STAR-BULLETIN / 1974
Buck Duane Walker, shown above, was convicted of the murder of Eleanor "Muff" Graham
Isle murderer Buck Duane Walker up for parole
His release could come in August, though that's called unlikely
STORY SUMMARY »
HILO » Buck Duane Walker, 69, convicted of murder in 1985 in connection with the 1974 theft of a yacht south of Hawaii, could be released from federal prison in California next month.
But Walker's former attorney, Earle Partington, says the Aug. 28 "projected" release date posted by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons means only that Walker will be considered for parole then.
Partington doubts that authorities will release Walker, because he recently published a book claiming to be innocent. Paroling officials want an inmate to accept responsibility, he said.
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HILO » In 1974, Buck Duane Walker and his girlfriend, Stephanie Stearns, sailed in a leaky boat to Palmyra Atoll and returned to Honolulu Harbor in a beautiful yacht owned by a San Diego couple who had been vacationing on Palmyra.
No one knew what happened to the owners of the yacht Sea Wind -- Malcolm and Eleanor "Muff" Graham -- until Muff Graham's bones were found on Palmyra in 1981. Malcolm Graham's body was never found.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1981
Stephanie Stearns, the girlfriend of Buck Duane Walker, shown above, was acquitted of the murder of Eleanor "Muff" Graham
Walker was convicted -- and Stearns was acquitted -- of Muff Graham's murder and was sentenced to life in federal prison.
Walker has a date of Aug. 28 for his "projected" release from federal prison, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons Web site.
But Walker's former attorney, Earle Partington of Honolulu, warned against putting too much faith in that date.
"That's a parole consideration date," Partington said. Some factors, such as Walker's age, 69, and alleged poor health, might lead to a parole, he said.
Other factors, especially a recent, self-published 895-page book in which Walker still denies he killed the Grahams, work against his release, Partington said.
Paroling authorities do not like it when a convicted offender denies responsibility for a crime, Partington said.
STAR-BULLETIN / NOVEMBER 1974
An FBI agent handcuffs Buck Duane Walker, right, after his arraignment on yacht theft charges in Hilo Circuit Court. CLICK FOR LARGE
The convicted offender in this case is now in a medium-security federal prison at Victorville, Calif., near Los Angeles, under the name he was apparently given at birth, Wesley G. Walker.
But he is known to most people as Buck Duane Walker, the name he was using when he and Stearns sailed into Honolulu in 1974 aboard the disguised 37-foot ketch Sea Wind.
They arrived from Palmyra Island, 1,100 miles south of Honolulu, later claiming they abandoned their own boat and took the Grahams' after the couple mysteriously disappeared.
With no bodies as evidence of murder, Walker and Stearns were convicted only of theft.
In 1981, Muff Graham's bones were found on a Palmyra beach. The Sea Wind thieves were tried for murder. In 1985, Walker was convicted, despite Partington's defense efforts.
Stearns was acquitted, and her attorney, Vincent Bugliosi, wrote a book about the case, "And the Sea Will Tell," made into a 1991 TV movie starring James Brolin as Graham.
The book has kept interest in the case alive.
So when Aug. 28 arrives, will Walker go free after serving 22 years of a life sentence?
"I don't think he's likely to be paroled," Partington said.
The federal system generally does not parole aging offenders until they reach 70 at the earliest, he said. But Walker is close. His 70th birthday will be Sept. 18.
They do like to release prisoners in declining health so the system will not have to pay for the prisoner's medical care, Partington said.
Officials at Victorville and at the Bureau of Prisons regional office in Dublin, Calif., could not release Walker's health information. A report by Stephens Media said Walker is in "poor health."
If released, Walker would normally be returned to the place he was tried, Honolulu.