A CHRONOLOGY OF MAJOR EVENTS
In June, 1973, ex-convict Buck Walker and his live-in girlfriend, Stephanie Stearns, were arrested on Hawaii's Big Island and charged with possession of the drug, MDA. Upon their release on bail, they began seeking a sailboat for the purpose of fleeing the islands for the South Pacific. They bought an old bought an old 30-foot sloop hull on Maui, which they eventually named Iola, and set about rebuilding her.
Around April, 1974, Walker and Stearns sailed Iola on her maiden voyage to Oahu, where they both had to appear in Honolulu federal court on the drug charges. Walker pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute on the condition that all charges be dropped against Stearns.
In May, they sailed to the neighboring island of Kauai. About this time, Malcolm and Eleanor Graham were sailing their 37-foot ketch, Sea Wind, from San Diego, California, to Hawaii.
On June 1st, Walker and Stearns, with their three dogs aboard, set sail for Palmyra, a coral atoll about a thousand miles south of Hawaii - teaching themselves to navigate along the way. They raised the island after nineteen days at sea, but were unable to enter the narrow passage into the protected harbor of the lagoon until June 27th. Iola had gone aground on a reef without suffering any damage. Vistiting parties already there extended them a tow inside with outboard-powered dinghies.
The Grahams, having set sail later in the month of June, arrived at Palmyra on July 1st, where they found the three vessels, Iola, Caroline, and Poseidon, already moored. The Grahams had never met Walker, who was using the alias, Roy Allen, and Stearns before that day. The two couples had independently selected Palymra for an extended sojourn, expecting to find it uninhabited.
Another boat, the catamaran Bohilla Island, was anchored outside the lagoon on the shallow waters of the reef. After making repairs, it soon departed for Samoa. The Caroline and Poseidon also departed to return to Honolulu, and other boats, Tempest, carrying Ed and Marilyn Pollock out of Hawaii, Shearwater, with Donald Stevens and William Larsen returning from Tonga, and Toloa, taking Thomas Wolfe and Norman Sanders to Australia, arrived and departed after brief visits during July and August.
By late August, Only Iola and Sea Wind remained on the island, four inhabitants. Something happened. Nobody is quite sure what. When Malcolm Graham failed to make a scheduled radio contact with Curt Shoemaker in Hawaii, Shoemaker contacted Martin Vitousek, then based at Fanning Island 225 miles away, and requested that he overfly Palmyra to determine if Sea Wind and Iola were still there. Vitousek flew over Palmyra in October, but reportedthat there were no signs of any inhabitants or boats.
In mid-October, Sea Wind, crewed by Walker and Stearns, sailed into Nawiliwili Harbor, Kauai. After a brief meeting with the Mehaffeys aboard their yacht, Vagabundo, they sailed to Pokai Bay on Oahu, where they met another couple, the Wollens, living aboard their boat, Juneau. Because of damage sustained below the waterline of Sea Wind due to a swordfish attack, Walker and Stearns had hauled out in the boatyard at Kewalo basin, where they repaired the vessel and repainted her. While in Honolulu, they met with Larry Seibert, an acquaintance from Maui, his employer, Joseph Stewart, and a friend, Richard Musick.
After re-launching Sea Wind, they sailed into the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in order to take on diesel fuel. Walker re-registered Sea Wind under the name Lokahi, and claimed he had built it himself.
Ed Pollock, the owner of Tempest, immediately recognized Sea Wind, because of its distinctive design, despite a different color of trim paint. He immediately assumed the worst, that Walker and Stearns had murdered the Grahams and stolen their boat. He called the Coast Guard and FBI. When those authorites checked the boat, they found only three dogs aboard, and set up a surveillance.
Undetected, Walker and Stearns returned to Sea Wind in the early morning hours before dawn. The next morning, Stearns was observed to row over and board a neighboring trimaran, Ladybug, owned by Joel Peters, whom she had met previously on the Big Island. A few minutes later she returned to Sea Wind and both Walker and Stearns were observed to row to a nearby pier. The dogs aboard Sea Wind had begun barking and Stearns returned alone to put them below. As she was rowing back to the pier, a Coast Guard launch with FBI agents aboard followed after her. She jumped out ashore and ran. A Coast Guardsman pursued and caught up with her. Walker, left alone on the end of the pier, dove into the water when an FBI ran toward him waving a gun and screaming, managing to elude all search parties and escape.
Stearns was placed under arrest and charged with theft of Sea Wind. It was soon determined that the fugitive, Roy Allen, was already on fugitive status under his real name, Buck Walker. A week or ten days later, Walker surrendered himself to FBI agents on the Big Island. Stearns freely made a long-winded statement to FBI agents explaining she and Walker's possession of Sea Wind. Walker made only brief replies to an agent's questions, but cut them off when he grew suspicious after catching the agent altering some of his answers. The FBI, accompanied by an Assistant U.S. Attorney and professional divers, journeyed to Palmyra where they conducted a fruitless search.
Stearns was soon released on bail, but Walker was held and sentenced to 5 years on the MDA charge, which was later reduced to 3 years. Walker and Stearns, after jury trials, each adamantly maintaining that they had no intentions to steal Sea Wind, were both convicted of theft of the vessel and transporting it across a state line. Walker was also convicted of the additional charge of making a false statement in an application for a passport under the name of Roy Allan. As a result, Walker was sentenced to an additional term of 10 years to run consecutive to his 3-year term. Stearns was sentenced to 2 years.
The authorities, as well as many of the witnesses who had visited Palmyra and met the Grahams, Walker, and Stearns, believed that murder had been done. But there was no hard evidence, no bodies.
Walker was initially sent to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island, California, on the MDA sentence, but was soon transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington, and was returned there after his theft conviction. Amazingly, an appeals court reversed the theft charge as to Walker, but not as to Stearns, and let stand the other charges, which left Walker's overall sentence of 13 years undisturbed.
Stearns was sent to the women's facility, also at Terminal Island, where she was incarcerated for a total of seven months, and was released on parole to a halfway house in November 1977.
In January 1981, Sharon Jordan, who had journeyed with her husband to Palmyra from South Africa, claimed to have found a human skull and some bones half buried in the sand of a beach. The FBI subsequently took possession of the bones and a metal container found nearby, which they speculated might have held a body. Eleanor Graham's dentist identified work he had done on her teeth by comparing X-rays with dental work found on the skull. Forensic scientists, although they disagreed on some points, were all unable to determine the time or cause of her death. As of the date of this writing, no trace of Malcolm Graham has ever been found.
In February 1981 Walker and Stearns were indicted by a Grand Jury in Honolulu and charged with the crime of felony-murder. Stearns, upon learning this, surrendered herself but was immediately released on bail. Walker was finally arrested in August 1981, in Yuma, Arizona, after being betrayed by a friend-turned-informant who he had once saved from a life-threatening situation.
After being arraigned in federal court in Honolulu, Walker was sent to the state of Washington to be tried on the escape charge, where federal marshals, seeking paybacks for making them look like fools, concocted a situation to make it appear that he had plotted his own violent rescue by elements of the Mexican Mafia. Upon a guilty verdict, he was sentenced to a consecutive term of 5 years and was sent, in 1982, to the highest security prison in the United States at Marion, Illinois.
In January 1985, the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case, Elliot Enoki, sought and obtained an additional indictment for the alleged premeditated murder of Eleanor Graham, at which point Walker and Stearns stood accused of murdering her twice. This second murder indictment, instigated by Vincent Bugliosi not only against Walker but also against his own client, was based upon the testimony of two prison informants who claimed before the Grand Jury that Walker had made incriminating statements.
In June 1985 Walker's trial began in San Francisco after a change of venue had been granted. On the basis of circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a prison informant, one Noel Allen Ingman, who claimed Walker had made inculpatory statements to him; Walker was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. The felony-murder charge was dismissed for failure of the prosecution to present a prima facie case. Walker was sentenced by the presiding judge, Samuel P. King, to life imprisonment and returned to Marion, Illinois.
Stearns, because of a brilliant defense mounted by her attorney Vincent Bugliosi, was acquitted of all charges after her murder trial in February 1986. In a bizarre turn of events, the informant Ingman recanted his testimony at Walker's trial and confessed to perjury. But, after a talk with FBI agents concerning his status on the witness protection program, Ingman recanted again and reasserted his original testimony with even greater vehemence.
To all outward appearances, the case was closed. However, in early 1991, television tabloid shows, Hard Copy and Inside Edition, resurrected the case and a TV mini-series movie in two parts was aired on CBS in March. These events coincided with the publication of AND THE SEA WILL TELL, a version of the case from the viewpoints of the authors, Vincent Bugliosi and Bruce Henderson.
Walker had maintained a long and rather absolute silence as to what he knew regarding the fate of the Grahams. On the inept advice of his court-appointed lawyer, Earle Partington, who had for four years assured Walker of an easy acquittal, he did not take the stand to testify in his own behalf at his murder trial.
Bugliosi stated the bottom line in his book when he said that Buck Walker was "the only person on the face of the planet…who knew exactly what had happened". He, of course, along with most of the other major figures involved,including the general public perception, believes that Walker committed brutal murder upon the Grahams, and then tried to destroy Eleanor Graham's features with an acetylene torch. He then argues that Walker broke up her body with a sledgehammer, or perhaps cut her up with a knife or chainsaw in order to fit the remains into the metal container,He further burned herbody in the box before dumping it in the lagoon. Malcolm Graham is presumed to have met a similar fate. Some believe thatStearns masterminded the murders and, through the clever arguments of a fast- talking mouthpiece, got away with it.
The problem is, Bugliosi and Henderson, along with all the others, are wrong!
In August 1986, after 4 years of the harsh regimen at Marion, Walker was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary at Lompoc, California. There he passed his days performing the menial duties of his job assignment as a cellblock janitor. His mandatory release date is set in the year 2018.
To save himself from madness, suicide or worse, he became a bookworm and taught himself to write. He had written two novels by the time the Bugliosi book came out. Recoiling from the insult, he spent three years writing a counter version but gave it up as an exercise in futility and turned his attention to writing another novel.
Having completed it, his third, Walker rethought the whole subject of his old manuscript and began the task of editing, rearranging, condensing, rewriting, and adding much new material.
METHOD OF APPROACH IN THE NARRATION
Chapter 1 of Part I begins the narration from late August 1974, with Walker and Stearns arriving for a supper invitation from the Grahams aboard Sea Wind, who are not present when they arrive and fail to appear. A fruitless search is undertaken and Walker and Stearns depart the island in the second week of September. They plan to use Sea Wind to motor to Fanning Island 225 miles southeast towing their own engineless vessel, Iola.
Through mishap, Iola is run hard aground near the narrow passage between the open sea and the inner lagoon. Leaving Iola behind, they consider the circumstances and decide to head back to Hawaii instead. They survive an attack by a giant swordfish, which punches a hole through Sea Wind's hull below the waterline. After repairing her in Honolulu, they plan to sail back to the Big Island of Hawaii through Kawaihae Harbor, and will meet with Rick Schulz, a lawyer friend, to whom they will tell their story for a report to authorities. Stearns will also file a salvage claim against Sea Wind while Walker, due to his fugitive status, will dissapear.
The story continues along the course set out in the Chronology of Major Events above, enlarged and filtered through the perceptions of experience, from his memories of jail, trial, sentencing, and prison, and includes the outcome of his volunteering for a polygraph examination.
After escaping from the federal prison island in Puget Sound, there follows a narration of Walker’s activities over the next two years, including his romantic adventures and smuggling enterprises, the antics of his evasion tactics to avoid arrest.
After his arrest and transport to Honolulu for arraignment on the felony-murder charge, he meets his court-appointed attorneys and has a brief meeting with Stephanie, whom he hasn’t seen in six years. He is taken on to Washington to answer the escape charge and then to Marion, where he spends the next three years in the highest security federal facility in America at that time, the replacement for Alcatraz.
There is the murder trial in 1985, after which he is returned to Marion with a life sentence on top of everything else. In 1986, he is transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary at Lompoc, California, where he is assigned janitorial duties for the next 14 years. He reads voraciously, begins to write, teaches himself from his beloved books, the lone autodidact supreme. After two novels, he begins an attempt to write his own story beginning in 1991 after the insult of AND THE SEA WILL TELL. Three years later he abandons the 2500 pages of it to begin his third novel. Completing it he contemplates a fourth, but instead returns to Palmyra: The True Story of an Island Tragedy. Once again he begins to relive the years of his experience and perceptions, which leads to Part II.
Part II opens with Walker's beginnings, some anecdotes from his childhood and teens to his imprisonment at 18 years of age in San Quentin in 1956 for armed robbery. There is some narration of his experiences there, the awakening of his mind and the beginning of a thirst for knowledge. We follow him on brief tours through his marriage, familyhood in San Francisco, fathering a child, the breakup of his marriage, and finally, his flight to Hawaii, where he steps off the plane to meet and take up with Stephanie.
They live in a sort of pioneer cabin in the rainforest and become marijuana cultivators. After the bust on the MDA charge, they go to Maui and buy Iola and begin to rebuild her. The reasons for choosing Palmyra (as a remote cannabis plantation) are explored more fully as they prepare for their voyage - two landlubbers who have never been to sea, who do not learn the art of navigation until after they are upon the high seas out of sight of land.
We sail with Walker and his observations, see his arrival in paradise, meet the people there, and learn what it is like for four people to have an island to themselves, their social arrangements, their dress or lack of it, their work and their games - all the way up to a dying afternoon in late August when, in a flash of sudden and unforeseen passions, paradise becomes a battleground and two people meet their deaths, neither through murder - although there is an attempted murder, a crime of passion as indicated on this website.
The last chapter delivers a blow-by-blow account of what occurred in those last days and hours, all those events that lie at the heart of the matter and bring the story full circle. Trial transcripts, notes, letters, and Iola's logbook serve as a partial guide for accuracy in the narration.
In an Afterword, which serves as a summation, Walker points out certain important facts not readily apparent in the text of the story, especially in his girlfriend's testimony at her murder trial - a stark contrast to what she had said in her theft trial. And compares distortions in the Bugliosi book to his own view of reality, in an effort to leave the reader with food for thought in a case where justice has taken the wrong path.
Palmyra - Portion of inner lagoon shore of Cooper Island; note pilings at