BIZARRE FLORIDA KEYS COLD MURDER ENDS IN ARREST
For the second time this year, Florida Keys law enforcement officers closed a murder case. The last case to be resolved occurred at Big Pine in 2012.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reports that the body of 65-year-old Ronald Silvia was found in a burning motor home on January 19, 2012 at Seahorse Campground in Big Pine Key. The results of the autopsy showed that Silvia was beaten and strangled to death. Fire investigators found that the fire was deliberately set on or around Silvia’s genital area after his death.
The investigation found that Silvia lived with 54-year-old Hugh Timothy Blanton and that the couple had a romantic relationship. Witnesses and neighbors said the two men argued over a photo of Blanton’s genitals that Silvia reportedly shared around the community.
Blanton fled the area after the fire. When he was arrested for hitchhiking in Broward County about a month later, he was interviewed by detectives from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Blanton admitted to being friends with Silvia and admitted to living with him at Seahorse Campground. He admitted that he was upset with Silvia for showing the picture to others. But Blanton claimed their relationship was platonic, despite neighbors and witnesses who said they were romantic. Blanton admitted using Silvia’s cell phone after the fire was reported.
Blanton was later extradited to Massachusetts from Broward County. He had two cell phones when he was admitted to Broward County Jail. Detectives thought one of them might be Silvia. The phones were brought to Massachusetts from Broward County along with Blanton. The cell phones were then disposed of at the Massachusetts detention center and were never recovered.
- Ronald Silvia was the victim of a 2012 Big Pine Key murder that was recently solved by updated DNA technology. MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE / Contributed
- Hugh Blanton, a former Big Pine resident, was arrested on October 9 in Daytona Beach and is now charged with murder and arson in the Florida Keys. Contributed
In May of that year, Vince Weiner, a detective for the Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit, re-examined the case and had DNA swabs removed from Blanton, who was detained for another crime in Volusia County, Florida. In this case, Blanton denied knowing Silvia or ever being in the Florida Keys. The FDLE crime lab found that Blanton’s DNA was found under Silvia’s fingernails.
An arrest warrant for Blanton was issued and on October 9 he was arrested by police in Daytona Beach, where he remains in custody. Blanton is returned to the Keys to be charged with murder and arson for the death of Silvia.
“I’m very proud of the hard work Detective Vince Weiner and the Serious Crime Division have put in on this case,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I am adamant when I say that this agency is committed to the relentless pursuit of all criminals. But we can’t do it alone. Time and again, given our ongoing partnerships with other law enforcement agencies in this community, in this case our friends at the Monroe County Attorney’s Office and Florida Law Enforcement Agency, all we can do is deliver such good news. “
Monroe County Attorney Dennis Ward agreed, referring to the “great” efforts made between the sheriff’s office and his office. “While some cases can get cold, they are never forgotten and we will always work to resolve them.”
This is the second murder case in the Keys to be solved this year by Weiner and MCSO’s law enforcement partners using enhanced DNA techniques.
Ramsay announced in June that Weiner, working with the FDLE, had closed a decade-old murder case called “Valentine Jane Doe”. The body of a previously unidentified female victim was discovered on February 15, 1991 in a wooded area off US 1 near MM 35 near Big Pine Key.
The woman was identified as 18-year-old Wanda Deann Kirkum, of Hornell, New York, earlier this year. After a national database search, it was found that Kirkum was never officially reported missing to law enforcement agencies. Both of your parents have since passed away.
Her also unknown killer was identified as Robert Lynn Bradley, who himself died in April 1992 at the age of 31 as a murder victim in Tarrant County, Texas.
This case caught the attention of the national media and was featured on various real crime television programs during the decades that remained unsolved.