Crime - Sacto 911

Charged in high seas homicides, elderly suspect dies before facing justice

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. Vicki Behringer

In January, the 92-year-old mother of a British tourist allegedly killed on the high seas by a Sacramento man running an excursion boat in Belize wrote an urgent letter.

Please bring the accused killer to trial promptly, Audrey Farmer of Oxfordshire, England, implored federal prosecutors in a letter saying that she feared dying before seeing justice.

But on Monday, the suspect, Silas Duane Boston, died before facing trial on two counts of maritime murder.

Boston’s death disrupted prosecutors’ and family members’ search for answers in 1978 case of two young British tourists whose hog-tied bodies – weighted down with heavy boat equipment – were found off the coast of Guatemala. Fresh out of medical school, Dr. Christopher Farmer, Audrey Farmer’s son, and girlfriend Peta Frampton were apparently thrown overboard after Farmer was beaten in an altercation on Boston’s boat.

Boston, who was arrested Dec. 2 in a nursing home in the rural town of Paradise, was also being investigated in the 1968 disappearance of Mary Lou Boston, his Sacramento wife whom authorities believe was shot to death and buried somewhere near a remote Northern California creek. She has never been found.

Boston’s oldest son, Vince Boston, who was on the boat in Belize with his father and younger brother when the British tourist were allegedly attacked, said late Monday that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department notified him that Silas Boston, 76, had died after being moved from the county jail to UC Davis Medical Center in early April.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors confirmed his death of unannounced causes and said the federal criminal case would be dropped.

“Although the recent death of Silas Duane Boston will require us to dismiss the case against him, that dismissal in no way reflects our view of the evidence gathered in the course of our investigation,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the victims’ surviving family members who were not able to see Boston brought to jury trial in this case.”

Federal public defender Lexi Negin told U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez last week that Boston went to the hospital earlier in April in potentially grave condition.

“There has been more dire information about this hospitalization,” Negin said on April 19. “If he weren’t in custody, he would probably be referred to hospice care.”

Negin said Boston was previously hospitalized in February for apparent complications from heart and liver disease.

Vince Boston, who lives in Arizona, declined to comment beyond saying that he hopes that Sacramento police continue to investigate the missing person’s case involving his mother. Boston, who 4 years old when Mary Lou Boston vanished, pushed authorities to reopen the case in recent years and also helped bring the Caribbean incident to light.

Officer Matthew McPhail, Sacramento police spokesman, said Tuesday that Silas Boston’s death “doesn’t change the status of the missing person case.”

“It is still an open case, even though it is a cold-case file,” McPhail said. “Obviously we would still appreciate any information from the public from anyone who had any information on Mary Lou prior to her going missing. We have several goals in missing persons cases: We want to ensure that perpetrators be prosecuted and we want to consider our ability to give family members closure and understanding of what transpired.”

According to a federal criminal affidavit, a former traveling partner of Silas Boston told authorities last year that Boston had bragged of killing his wife, claiming he took her to a remote location, told her to run away and then shot her. The witness, who traveled with Boston in Mexico, said Boston told him he then moved in close and delivered a fatal shot as Mary Lou Boston was pleading to life to care for their three children.

The criminal complaint also said Boston, a former employee of a Sacramento-area ambulance company, bragged of killing two other tourists in Belize by taking them to an island in a rubber boat, robbing them and cutting their throats, a claim unverified by authorities. Additionally, the complaint suggested that Boston may have been involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident in Sacramento’s Lemon Hill neighborhood in 1972 and possibly other killings he bragged about.

Audrey Farmer and her daughter, Penelope Farmer, were due to fly to Sacramento next month to testify in a pretrial deposition in the deaths of Christopher Farmer and Frampton.

“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 to the court. “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.”

In a court motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Segal said Boston’s two sons, who were 13 and 11 years old at the time, were prepared to testify that Silas Boston “tied up and weighted Dr. Christopher Farmer and Ms. Peta Frampton and cast them off his boat to drown in the Caribbean.”

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