Jeff Boppre repeats declarations of innocence in latest filings disputing his murder conviction
GERING — A man serving two life sentences in the killing of a Scottsbluff man and his girlfriend has made a new bid at receiving a new trial.
A Scotts Bluff County District Court jury convicted Jeff Boppre, now 55, in March 1989 in the September 1988 murders of Richard Valdez and his girlfriend, Sharon Condon.
At trial, prosecutors presented a witness who testified that Boppre had murdered Valdez. The witness claimed Boppre shot Valdez and Condon and robbed Valdez’s farmhouse. The witness and another testified about the two men speaking about the murders and that he helped in disassembling and discarding of the weapon during a trip on the night of the murders to Phoenix. The trial also included testimony about a “dying declaration” written by Valdez, with the letters “JFF BOPPE” written in grease and the name “JEFF” written in blood near Valdez’s body.
Since his conviction, Boppre has made repeated attempts in state and federal courts for new trials or post conviction relief. All his previous appeals have been denied, and the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 1993, 1997, 2004 and 2010.
The newest filing, which is 197 pages in length, is quite detailed, giving a summary of the case, including the state’s case that resulted in Boppre’s conviction and evidence that Boppre claims is newly discovered and exculpatory.
Boppre rehashes claims alleging that John Yellowboy, a cousin of Condon’s, is the “actual murderer.” Boppre points to a Florida Supreme Court case in which DNA evidence, paired with admissions by a murder victim’s daughter that she had committed a murder, were found to be enough evidence to raise reasonable doubt and grant a new trial to a defendant.
Boppre’s attorneys point to a history of assaultive behavior, including a claim that Yellowboy pointed a handgun at a woman in the week before the murders, to argue its claims for a new trial. Yellowboy has previously been convicted of assault and rape in Nebraska and remains imprisoned in Colorado in an August 1989 rape. At the time of the murders, he lived in the same trailer park as two of the witnesses against Boppre. Boppre alleges that Yellowboy knew Boppre was at the trailer the night of the murders and he could have conspired with the two witnesses to implicate Boppre.
His latest attempt also relies on claims from a woman, Sheila Janis, who dated Yellowboy and alleges that the man confessed to murdering Condon while he raped and assaulted the woman at the home Condon was killed in and at the woman’s gravesite. Though there is no record of the woman having made those claims to police, Boppre alleges she shared her belief that the man killed Condon and Valdez with Yellowboy’s sister. Janis has also made other unsubstantiated claims — such as alleging that Yellowboy killed her mother, whose death had been ruled a suicide, according to Boppre’s filings.
The woman also is associated with another woman, Melissa Moreno, identified in the court documents as Melissa Martinez. Moreno has been the subject of previous filings by Boppre in the past. In the recent motion, and previous motions, Boppre claims Moreno was hiding underneath a bed in Valdez’s home during the murders. Moreno claims that she heard Yellowboy’s voice and that she heard multiple people’s voices and the sounds of multiple people rummaging through the home during the murder.
However, previously, Moreno has recanted claims that she was in the home at the time of the murders. Boppre explains those recantations in the filing, claiming the woman was afraid or didn’t want to return to Scottsbluff.
Boppre also claims to have evidence that multiple people would have had to be involved in the murders, including opinions of a Utah State medical examiner. According to Boppre’s filing, the examiner has given the opinion that Valdez suffered a neck wound that was indicative of someone holding a knife to his neck shortly before he was shot and killed. The medical examiner also has given opinions that Condon’s body had been moved after she had been killed and that Valdez would have been incapable of writing the letters found at the scene, as he had been shot in the left arm.
In the filing, Boppre also claims that DNA testing shows Yellowboy as the source of blood from a stain on a door next to Valdez’s body.
The filing also goes into detail about claims that there were irregularities in the trial, irregularities by prosecutors and by witnesses and law enforcement officers that prevented Boppre from having a fair trial.
Since his conviction, in each of his filings, Boppre has maintained he is innocent of the two killings. Boppre cites an “actual innocence” claim made under the Nebraska Postconviction Act to also argue that he should be allowed an evidentiary hearing on the claims cited.
Boppre had previously filed a motion to examine latent fingerprints taken from the scene. The State of Nebraska objected to the motion. The motion was taken under advisement by the court on Nov. 6 and is pending a ruling by Scotts Bluff County Judge Andrea Miller, according to online computer records.
Boppre’s Iowa-based attorney, Thomas Frerichs, said the filings were the culmination of a multi-year investigation into the case, and his client “wants to be heard” in court.
Scotts Bluff County Attorney David Eubanks said much of the testimony and evidence Boppre’s attorneys cited isn’t new. Eubanks said he was working with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office on the case.
“I can’t find anything here that hasn’t been raised and rejected by the Supreme Court,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office said she would inquire about the case but didn’t know if state attorneys would have any comment.
The push to reopen the case coincides with a documentary series nearing completion that questions whether Boppre is guilty. The series is reminiscent of the popular 2015 Netflix series, “Making a Murderer,” that explored a Wisconsin case.
In some of his previous appeals, Boppre said he had been framed for the killings by the men who testified against him. In 2010, Boppre started suggesting that Yellowboy was the killer.