By Jeff Lehr
MIAMI, Okla. —
Jurors convicted Dustin Boggs of first-degree murder Thursday in the slaying of Danyel Borden and decided that he should be assessed a life sentence.
A jury of nine women and three men deliberated about 50 minutes before returning the verdict and sentence at the conclusion of a four-day trial in Ottawa County District Court in Miami.
Under Oklahoma law, in a case in which the death penalty is not sought, a first-degree murder conviction carries either a life sentence with the possibility of parole or life without parole. If the life term with the possibility of parole is assessed, the defendant must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, which is calculated at 38 years and three months.
Boggs, 25, a fast-food restaurant worker, was engaged to Borden, 21, but the couple had a falling out in the weeks before her murder on June 14 of last year.
The prosecution maintained that Boggs stabbed and shot her to death in a rage on County Road 610 outside Miami. The killing took place in front of an eyewitness, Arturo Council, who was the state’s key witness at the trial.
Council testified on Tuesday that Boggs initially tried to choke Borden with a cord that he slipped around her head as they were driving down the road. She broke free of Boggs when Council heard her cry out for help and slammed on the brakes.
Boggs caught Borden as she tried to flee the vehicle, and got on top of her in the roadway and was punching her in the chest, Council said. He told the court that he got out and tried to intervene, but Boggs swung at him with some sort of weapon in his hand and warned him to stay back.
Council went on to describe how Boggs then shot Borden with a pistol that he pulled from the glove box of the car owned by Donna Shirley, a woman with whom Council, a resident of Florida, was staying in Miami.
Boggs’ attorneys argued that Council was a more likely suspect in the murder than their client because of his criminal record and various holes in his story. Council, who goes by the nickname “Preacher Man,” has a conviction for assault in Florida.
“Nobody saw anything that Mr. Boggs did except Preacher Man,” defense attorney James Bowen told jurors during closing arguments.
He reminded jurors that investigators discovered Borden’s blood on Council’s clothes and could not eliminate him as the donor of a DNA mixture found on a knife later recovered from Shirley’s car. He suggested that was because Council stabbed Borden as she was sitting next to him in the front passenger seat of the car.
Bowen said “the fatal flaw” and “gaping hole” in Council’s story came in a segment of his testimony concerning how far Borden had been from Boggs when Boggs shot her. The defense attorney said Council had estimated the distance at several yards. But the medical examiner said the shot that struck her was fired from just one to two feet from her head.
Bowen said that proved that Council was lying and that Boggs did not commit the murder.
District Attorney Eddie Wyant countered that Bowen was misstating what Council’s testimony had been, which he said was “totally consistent” with the medical examiner’s findings. But even if jurors had some doubts about Council’s account, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to convict Boggs, Wyant said.
He pointed to the testimony of another former girlfriend of the defendant’s, Emily Snyder, whom Boggs had visited in the early morning hours of the day before the murder. Snyder testified that he told her that he wanted to slit Borden’s throat and throw her down a mine shaft, and that he had shown interest in acquiring a gun and had asked Snyder if he could have a Bowie knife she had at her place.
The district attorney argued that a Wal-Mart store surveillance video played in court confirmed the time frame of the prosecution’s case, and that the amount of Borden’s blood found on Boggs’ jeans and shoes was much greater than the relatively small amounts found on Council’s clothes.
There also was the testimony of an aunt of the defendant that she had seen Boggs about 4:30 p.m. on the day in question, and that he was sweaty and tired from having walked home, Wyant said. That was entirely consistent with Boggs having walked four miles or more after leaving Shirley’s car where it eventually was discovered behind a vacant house outside of town.
“Even without Arturo Council, the circumstantial evidence is plenty to convict this defendant,” Wyant told the jury.
DUSTIN BOGGS will be sentenced formally by District Judge Robert Haney on July 5. Jurors decided that he should be assessed a life term with the possibility of parole.