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Luck Ran Out For Fugitive Who Lived The Good Life

August 10, 1991

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ It was a perfect August day in Sardinia when John Hawkins’ luck ran out.

There he was, young and handsome - some would say beautiful - returning from a date with one of his many lovers, heading for the fire-engine red catamaran he had sailed to the world’s most glamorous ports.

And then the Italian police moved in.

There was a struggle, and the three-year worldwide race to evade California murder and insurance fraud charges was ended.

Hawkins, 28, one-time partner in the Ohio-based Just Sweats apparel company, was the missing defendant in a complex murder-for-money mystery.

The alleged scheme involved two of Hawkins’ friends, who are in jail in Los Angeles. Dr. Richard Pryde Boggs was convicted in the 1988 murder of bookkeeper Ellis Henry Greene, whom authorities say he met at a gay bar and brought to his office to be killed.

Prosecutors say Greene resembled Boggs’ friend, Melvin Eugene Hanson, who switched identities with the dead man.

They say Hawkins claimed the body, had it cremated, and moved quickly to collect $1.5 million in insurance on Hanson, his business partner in the bankrupt athletic clothing store chain, prosecutors said.

Just Sweats was founded in 1985 and sought federal bankruptcy protection in 1988.

There was poetic irony in Hawkins’ capture. The curly haired, blue-eyed Hawkins, by all accounts a sexual chameleon, was turned in by a woman. A woman who loved him as many women had. A woman who learned that men had loved him too. Famous men.

″She was very, very angry,″ said Glendale police Detective Jon Perkins.

Hawkins, it was alleged, had skipped with an estimated $1 million of the insurance money, leaving behind his jailed friends and many lovers who kept silent.

″He was a master manipulator of people and friendships,″ Perkins said. ″Because of their loyalty people would not give him up.″

The 24-year-old Dutch woman had met Hawkins on Ibiza in 1990 and again in Amsterdam, Perkins said.

″Then she saw implications on this TV show that he was homosexual,″ he said. ″She couldn’t believe it.″

She called the TV station in Amsterdam and was put in touch with ″The Oprah Winfrey Show″ and ″America’s Most Wanted,″ which aired a story about the fugitive. They called the police.

The U.S. Naval Investigative Service in Sardinia found Hawkins and his boat Carpe Diem, Latin for ″Seize the Day.″

Hawkins remains in custody in Italy while authorities discuss extradition.

Boggs, 58, a brillant Harvard-educated physician, claimed at his trial that Hanson blackmailed him to sign a phony death certificate or he would expose Boggs’ homosexual life and ruin his practice.

The hasty cremation made it impossible to establish how Greene died. Boggs said it was a heart attack; prosecutors suggested he was suffocated.

Boggs maintained his innocence, but the jury recommended life in prison without parole. Sentencing is scheduled Aug. 30.

Hanson, 50, pleaded innocent and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Aug. 29. His driver’s license and birth certificate were found on Greene’s body before it was cremated. When he was arrested entering the country from Mexico, authorities said he carried identification cards in 13 different names.

Boggs, a husband and father of four children, testified his marriage became a shambles after he realized in his mid-30s that he was sexually attracted to men. He met Hanson and Hawkins after he adopted a gay lifestyle, which he claims was the reason for his prosecution.

″We are prosecuting these people because we feel they conspired to commit a terrible murder,″ said Deputy District Attorney Albert MacKenzie. ″Whatever their sexual preference or the victim’s sexual preference is irrelevant.″

Hawkins romanced beautiful women while selling his sexual services to rich and famous men, Perkins said.

″He was getting $5,000 a call,″ Perkins said. ″If I told you the last guy he serviced in L.A., you wouldn’t believe it.″

At New York’s Studio 54 nightclub where Hawkins was a bartender in 1981, he became the lover of the designer Halston and also of the club’s owner Steve Rubell, Perkins alleged. Both have died.

In his years on the run, Hawkins changed his name frequently, dyed his hair and wore phony beards and mustaches, but did not undergo plastic surgery, Perkins said.

″He was too vain to change his face,″ the detective said. ″He did have lip injections to make his lips fuller while he was in Canada.″ He said Hawkins also took steroids to add bulk to his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame.

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