James Whipple is behind bars for murdering 19-year-old aspiring actress Heather Stigliano at her home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
In 1990, Stigliano graduated with honors from High Point Regional High School in Branchville, New Jersey, and shortly after, she moved to South Carolina to pursue a career in acting.
While there, Stigliano decided to work as a waitress at Shoney’s Restaurant, presumably until her acting career took off.
On Nov. 4, 1991, Stigliano went missing. No one had seen or heard from her since that day.
Seven days later, Stigliano was found dead. Her partially nude body was found in her apartment with a lamp cord wrapped around her neck and a dish towel shoved in her mouth, according to The Index-Journal.
An autopsy determined that Stigliano had been stabbed multiple times, repeatedly struck on the head with an iron and a lamp, strangled, and possibly sexually assaulted.
Law enforcement officers rummaged through her apartment for evidence, but they didn’t find anything that would lead them to Stigliano’s killer.
They did, however, state that her vehicle was missing.
On Nov. 14, 1991, an officer in Melbourne, Florida, pulled a vehicle over for a traffic violation. The driver of that car was a man named James Whipple.
When they discovered that the vehicle belonged to Stigliano, officers searched the car and found her purse, a steak knife, parts of an iron, and a lamp base.
Officers later found more of Stigliano’s belongings when they searched Whipple’s motel room.
Whipple was arrested and booked into the Brevard County Jail. He was later extradited back to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
He was charged with murder, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, grand larceny of a motor vehicle, and armed robbery.
While in police custody, Whipple confessed to killing Stigliano. He told investigators that after breaking into her apartment, he beat her and stabbed her, and afterward, he fled the scene in her vehicle.
While in court, Whipple released a statement to the victim’s family. He said, “I deserve the punishment I get, and I feel horrible for what I’ve done. I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you and your family.”
In 1992, Whipple pleaded guilty to the murdering Stigliano to avoid the death penalty.
Despite his efforts, a judge sentenced him to death.
Seven years later, his sentence was overturned after a judge determined that Whipple did not rape his victim, according to The Times and Democrat.
James Whipple’s sentence was amended to life in prison without the possibility of parole.