutors contended Boggess and his girlfriend, Gray, abducted and then killed Pence after pretending they wanted to buy his 1987 Ford Mustang.

Gray also is charged in the death but has not been tried. Because of her age, she will not face the death penalty.

During closing arguments in Boggess' trial Friday, Hardin said the defendant had a ``delight in cruelty'' as he fatally beat Pence with a rock, a board and his fists.

Brian Aus, Boggess' defense attorney, said childhood sexual abuse, drug and alcohol problems and chronic depression made Boggess mentally incapable of premeditated murder.

Deliberations began late Friday afternoon and resumed Monday before the afternoon verdict.

The jury heard three taped confessions that Boggess gave law enforcement officers shortly after he and Gray were captured in a Beaufort County cornfield. -- From staff and wire reports