Thirty-eight years after the bodies of two British tourists were found in the Caribbean Sea, the elderly mother of one of the victims is asking a federal district judge to speed up the trial of a Sacramento man accused of murdering the couple on a boating excursion from Belize.
The written appeal from 92-year-old Audrey Farmer, the mother of medical-school graduate Christopher Farmer, added a new element to the bizarre, unfolding criminal case of Silas Duane Boston, 75.
Boston, a former Sacramento resident who was living in a nursing home, was arrested Dec. 2 in the rural town of Paradise and later indicted on two counts of first-degree maritime murder in the 1978 killings of Farmer and the physician’s girlfriend, Peta Frampton, both in their mid-20s. He has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities say Boston also is a suspect in the killing of his former wife, Mary Lou Boston of Sacramento, who was last seen in 1968. According to court documents, Boston has claimed to have committed other killings as well, and may have been involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Sacramento’s Lemon Hill neighborhood in 1972.
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“My husband and I were very much involved in the search for them and we did all we could to establish how, why and who killed them,” Audrey Farmer wrote of her son and Frampton in a letter introduced in federal court Tuesday. “It was a matter of great sadness that my husband, Charles, died three years ago never knowing the truth surrounding their deaths and that the murderer was never brought to justice.”
She added: “I am myself now 92 years old and Duane Boston is 75. Taking all of this into account, there may be little time left for justice to be seen.”
Assistant United States Attorney Matthew D. Segal included Farmer’s letter and a second letter, from Christopher Farmer’s sister Penelope, in a court motion filed Tuesday seeking a prompt trial for Boston.
In the motion filed with U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, Segal said Boston’s two grown sons will testify that Boston “tied up and weighted Dr. Christopher Farmer and Ms. Peta Frampton and cast them off his boat to drown in the Caribbean.”
At the time, authorities said, Boston’s sons were 13 and 11 years old, when Boston – the operator of a tour boat – beat Farmer with a billy club before tying up the couple and throwing them overboard. Their bodies were found off the coast of Guatemala.
In court Tuesday, Segal requested a trial within six months “because we have a number of witnesses in this case that are in their 80s and in their 90s.”
In addition to Audrey Farmer, authorities are also expected to call a former traveling companion of Boston who allegedly told authorities that Boston, a former employee for a Sacramento-area ambulance company, bragged about the boat slayings in addition to killing his wife, according a criminal complaint.
Authorities say the witness, who traveled with Boston in Mexico, said Boston bragged of killing two additional tourists in Belize and shooting his wife and burying her body near a creek in Northern California. She was never found.
In his motion Tuesday, Segal said Christopher Farmer’s survivors “want to see a trial badly enough that they are willing to travel to Sacramento at risk to the elder Ms. Farmer’s health. Given Audrey Farmer’s advanced age, justice delayed may be justice permanently denied.”
In her letter to the court, Penelope Farmer said her mother has said “that making the journey from Oxfordshire, England ... to travel over 5,200 miles to Sacramento is the very last thing she can do for Chris.”
Attorney Lexi Negin, one of Boston’s federal public defenders, said in court that the defendant, who has arthritis and other health issues, is suffering in Sacramento County jail “and is not getting the care he was getting in the nursing home.” But she said the defense needs extensive time to prepare his case.
“Our position is that we will be ready for trial someday,” Negin said.
“That’s incredibly unhelpful,” answered Mendez.
Pressed for a date on when the defense would be ready, Negin suggested fall 2018.
“That’s not going to work,” Mendez answered.
While declining to rule on the prosecution’s motion, the judge suggested he is more likely to set a trial date for fall 2017. “I think both sides can anticipate this trial will take place this year,” he said.
Boston is due back in court Feb. 14.