‘He didn’t have to kill her’

Published 6:15 am Thursday, February 9, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti


LaGRANGE – It might be fitting William Boyette and Mary Rice’s killing spree across two states ended Tuesday night inside a motel in West Point.

The tiny town in southern Troup County was very familiar to Peggy Phillips Broz. She grew up just across the state line in Lanett, Ala.

It seems just about everyone in that area knew Peggy – her infectious smile and bubbly personality won over even the hardest of hearts.

“She never made any enemies and had a lot of friends, said Gina Phillips Herrington, Peggy’s sister. “She would do anything for you … very outgoing, athletic, loved to fish, very active and loved life.”

“She was just the sweetest person in the world,” said Judy Wilkinson, a family friend. “I was closer to her sister, Gina. Most people wouldn’t want to drive their sister and their friends around, but Peggy would take us places in her VW bug … like to Lake Martin.”

After high school, Peggy enrolled at Southern Union State Community College. She eventually moved to Pensacola, Fla. and achieved her certification as a respiratory therapist.

She worked at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola for more than 30 years, Gina said. Peggy was well-liked by her patients and respected by colleagues.

Sadly, Peggy’s kind, caring spirit and zest for life was cut short on Friday, Feb. 3.

The 52-year-old woman had just arrived home in Lillian, Ala., early that morning after working the overnight shift.

Law enforcement officials believe as soon as Peggy stepped out of her car, she was ambushed by William Boyette Jr., 44, and Mary Rice, 37.

“Police told us they (Boyette and Rice) followed her home,” stated Gina. “… Boyette must have confronted her … police said she had her keys in her hand and was probably facing him when he shot her in the head,” she paused, her voice full of emotion.

“She would have given Boyette the car. He didn’t have to kill her,” she said.

The killer couple then stole Peggy’s car and left the area, law enforcement officials said.

Boyette and Rice left Peggy dead in the front yard of her home. Her lifeless body was discovered by her husband a short time later.

Peggy left behind a son, daughter, daughter-in-law and a 2-year-old grandson, said Gina. She was about to become a grandma for the second time, but now will never meet her new grandchild.

Time has stood still for the Phillips family. It stopped when Gina received a phone call from Peggy’s son at 11:53 a.m. on Friday.

“He said, ‘Mom’s dead. She’s been shot,’” Gina stated. “I just started screaming. I don’t remember when I stopped.”

“I just remember them telling me my baby’s dead,” said John Phillips Jr., Peggy and Gina’s father. “I just love her. I’m going to miss her so much.”

It did not take long for Gina and Peggy’s family to learn the horrendous details behind her death.

Boyette and Rice’s crime spree began on Jan. 31, when two women were found shot to death inside a motel room in Santa Rosa County, Fla., stated law enforcement officials.

Broz was the duo’s third victim. Her car was later recovered less than 15 miles from her home, said Gina.

The family was horrified to learn the couple was responsible for a fourth home invasion and shooting on Monday in Escambia County, Fla.

Kayla Crocker, 28, was shot in front of her 2-year-old son, stated officials. She died Tuesday evening.

Boyette and Rice stole Crocker’s car as well – a white, Chevy Cobalt. The car proved to be the couple’s undoing when a good Samaritan spotted it Tuesday afternoon as it pulled out from the Ribitz convenience store on West Point Road.

The tipster followed the vehicle, watched as it pulled into the West Point Motel and called the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.

After a three-hour standoff with law enforcement officers, the Georgia State Patrol SWAT team forcefully gained entry into the couple’s motel room.

Rice immediately surrendered, said Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff. A short time later, officers heard a gunshot and discovered Boyette deceased of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“I would have liked for him (Boyette) to live and stand to face justice,” Woodruff said. “But I’m glad it ended the way it did, with no one getting hurt.”

Rice was taken into custody and spent the night at the Troup County Jail. She was extradited back to Florida Wednesday afternoon.

The Phillip’s family breathed a sigh of relief that the nationwide manhunt for the killer duo was over. The crime spree ended just miles away from where Peggy’s life began and thrived so many years ago.

While Boyette’s death and Rice’s capture brings Gina some temporary closure, she remains haunted by the last conversation she had with her sister. It was a ritual for the two to talk as Peggy drove into work late at night. Last Thursday was no different.

“She told me that the west-side of Pensacola was getting very dangerous,” Gina remembered. She (Peggy) even said, ‘If I’m ever carjacked, I’m going to give them everything. It’s not worth losing my life over.”

The Phillip’s family held a small memorial service for Peggy on Wednesday. They will hold a larger celebration of life gathering for friends and colleagues on March 18 in Lillian, Ala.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.