SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge sentenced Buck Duane Walker to life in prison on Friday for the murder of a San Diego woman whose bones were found near a Pacific lagoon in 1981, 6 1/2 years after she vanished from a remote island south of Hawaii.
Walker, 47, who still has more than 11 years to serve for a variety of other federal crimes, was given a consecutive sentence by visiting U.S. District Judge Samuel King of Honolulu, who called the killing of Eleanor (Muff) Graham a "particularly heinous crime."
Walker's girlfriend, Stephanie Stearns, 38, will be tried separately on the same murder charge.
The prosecution theorized that Walker and Stearns killed Eleanor Graham on Palmyra, an island about 1,000 miles south of Honolulu, in order to steal a luxury yacht owned by the woman and her husband, Malcolm.
The Grahams were last contacted by radio in August, 1974. Bones found on the lid of a metal box near the island's lagoon by a yachtsman in January, 1981, were determined to be Eleanor Graham's. Her husband's body has never been found.
During Walker's trial, a former prison inmate testified that Walker bragged that he forced Malcolm Graham to "walk the plank," before killing him and taking the yacht.