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Murder on the high seas? Former Sacramento man, 75, charged in cold case

A 1978 photo of Chris Farmer with the sons of Silas Duane Boston was included in the federal criminal complaint filed Thursday against Boston. Boston faces charges of committing maritime murder in the 1978 killings of Farmer and his girlfriend, Peta Frampton, by dumping them into the Caribbean Sea from the boat shown here.
A 1978 photo of Chris Farmer with the sons of Silas Duane Boston was included in the federal criminal complaint filed Thursday against Boston. Boston faces charges of committing maritime murder in the 1978 killings of Farmer and his girlfriend, Peta Frampton, by dumping them into the Caribbean Sea from the boat shown here. United States District Court

After an unexpected break in a cold-case investigation, a 75-year-old man was arrested by federal authorities in the rural town of Paradise on Thursday and charged with two counts of maritime murder in the killing of a couple who were beaten, hogtied and dumped from a boat into the Caribbean Sea in 1978.

A federal criminal complaint filed Thursday says Silas Duane Boston also could have been involved in the mysterious disappearance of his former wife, Mary Lou Boston, who was last seen in 1968 in Sacramento and is believed to have been shot and killed.

His arrest was triggered by an investigation by Sacramento police into Mary Lou Boston’s disappearance. One of Boston’s sons told investigators that as a child he witnessed a violent encounter on a boat his father had sailed in the Caribbean.

According to the complaint, signed by FBI Special Agent David J. Sesma, Boston was in Belize when he offered rides on a boat he owned to British tourists Christopher Farmer and girlfriend Peta Frampton, who were both in their mid-20s at the time.

The affidavit states that Boston, then 37, promised to take the couple to Mexico. But instead Farmer was beaten with a billy club, stabbed in the chest with a fillet knife and tied up after an apparent argument on the boat with Boston, who also tied up Frampton and then pushed them overboard, the FBI said.

On Friday, Boston, with a long white beard and gray hair stretching past his shoulders, was brought into a federal courtroom in Sacramento in a wheelchair. Authorities said he had been living in a convalescent home at the time of his arrest.

“Can you hear me all right, sir?” U.S. Magistrate Kendall Newman said, preparing to read murder charges that can result in life in prison or the federal death penalty.

Dressed in a rumpled orange jail smock, Boston nodded.

Prosecutor Matthew Segal said federal authorities expect Boston to be indicted Thursday, prompting Newman to deny bail and set a status hearing for the same day.

According to a report by authorities in Guatemala, volunteer firefighters on July 8, 1978, found two bodies floating in the water 200 meters from a beach known as Punta de Manabique. The report said the victims were bound by their legs and ankles. The badly decomposed bodies had been weighted down by heavy engine parts attached with nylon rope.

The recent investigation picked up, according to the complaint, after Boston’s son, Vince, described the incident that took place when he was 13 years old. The son told authorities that their father had taken them on a trip from Sacramento to Belize. There, he said, his father bought a boat and charged money to take tourists out for scuba diving or snorkeling excursions.

Boston’s other son told Sacramento police that his father had initiated the trip to Belize because the elder Boston was fleeing a statutory-rape complaint in the capital region.

According to the criminal complaint, others interviewed by authorities reported that Boston had bragged about killing his wife and burying her body after taking her to an undisclosed location where he liked to go shooting. A man who traveled with Boston in Mexico told authorities that Silas Boston had said that after Mary Lou Boston exited his truck, he told her to run and then shot her.

Silas Boston told the man that he “was unsure if he hit her in the back of her skull or the base of her skull but the shot didn’t kill her,” the complaint states. The man said Boston told him he approached his wife as she pleaded for her life – asking “What about the kids?” – before Boston delivered the fatal shot. Authorities said Boston told the man that he was left with blisters on his hands from burying her.

The complaint also suggests Boston may have been involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Sacramento’s Lemon Hill neighborhood in 1972, and possibly other murders.

His traveling companion from Mexico told authorities that Boston talked about killing two other tourists in Belize by taking them to an island in a rubber boat, robbing them, cutting their throats and leaving them in a jungle. The witness said Boston also claimed to have shot three drug dealers in Sacramento who assaulted a female friend. Federal authorities haven’t verified the reports.

On Friday, Boston’s federal public defender, Douglas Beevers, said Boston is in frail health. He asked that his client be spared from being shackled “due to his physical condition” while being moved inside Sacramento County Jail or brought to court.

Newman ruled that the shackles would be used, as with any dangerous inmate.

“Looking at the charges in this case,” he said, “I do find that fully appropriate.”

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