Crime - Sacto 911

Elderly suspect in double murder on the high seas may be too sick to stand trial

A drawing of Silas Duane Boston, 75, appearing in federal court in Sacramento on Dec. 8, 2016.
A drawing of Silas Duane Boston, 75, appearing in federal court in Sacramento on Dec. 8, 2016. Sacramento

Silas Duane Boston, a former Sacramento man charged with killing two British tourists in the Caribbean nearly four decades ago, has been rehospitalized and may be gravely ill and unable to face trial, his lawyers told a federal judge Wednesday.

Boston, who turned 76 last month, has drawn international media attention since he was arrested in December at a nursing home in the rural Northern California community of Paradise and later charged with two counts of maritime murder in an unsolved case involving two tourists. The tourists were allegedly beaten, hogtied and dumped from his boat in 1978 after an ocean cruise from Belize.

Sacramento police are also investigating Boston as a suspect in the 1968 disappearance of his former wife, Mary Lou Boston of Sacramento. In court documents, authorities said they believe she was shot to death and buried near a remote Northern California creek.

A British police official and aging relatives of the victims, medical school graduate Christopher Farmer and his girlfriend Peta Frampton, were due to travel to Sacramento in May to testify in pretrial depositions with Boston due to be present.

Federal public defender Lexi Negin, who previously said Boston was moved out of Sacramento County jail and hospitalized in February at and undisclosed hospital due to apparent complications from heart disease, told United States District Judge John A. Mendez that Boston was returned to the hospital this month in far more serious condition.

“There has been more dire information about this hospitalization,” Negin said. “If he weren’t in custody, he would probably be referred to hospice care.”

The defense filed a “declaration of doubt” that Boston was competent to face trial and Negin suggested in court that his health is fast deteriorating, impairing him both physically and mentally.

“The law requires him to be mentally present” during court proceedings, Mendez responded. “If he is in and out” of awareness “in terms of his medication, he may be physically present but mentally he is not there.”

Mendez said he is prepared to consider a defense motion to order a medical competency evaluation for Boston. But the challenge is that the defendant may have to be airlifted to a medical facility in the federal prison system as far away as Illinois or North Carolina for an appropriate evaluation.

Negin said Boston is in no shape for such an excursion.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutor Matthew Segal said he is telling witnesses who were due to travel out from the United Kingdom to hold off for now. Segal had earlier pushed for recorded pretrial dispositions, arguing that one of the witnesses – Farmer’s 92 year-old mother, Audrey Farmer – feared she might not live long enough to testify at trial.

“I want to go forward. I want to preserve as much evidence for trial as I lawfully can,” Segal said in court Wednesday, adding, “I have told our British witnesses not to get on a plane until we figure out what to do.”

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