Pressed for Crime: The Heather Stigliano Murder Mystery
In 1994, a jury found James Bernard Whipple guilty of first-degree murder, armed robbery and grand larceny of a motor vehicle in Stigliano's death. The jury recommended the death sentence, and the presiding judge agreed. However, the case did not end there.
Seven years later, during a post-conviction relief hearing, a judge overturned Whipple's sentence, ruling that he did not rape his victim, a fact that was apparently not made clear to the jury during his trial and was used as the aggravating factor to justify his sentence.
The case slowly made its way through the courts, and in July 2003, Whipple's attorneys made a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for Whipple's waiving any rights to parole, 15th Circuit Solicitor Greg Hembree agreed not to seek the death penalty against him.
"Parole was a risk I didn't want to take," Hembree said in an interview with The Myrtle Beach Sun-News.
During a subsequent hearing at the Horry County Courthouse, Whipple, now 50, was sentenced to life without parole.
"I deserve the punishment I get, and I feel horrible for what I've done," Whipple said in a statement to Heather's family. "I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused you and your family."
Heather's father was present at the hearing and told reporters afterwards that his family could finally have closure.
"It's been hell being in and out of court," Victor told The Myrtle Beach Sun-News, referring to the entire ordeal.