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Crime News Deadly Waters with Captain Lee

Local Man Found Murdered on Sailboat After Violent "Macroburst" Storm Slams Rhode Island

Seventy-year-old sailor Fernando Silva, also known as "Captain Fredy," was rumored to have earned some Keno winnings shortly before his mysterious 2015 death. 

By Jax Miller

When a harbormaster spotted what was believed to have been an abandoned sailboat in the cove, he didn’t anticipate he’d come upon a homicide.

How to Watch

Watch Deadly Waters with Captain Lee on Oxygen Saturdays at 9/8c and next day on Peacock. 

The gruesome discovery came after a violent macroburst storm battered the seaside town of Warwick, Rhode Island, on August 4, 2015, a destructive force that caused power outages and structural damage around the New England cove. Detective J.P. Toussaint of the Warwick Police Department recalled to Deadly Waters with Captain Lee that high winds and rain “caused havoc” in the area, an event with the potential of reaching wind speeds of 100 miles per hour.

“Often occurring during a thunderstorm, a macroburst is an intense downdraft of air that spreads out in all directions when it hits the ground,” said Deadly Waters host Captain Lee. “They’re comparable to — and in many cases can be worse — than tornadoes.”

The next morning, in the calm light of day, Chief Harbormaster Jeffrey Baris inspected the harbor for damage and spotted a vessel he “hadn’t recognized:” a yellow-and-white Columbia 26 sailboat called the Star Capella.

“I assumed that it had come in to get away from the weather, so I watched it for a while, and then I realized it was moving; kind of floating out there up against another person’s boat, causing some damage,” said Baris.

Baris used a patrol boat to approach the vessel, briefly boarding it and finding no one. Inside, items everywhere had been strewn about to create a mess, presumably the result of the storm. The harbormaster towed the sailboat and moored it at the mouth of Warwick Cove, believing someone would come around to claim it.

When no one came forward, on Aug. 15, 2015, Baris returned to the boat for further inspection, finding a “foul odor” and “considerable insect activity.”

Inside was a dead body concealed under a foam mattress, but because the decomposition was so advanced, responders couldn’t determine the sex, age, or race of the decedent.

Fernando Silva featured on Deadly Waters With Captain Lee Episode 105

“It’s not something I ever expected to find,” said Baris. “My mind, it’s spinning at this point. How could this have happened?”

Police look into missing man Fernando Silva

Inside the boat, authorities with the Warwick P.D. found documentation for 70-year-old Fernando Silva, and so they contacted relatives who said Silva had been out of reach for some time. According to Silva’s sister, Dolly Packard, Silva was expected to help his son paint his house about three days before the storm hit, but wasn’t overly concerned when he was a no-show.

“We didn’t worry too much ’cause he was always out there sailing, doing something,” Packard told Deadly Waters. “And so sometimes you don’t hear from him for a long time.”

Silva, whom friends affectionately knew as “Captain Fredy,” had a cell phone, but it wasn’t always reliable at sea. Loved ones grew increasingly concerned, however, in light of the storm. Investigators, including Warwick P.D. Detective Sergeant Scott Robillard, believed Silva was the man on the boat, and one day later, a medical examiner used DNA to confirm the identification.

Due to the decomposition, which Captain Lee said happened at a “rapid rate” on account of the atmospheric conditions creating a greenhouse-like effect, experts called on a forensic anthropologist to help determine a manner and cause of death, forcing investigators to wait “an extended period of time” for the results, according to Robillard.

By then, there was still no conclusive determination that Silva met with foul play, and it was possible that he was injured in the storm or suffered a fatal heart attack.  

“He lived the life of a sailor on the ocean,” said Silva’s sister. “He just loved that life.”

Investigators find an eyewitness at the marina in Silva case

While waiting for the results of a postmortem examination, detectives went to the marina in search of locals who might have seen something out of the ordinary. Stephen Emerson, who — like Silva — lived on a boat, claimed Silva had an arrangement with Donald “Ducky” Waterman to use his private dock.

“Ducky Waterman’s name was a familiar name to us, and we had had several prior contacts with that subject,” Robillard told Deadly Waters. “Most of the people who had resided in the Waterman house were transient, which required neighbors summoning the police to his address several times over my 20-year career.”

Emerson also told detectives that on Aug. 1, 2015, he ran into two unknown men who’d parked a loud maroon Dodge Ram pickup truck at the marina. The men told Emerson that while Silva was reportedly away to play the lottery game, Keno, they’d been sent by Ducky Waterman to work on Silva’s boat motor.

“Mr. Emerson remembered that the two subjects were carrying a cooler, some gas, and what appeared to be a motor,” said Det. Robillard. “And he believed that approximately 30 minutes later, the two subjects were seen leaving.”

Meanwhile, Silva’s postmortem examination was completed, and it was determined by a broken hyoid bone that the victim was strangled and likely stabbed.

The manner of death was homicide.

Two men at the marina are identified and questioned in Silva case

Ducky Waterman voluntarily went with police to answer their questions, as seen in a videotaped interview published by Deadly Waters.

“The only thing I know is that the Harbormaster found him,” Waterman told detectives.

Fernando Silva featured on Deadly Waters With Captain Lee Episode 105

He also claimed that Silva had recently won some money from Keno and asked Waterman to find him a new motor for his boat. He admitted he sent two men to install it, one of them being Troy Gunderway, while he wasn’t sure of the other man’s name. Waterman described Gunderway as a man with a tattooed head who’d been working on a fence in a nearby neighborhood.

Police found Gunderway, and Gunderway gave them the same story as Waterman. He also identified the second unknown man as Richard Baribault, the purported owner of the Dodge Ram pickup.

Police spotted Baribault’s truck, and when they ran the plates, they came back as stolen, giving officers cause to pull him over and arrest him. During a body search, authorities also discovered a knife greater than three inches, which was illegal in Rhode Island, and charged Baribault with possession of a weapon.

“We looked closely inside the protective sleeve of the folding knife; you could see what appeared to be dried blood,” Robillard said.

When questioned by police, Baribault admitted to being with Gunderway on Aug. 1, 2015, though his story contrasted his buddy’s. He said he was “tipsy” on the night in question and agreed to go with Gunderway to Silva’s boat when asked. Baribault claimed Gunderway had every intention of robbing Silva.

“He said he just wanted me to keep an eye because he wanted to see if Fredy had money,” Baribault told detectives.

According to the suspect, Silva allegedly bragged about recently winning $800 in Keno. Baribault said he attempted to grab Gunderway after Gunderway allegedly attacked Silva.

Gunderway reportedly pushed Baribault aside and continued attacking Silva.

“So then, I just said, ‘I’m out of here, dude,’ and I left,” Baribault said in his taped confession. “I said, ‘You never told me you were going to do that to him.’ And he said, ‘Ah, he’s allr ight. I’ve left him, and he was breathing.’”

Electronic evidence and Gunderway's contrasting statements

As far as electronic evidence, Det. Toussaint had more than a decade of experience working with video surveillance around the city of Warwick. He began inspecting footage from the Warwick Cove Marina, where on Aug. 1, 2015, a truck matching Baribault’s was captured leaving the marina in the early morning hours.

Unfortunately, according to Toussaint, any recordings angled at the Star Capella had been “overwritten,” and all footage from before Aug. 2, 2015, was lost. However, he was able to dig up “over 26,000 video files” from Aug. 2 to Aug. 20 “at an angle which captured the Star Capella from a distance.”

On Aug. 4, the Star Capella traveled east on the cove, and the travel time matched when the truck matching Baribault’s came to and from the marina. The pickup, in fact, made a dozen or more trips between Aug. 1 and Aug. 4.

Next, police brought Gunderway in for questioning, and his statements didn’t line up with Baribault’s previous claims.

“Richard, he’s the one that beat the dude up,” Gunderway said. “When I held him down, I remember him pounding on this legs, and f-cking, with his feet… He was just grabbing him, with a knife, too, going, ‘Where’s your f-cking money?’ I didn’t expect it to go that far, to be honest with you ... He just went crazy on him.”

Both men were now accusing the other of killing Silva in a robbery gone wrong, an attempt to steal the boatman’s Keno winnings.

According to Det. Robillard, however, Gunderway changed his story once confronted with electronic and eyewitness evidence. This time, Gunderway said Baribault went inside the boat first, accidentally waking and startling Silva. When Silva began yelling, Baribault “punched Mr. Silva approximately five times” in the face before pulling out the knife.

Neither suspect could find Silva’s winnings, so they “quickly left,” according to Robillard.

Gunderway confessed to helping move the Star Capella to keep the smell of decomposition from signaling those nearby.

“On August 1, they never called police, they never asked for help, all they wanted to do was get rid of the evidence,” Robillard told Deadly Waters.

The microburst storm ripped through the bay just three days later.

Warwick police placed Richard Baribault and Tory Gunderway under arrest.

Closure for Captain Fredy

Gunderway quickly sought out a plea deal and was charged with second-degree murder and conspiracy in exchange for his cooperation by testifying against Baribault, who denied taking any part in Silva’s murder. Around this time, Warwick investigators executed search warrants for cell phone records and Google accounts.

One of Baribault’s chilling voice searches, as obtained and published by Deadly Waters, confirmed for investigators that they had the right guy.

Baribault said, “Does bleach kill everything, including skin cells?”

Coupled with the fact that the blood on Baribault’s knife matched to Silva, plus Gunderway’s convincing testimony, investigators had a “strong case” against Baribault, according to Det. Robillard. On June 30, 2017, nearly two years after the murder, a jury found Baribault guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and several lesser charges.

Baribault was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years, while Gunderway was handed a 55-year sentence with 20 years suspended.

“The severe microburst storm that rocked Warwick, Rhode Island, allowed two cold-blooded killers the cover to almost get away with brutally murdering an innocent 70-year-old sailor over just $800 in Keno winnings,” said Captain Lee. “Thankfully, the greedy perps were not clever enough to outsmart technology or local detectives.”

Dolly Packard said she continues to pray “every day” for her brother and laments that Silva’s grandson will never know “what a wonderful person he was.”

Watch all-new episodes of Deadly Waters with Captain Lee, airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.