A 2012 Florida Keys murder has been solved with DNA, police said

The 2012 homicide of a Florida Keys man is no longer a cold case awaiting resolution, police said Friday. Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay announced the arrest of Hugh Timothy Blanton, 54, and charged him with the murder of 65-year-old Ronald Silvia on Big Pine Key. Blanton was arrested Friday […]

The 2012 homicide of a Florida Keys man is no longer a cold case awaiting resolution, police said Friday.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay announced the arrest of Hugh Timothy Blanton, 54, and charged him with the murder of 65-year-old Ronald Silvia on Big Pine Key.

Blanton was arrested Friday by Daytona Beach police on charges of first-degree murder and arson and booked into the Volusia County jail. He is being held without bond.

On Jan. 19, 2012, Silvia was found inside a burning motor home at the now-closed Seahorse RV Park on Big Pine.

Silvia had been beaten and strangled, according to the autopsy report.

The fire, according to investigators, had been intentionally set on or around Silvia’s genitals after his death.

Silvia and Blanton were in a romantic relationship, police said, although Blanton denied this when questioned by police.

“Blanton denied knowing Silvia or ever being in the Florida Keys,” said sheriff’s office spokesman Adam Linhardt.

Linhardt went on to say that witnesses and neighbors reported that the two men “had been arguing over a photo of Blanton’s genitals that Silvia reportedly had been sharing in the community.”

Blanton left the Keys after the fire, police said.

About a month later, he was arrested for hitchhiking in Broward County and interviewed by Monroe detectives.

Blanton, according to Linhardt, told police then that he was friends with Silvia and lived with him. He also said he was upset with Silvia for showing others the photo of his genitals, according to Linhardt.

Blanton was later extradited from Broward County to Massachusetts on an unrelated offense.

But when interviewed by Monroe detectives, Blanton said he had used Silvia’s cellphone after the fire was reported.

Blanton had two cellphones on him when he was booked into the Broward County Jail, and detectives believed one of them could have belonged to Silvia.

The cellphones made it from Broward County to Massachusetts, along with Blanton. But they were disposed of at the Massachusetts detention facility and never recovered, Linhardt said.

Keys police on Friday didn’t know what happened to the phones.

“How and why those cellphones were destroyed, I can’t say definitively,” Linhardt said. “What role Blanton played, if any, in disposing of those cellphones is not immediately clear.”

Blanton went on to serve prison time in Florida for a 2017 aggravated battery with a deadly weapon committed in Volusia County, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Blanton got into an argument with a housemate over not having beer, according to the arrest report. Blanton, who had been drinking all day, shoved a woman, causing her to fall into a heater. He also stabbed a man with a two-pronged cooking fork, police said.

Blanton served 13 months, starting in July 2018, before his release in August 2019.

In May, Monroe County Sheriff’s Detective Vince Weiner cracked open the case and had Blanton, who was then locked up in Volusia County on a parole violation, swabbed for a DNA sample.

Blanton’s DNA was found under Silvia’s fingernails, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s lab found.

Ramsay said his office worked with the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office and FDLE to solve the case.

This is the second cold case murder in the Keys this year Weiner has helped solve.

In June, Wiener and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed a 1991 homicide known as the “Valentine Jane Doe” murder.

The woman was identified earlier this year as 18-year-old Wanda Deann Kirkum of Hornell, New York. She was never officially reported missing to law enforcement, Linhardt said.

Kirkum’s killer was Robert Lynn Bradley, who died as the victim of a homicide in Tarrant County, Texas, in April 1992, at the age of 31, police said.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.

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