MovieChat Forums > And the Sea Will Tell (1991) Discussion > I can't believe Jennifer (Jenkins/Stearn...

I can't believe Jennifer (Jenkins/Stearns) was aquitted!

There are so many problems with her testimony and stories. Tons of inconsistencies and flat out lies!

Most puzzling to me at this point is her story of what she believes happened to the Grahams. A boating accident on a Zodiac in the lagoon!?

Let's examine this story. First, the Zodiac has been shown to be a VERY stable craft. Second, the Grahams had plenty of experience operating it, even in remote places like Palmyra. Third, the federal investigator could find no evidence that the Zodiac had been tipped and the motor submerged in the water, as Buck and Jennifer claimed.

I can imagine a scenario where Buck flipped the boat himself after committing the murders in order to fool Jennifer. That way, when Jennifer saw the Zodiac on the morning of Aug. 31, the boat accident story would be plausible. However, there's no evidence that the boat ever tipped (either due to the Grahams own error or Buck's doing)!!!

At this point it's clear in my mind that the dissappearence was fabricated by both Buck and Jennifer. She may not have physically committed murder, but I don't believe for one second that she didn't/doesn't know exactly what happened.

What a great mystery!


I don't understand your comment. Most puzzling is her story about what she believed happened to the Grahams? It was set up by Buck to make it look like that's what happened, and Jennifer fell for it. Whether it COULD happen is irrelevant.

You say you can imagine a scenario where Buck flipped the boat in order to fool Jennifer, but then say it's clear that they BOTH made it up? Not following.

I don't understand how people can say that she SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. The girl was a space-cadet. She barely paid attention to her own DEFENSE. She saw what she wanted to see, and believed what she wanted to believe, and nothing more.




My point is that if Jennifer fell for Buck's story, then she would have had to have seen the Zodiac flipped over on the beach in the morning after it supposedly washed up during the high tide.

The problem is, the investigator could find no evidence of the outboard motor on the Zodiac ever having been upside down in the sea water. Therefore, Buck (and Jennifer?) never actually flipped the Zodiac. Therefore, Jennifer was lying about seeing it flipped on the beach the morning after the murders and thus knew that they had not parished in a fishing accident. Buck didn't use the story to fool Jennifer (because he never actually flipped the Zodiac) but rather Buck AND Jennifer used the story to fool everyone else.

My theory is that they both planned the murders and carried out their respective roles and then came up with the "stories" on their return trip to Hawaii.


It is very possible that Buck used the Zodiac to sink the bodies, took it to shore, then flipped it ON THE BEACH making it seem as if it flipped in the lagoon and washed up on shore. WE know that's not feasible, WE know that the boat was never flipped while in the water, but how could Jennifer have known?



I don't find it very likely that Buck would have pulled the Zodiac all the way up onto the beach and then flipped it. If he was tyring to make it look like an accident for Jennifer's eyes, wouldn't it have been much more plausible/appropriate to flip the Zodiac in the lagoon (even close to shore) rather than pulling it from the water and turning it over on the beach?

Even if it was flipped on the beach at the high water line of the high-high tide, the motor would then show subsequent evidence of having been exposed to sand/water.

I still believe the Zodiac was never actually flipped at all.

Other things that puzzle me and leave serious doubts about Jennifer's innocence:

1) The missing rat poison and the act of Jennifer presenting a "truce" cake to the Grahams shortly after the poison went missing. I know, I know...there's no evidence that the Grahams (or specifically Muff) were posioned. But that doesn't mean Jennifer/Buck didn't attempt to poison them. It's totally possible for the Grahams to have thrown out the cake as soon as Jennifer gave it to them without having eaten any. Mac knew about the missing poison and told Sanders that "I'll keep it in mind".

I also find it troubling that Bugliosi kept the missing poison testimony out of Jennifer's trial. I didn't buy Bugliosi's arguments (though the judge did) for keeping it out.

2) The possibility that Jennifer may have flushed evidence down the toilet in Hawaii.

3) The possibility that Jennifer did indeed say that she didn't plan to leave Palmyra on the Iola.

4) The argument that the bodies would have better been disposed of far offshore. I agree. But criminals are known for making mistakes. Furthermore, the lagoon was well over 100' deep, which I believe most people would assume is deep enough to permanently conceal evidence/bodies (though evidently isn't the case).


Keep in mind that while Buck may have wanted to set it up to look like an accident for Jennifer's sake, he probably had every intention of keeping the Zodiac. If he put it in the water then it would likely be damaged beyond repair, and then it would be useless. Why break your new toy when you can get the same effect without breaking it?

1) The rat poison could have been taken by Mac with the intention of poisoning Buck's dogs. I don't think that's a far-fetched option- I know I would if I had the chance. There are also doubts that the "cake-truce" incident ever happened. And even if it did, that doesn't mean it was poisoned, it could have been innocent- Jennifer routinely baked as a way to say "thank you" to their neighbors. And yes, there is the possibility that they never ate it anyway, especially in light of the knowledge of the missing poison- unless they are the ones that took it. There was also testimony from another "neighbor" who said Jennifer baked them bread as a thank you, but they threw it out because it didn't look good.

And yes, Bugliosi made many arguments that were little more than smoke and mirrors, but I certainly want him on MY side if I'm ever on trial.

2) No one says "boo" about her being in the bathroom except for a civilian, we have every reason to believe that her purse has already been searched, and no one has any guess as to what she could possibly have been flushing. She denies that she flushed anything, but even if she did, maybe it was just marijuana.

3) I don't believe for a second that Jennifer ever said that.

4) Sure, criminals make mistakes, that's how they get caught. But their mistakes are usually from cutting corners (like the Zodiac incident, maybe?). If they did it together, they could have just dumped the bodies overboard- easy, fast, effective. Or dumped them out at sea as they sailed away. Why NOT do it that way? What's the reason for doing it the hard way?

On another note, have you read "Till Death Us Do Part"? That one will give you fits.



Thanks for the discussion, Milana!

It appears that neither of us will sway the other, particularly since there's no solid proof either way. The jury had reasonable doubt and aquitted her. That's not how I would have voted, but in any case...

You said: "And yes, Bugliosi made many arguments that were little more than smoke and mirrors, but I certainly want him on MY side if I'm ever on trial."

I agree, I'd want Vince defending me too (if I could afford his giant ego!). But what bothers me is all of his hype/words in the beginning of the "Justice" section about not taking clients that he didn't fully believe were innocent and so forth. The deeper I read, the more I got the feeling that he had some serious doubts. I originally had a ton of respect for the man, but I lost a little in learning how Jennifer was defended and what he kept out of court. Yes, I know, it's his job to protect his client. But it's a tough pill to swallow with all of his early righteous rhetoric.

Maybe Jennifer had him fooled too. She was definately a "strange bird" and acted different than I would imagine any guilty or innocent person on trial for murder to act. Maybe Bugliosi has us fooled with his book. Maybe she's truly innocent and Bugliosi knew it all along.

He's still a good writer and the book is still excellent. In fact, part of what I enjoy about the book is that I have a different view point and opinion than the author.


It's funny you said that about his "hype" because I thought the EXACT same thing, seriously. I got the feeling that he WANTED to believe what he was saying, so he talked himself into it.

It always bothers me with juries when there are hold-outs who eventually agree with the majority. Are they convinced by the evidence, or is it peer pressure?

Yeah, Bugliosi kept a lot of stuff out, but that's what lawyers are supposed to do. You expect them to fight tooth and nail for you and do whatever it takes, no matter what.

Bugliosi is articulate, devoted to his clients, and super, super sharp. He's one of those people that can persuade you of anything, someone you believe just because they say so. I think he won a lot of his cases ONLY because he is so persuasive.

I thought his jury assessment skills were horrible. He saw those two women crying and thought they must be the hold-outs, couldn't think of any other explanation? Seriously, Vince, get a clue.

Really, read "Till Death Us Do Part". His ego is not so inflated at that point, but there are many instances where he "waves away" damning evidence as if it were nothing. He's very convincing, but you still sit there thinking "Wait, that doesn't make any sense!"

Nice talking to you!



She knew what happened, at least after the fact. Don't know if she planned and participated directly. But she had to have known they were murdered, at the least. It's just common sense. Buck does all that, and she doesn't know? No way.

A fellow attorney of mine (ex-colleague) knew a number of the players when he lived in Hawaii. He never doubted she was just lying through her teeth.

Bugliosi made himself believe so he could defend her. Some attorneys need to operate that way. That pollyannish mindset is conveyed through his story (regardless, I thought it was excellent TV fare).

As far as why she was acquitted, well not a huge surprise. She had a good attorney, and anything can happen with juries.

By the way, I absolutely hate the argument, inevitably raised by defense attorneys: "Why would they do this when they could have done that?" "Why would they be so dumb?" Etc. Here, regarding where the bodies were buried. Raised similarly in the O.J. and Scott Peterson trials. Well, the answer is, criminals are dumb. Or simply illogical. Or not thinking clearly.

Coincidentally, I also knew one of the real-life characters, depicted briefly in the film. His name was Norm Sanders and he was one of the two guys who briefly visited the island (then turning down some bread or something? I saw this years ago). Sanders was a UCSB professor and was sailing his boat from Hawaii to Australia (after the Santa Barbara to Hawaii leg) where he eventually settled down and became a senator.


As for your item # 4, "criminals are known to make mistakes."

Say it like it is. Criminals ARE mistakes. They were mistakes at conception. Criminals make mistakes all the time because they aren't / can't think well. Their minds are defective. Something that seems odd and that wouldn't be logical to do.... are only odd & illogical IF the person was normal... but criminals are not normal. They do things the average person wouldn't do. Like murder. Like fleeing to an island atoll to grow weed rather than just get a job (after doing his jail time, of course).

Look at any criminal case.... they ALL make mistakes. When they manage to escape the justice system, its only by accident or some liar defense attorney who threw BS at the jury.


Space cadets can't use the sextant & mathmatical tables to find a tiny atoll in the middle of the ocean.

She was smart...... you seem to be basing your opinions on the word of a sleazy DEFENSE ATTORNEY... the kind of guys who will say anything for their "client" in exchange for money and fame.

She knew what happened. Only an idiot wouldn't have known.


bugliosi's best argument for her ignorance of the crime was the fact that muff graham washed up in the lagoon. if they were both involved in the murder and disposal of the bodies, why wouldn't they have dumped the bodies into the middle of the ocean where they were likely to never be found? they were about to embark on a very long journey. bodies never found = them both getting away with murder. bodies found = murder trial.
there would be no reason to dump the bodies anywhere near the island unless buck was doing this alone.


"Why wouldn't they have dumped the body into the middle of the ocean...?"

Because you're assuming that killers and genetic defect criminals think like a normal person. They don't. You can't compare their actions to that of a normal person. People who kill and then dismember (and probably tortured) are nutty and can't think normally.

But there are probably lots of reasons even a normal person wouldn't have wanted to dump the bodies outside the lagoon. i.e. it was hard to get in and out of the lagoon without risking the boat even for experienced boating people.. which they weren't.

By the way, notice how the slut dropped off the face of the earth since the event? She wasn't "convicted" but she knew nobody would consider her innocent. Shes a killer just as much as her lowlife, genetic defect criminal boyfriend. The slut went on to make big money in business, so they say. Know how? Because people who make big money don't have a conscious. They take $$$ regardless of who they hurt.


he tried to torch the bodies to get rid of them. he obviously knew it was important to get rid of the evidence once and for all, but instead of the ocean, he dumped them right there in the lagoon. they didn't have to worry about getting "in and out" of the lagoon. they were leaving anyway. load them on the boat, and toss the containers off somewhere along the way. that makes more sense than dumping them right there at the scene, unless he was hiding the murders from jennifer.


Its been a long time since I reviewed the material, but the burning of the skull indicated he had tried to use a torch. They weren't sure if he tortured them with that torch, or merely tried to dispose of evidence. Using a welding torch to dispose of a body is retarded for two reasons. One, the amount of gas necessary to fuel the torch to burn even one body would have been more than was available to the killer. Two, the torch burns such a small area at a time that it would have taken way too long & if the girl wasn't in on it, she would have been looking for him. So, my theory is that he used the torch to inflict pain and not to try and dispose of the bodies.

Secondly, nobody was fully sure of the timeline in which they were wanting to leave. He may have killed Mac & Muff before he realized that he & his girlfriend were going to leave after their unsuccessful attempt to live there on their own. After having the victim's boat and food, he may have thought they'd be there a while and decided to dispose of the bodies in the lagoon because, as I said, navigating the reef was risky for amatures. Then they left later but not before cutting up the bodies & dumping into the lagoon.

What I can't figure out is WHY would he stuff the remains into a metal chest? A metal chest would attract attention from anyone who happened to see it where as if he just tossed the body to the sharks... the remaining bones would have eventually been washed out to sea in a storm.

Another possibility is that he killed the one, dismembered, and stuffed the box.... but then decided that they were going to leave & took the second box or whatever container & dumped it at sea.

In any case, someone should track down the both of them.... and kill them. Our system of "justice" is a joke. The killer is out walking a free man right now... and so is his slut girlfriend. Take a life.... lose your own. Thats the way it was before the loser criminal defense lawyers started polluting the trial system with their lies.


I don't know who it was that said Stephanie has changed her name, but I think they might be right. I can't find anything about her at all in California or the bay area.


i wouldn't expect her to want to be in the public eye. she never did to begin with. look at what people are saying about her on just this message board. i wouldn't want them contacting me either.


Good point isalltears, I mean would you want Bob sitting in judgement of you in a complicated case? 'GUILTY (puts on the black death sentence hat) hang them all, filthy criminals!'

The only interesting characters in stories like this are the 'psychopaths', Bob's 'filthy criminals'. The other people are always fluff, after all Mr Rich was no hero, he lost the fight and he died and so did the one he should have protected (a point already nicely made). Not very impressive is it? Oh and don't forget that if you came from money then it was your ancestors that were the psychos and killed others to gain their wealth.

It could be argued (not given our present political morality of course but in a framework of real knowledge that the world contains millions who suffer terribly from poverty caused by businessmen and bankers) that the real criminals are people who think they can suck a ton of money out of society and then swan off living like kings on the proceeds. Maybe there is karma after all and the danger inherent in 'swanning off' is but a small balance for their selfish 20 century lives of excess and convenient belief in a corrupt system as being fair, simply because it suits them according to birth conditions etc (I expect Bob might be a little less of a fascist had he been born a blind beggar in Calcutta - Know what I mean?). I expect though if they had any children the inheritance and the life insurance etc has set them up nicely to swan off even earlier and give even less to society than their parents did.

Oh and BTW I don't have an opinion about Stearns guilt because I wasn't there!


I stumbled on this looking for an actor and well anyway...

I read the book years ago and in it, at the very end, Jennifer says something to Bugliosi, something casual yet it caused him to pause. He says in the book that he right then wondered if she had bullcrapped him the whole time and was 100% involved in the murders. But he said nothing, bid her farewell, and that was that. Nonetheless, it bothered him; whatever it was she said or perhaps how she said it. Maybe she gave away that she wasn't the space cadet she had been the whole time or craftier than she had lead everyone to believe. So I wonder if this adaptation touched upon that.

Bugliosi from all I have ever read by him and of him was a student of humanity and it's nuances. So while fooling him continually wouldn't have been probable, a master con artist may have been able to pull it off in measured doses; till finally when all was said and done, their guard dropped for just a moment and in that moment Vincent saw a glimpse of who she really was.

Well written book. Maybe I'll hunt this down. It must be on something.


In the movie, Jennifer asks Vince whether, had she refused any relationship with Buck Walker, and certainly declined to work so hard to put them on a small sailing sloop and actually find Palmyra Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Mac and Muff might still live. In short, she blames herself for their deaths. Not that she had a direct hand in those deaths. Instead, she brought Buck to Palmyra so that, when Sea Wind arrived, Buck would see something to be envious of, and start the thinking process that ultimately made him ripe for murder.

The movie also pointed out: no one knows the whereabouts of Mac Graham to this day. I happened to flip through a copy of the book. In it, Vince Bugliosi speculates that Mac killed his own wife and then, somehow, absconded. (How he could abscond, seeing that no one has brought forth evidence that any other boat touched Palmyra Island for him to hijack, Vince never explained.)

But we have no way to ask him. Because he has since died.