This week on Investigation Discovery, the team looks at a nautical mystery from 1974 involving the deaths of Mac and Muff Graham, a wealthy couple from San Diego, who sailed to the south Pacific only to have their lives taken from them.
Malcolm “Mac” Graham,43, and his wife Eleanor LaVerne “Muff” Graham, 40, were a wealthy couple from San Diego, California, who had a strong penchant for sailing. In 1974, they sailed their 38-foot yacht, the Sea Wind, out of San Diego, and after stopping in Honolulu, they headed to the Palmyra Atoll, approximately 1000 miles south of Hawaii.
Tragically, the Grahams encountered ex-convict Buck Walker and his girlfriend, Stephanie Stearns. Walker was fleeing a drug possession charge, and the pair had decided to hide out in Palmyra.
However, they quickly began running out of supplies. They needed to leave the island to get more food, but their boat was no longer seaworthy.
They later claimed that they came across a capsized zodiac dinghy which belonged to the Grahams. They said that when the Grahams failed to return to the Sea Wind, Walker and Stearns assumed they were drowned, so they took the Sea Wind.
On reaching Hawaii, they repainted and renamed the Sea Wind; unfortunately, for them, the boat was still recognized by some eagle-eyed sailors who knew the Grahams and raised the alarm.
Walker and Stearns were arrested and charged with stealing the boat, but investigators remained unsure of the fate of the vessel’s owners.
Remains of Muff Graham were found in 1981
Their fate remained a complete mystery until one day in 1981, a South African couple who were visiting the Palmyra Atoll discovered human bones washed up on the beach. A skull, some bones, a wristwatch, along with some wire, were found lying beside an open box at the shoreline.
Analysis of dental records revealed that the skull belonged to Muff Graham. There was a hole in the side of the skull, which agents speculated might have been caused by a bullet.
They also found evidence that somebody had set fire to Muff’s remains, while they were in the box. The evidence was conclusive; Muff Graham had not drowned, she’d been murdered.
It is still unknown what happed to Mac’s remains.
Prosecutors argued that Buck Walker and Stephanie Stearns had been trapped on Palmyra with supplies running out and a boat that was not seaworthy. The pair were desperate enough to murder the Grahams and steal their boat.
In 1985, Walker was convicted of murdering the Grahams and was sent to prison. In a separate trial, Stearns was found innocent and acquitted after a jury ruled that Walker had performed the murders without her knowledge.
Walker was released in 2007 after his health deteriorated, and he finally died in 2010. He maintained his innocence right up to the end and even wrote an 895-page novel where he outlined his own version of events.
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