Sunday 13 May 2018

Murder Most Vile Volume 21

 18 classic true crime cases from around the world, including;

Good Night, Sweet Wife: A murder that rocked America, a remarkable and stunning twist in the tale.

A Sunny Place for Shady People: Murder crops up in the strangest of places, even among the rich and famous.

Without a Trace: The killer was meticulous and he was clever, perhaps too clever for his own good.

Death in the Outback: It was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime. It ended in a night of pure terror.

The Clairvoyant: Sheila was tortured by visions of a body lying dead on a beach. The question is: Is she a psychic or a psycho?

Without a Trace: The killer was meticulous and he was clever, perhaps too clever for his own good.

Until Proven Guilty: A cold case, a suspect who insists he’s innocent, a detective who is equally certain he’s guilty. One of them is wrong. But which one?

Tortured to Death: A young couple falls into the hands of a gang of vicious miscreants. What happens next is almost beyond the bounds of belief.

Click the "Read More" link below to read the first chapter of

Murder Most Vile Volume 21

Good Night, Sweet Wife

Charles “Chuck” Stuart was living the American dream. The middle-class kid from Revere, Massachusetts, the graduate of a vocational school, the one-time short-order cook, had risen during his twenties to a position as manager of Edward F. Kakas & Sons, exclusive furriers on Newbury Street in Boston. By 1989, he was pulling down in excess of $100,000 a year, dressing in expensive suits and living in a luxury home with a pool and a Jacuzzi. He was also married to an attractive tax attorney named Carol and the couple were expecting their first child. Life, it seemed, could not get any better.

But then, on the night of Monday, October 23, 1989, all of that was snatched away from Chuck in an instant. He and his 7-month-pregnant wife had attended a childbirth class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital that night, leaving the medical center at around 8 p.m. to make the 30-minute drive back to Reading, Massachusetts. They never made it. At around 8:43 p.m., a state police dispatcher got a call from Stuart saying that both he and his wife had been shot and were in a derelict area somewhere near Huntington Avenue. Before he could say any more, he passed out, leaving the dispatcher to guide police officers to the scene by the sound of their sirens blaring back at him through the car phone. The couple’s Toyota Cressida was eventually located on a street in Mission Hill, near an abandoned tavern. Inside, they found Chuck slumped over the steering wheel with a bullet wound to his abdomen. Carol was in the passenger seat, shot in the face.

Emergency services were soon on the scene, along with a CBS television crew that had been doing a drive-along that night to record an episode of Rescue 911. Thus it was that the dramatic scenes of Charles and Carol Stuart being transferred from their vehicle to the waiting ambulances were captured on camera and broadcast to the nation. It ensured from the very start that this would be a high-profile case.

For now, though, the focus was on getting medical attention for the seriously injured victims. Chuck was transported to Boston City Hospital, regaining consciousness just long enough during the journey to tell a police officer that he and Carol had been shot by a black man who had carjacked them at a stoplight. He would later undergo ten hours of surgery to repair damaged caused by a .38 caliber bullet that had penetrated his side and chewed through his small intestine. Carol’s condition was even more serious. She had been shot in the head and doctors did not expect her to survive. Staff at Brigham and Women’s, where she had been taken, therefore decided to put her on life support while they performed an emergency caesarean and delivered her baby eight weeks prematurely. The boy, who family would name Christopher, weighed less than four pounds and had suffered both trauma and oxygen deprivation. He would live just 17 days. Carol would not make it either. She died at 3 a.m. that morning. This was now a case of murder.

Chuck, of course, was a suspect in the shootings. But he was removed from the list after detectives spoke to the surgeon who had operated on him. His wounds were severe and life-threatening, they were told. In fact, he was lucky to be alive. The doctor did not believe that they could be self-inflicted.

Who then had gunned down Carol Stuart? Based on what Chuck had told them, the Boston PD descended on the Mission Hill projects in force and carried out an aggressive stop and search operation. The area was run down, crime-ridden, and its inhabitants were mostly African-Americans who were suspicious of law enforcement. Despite their rigorous (some would say overzealous) efforts, the police came away empty handed.

On October 26, Chuck Stuart was finally well-enough to be interviewed by police. According to the story he told, he and his wife had been driving through Roxbury on their way home from the hospital. While stopped at a traffic light, a man had suddenly opened the door and slid into the back seat. He’d pointed a gun at Chuck and ordered him to turn the car around. Then he’d directed them to an abandoned street in Mission Hill where he had demanded their money and jewelry.

Chuck had surrendered his watch and Carol had given up her purse and rings. But then the carjacker ordered Chuck to hand over his wallet. Chuck said that he didn’t have it with him and that seemed to anger the man. Despite Chuck’s assurances that he was telling the truth, the man pointed the gun at Carol and pulled the trigger, shooting her in the head at close range. He then turned the weapon on Chuck, firing off a round that missed and struck the sun visor. That gave Chuck the chance to reach between the seats and grapple with the carjacker. During that struggle, the gun went off, hitting Chuck in the abdomen. The shooter then jumped from the vehicle and fled. Chuck described him as a slim, black man in his late twenties with a patchy beard. He said that the assailant had been dressed in a black tracksuit with red stripes. He added also that he spoke with a “raspy” voice.

On Friday, October 28, 1989, Carol DiMaiti Stuart was laid to rest at St. James Church in her native Medford. Chuck wasn’t well enough to attend, but he did send a poignant note which was read out by a family friend, Brian Parsons. “Good night, sweet wife, my love. God has called you to his side,” Chuck had written, moving everyone in the church to a flood of tears.

The police, meanwhile, had picked up a valuable clue. Informants in Mission Hill had pointed them in the direction of Alan Swanson, a small-time drug dealer and petty criminal. In the early morning hours of October 28, Boston PD launched its second major raid in as many days, waking residents as they searched for Swanson. He was found squatting in a vacant apartment, an offence that saw him arrested for breaking and entering. At the same location, officers found a black tracksuit soaking in a bucket of water. It had white stripes (rather than the red stripes described by Chuck Stuart) but was nonetheless bagged as evidence. Swanson, meanwhile, was subjected to six hours of interrogation, during which he staunchly maintained that he’d had nothing to do with the Stuart shootings. He was booked on the B & E charge and shipped off to the county lockup. By then, the police had a more promising suspect.

The tip came from a credible source – one of their own. The officer had been dating a woman who lived in Mission Hill and had heard from her a rumor that she’d heard from her teenaged son, Eric Whitney. Eric was friends with another Mission Hill teen, Derek Jackson. According to Eric, Jackson had confided something a mutual friend had told him. The friend, Joey Bennett, had claimed that his uncle Willie was the shooter.

Willie Bennett was well-known to the police. He’d been in and out of trouble since dropping out of school and had served two jail terms, one of them for pulling a gun on a police officer.

On November 3, Derek Jackson and Eric Whitney were brought to the Berkeley Street police station for questioning. The boys told vastly different stories, with Derek providing a vague account of having heard about Willie Bennett’s involvement. Eric, meanwhile, claimed that Willie had told him in person that he’d “wasted the white bitch.” The police then leaned on Derek, threatening him with perjury charges if he lied to them. Derek then backed down and supported Eric’s version of events, and both boys signed a statement to that effect.

While all of this was going on, Chuck Stuart was recovering well in the hospital, well enough to phone Carol’s employer and her insurance company to inquire about any benefits that might be due to him. This rather callous attitude, as well as his apparent lack of grief for his wife and son, made him an unpopular patient with nursing staff, many of who had come to believe that he was somehow involved in Carol’s death.

On November 11, Boston police officers carried out an early morning raid on a Roxbury apartment and took Willie Bennett into custody. Willie vigorously protested his innocence, but the arresting officers could not help but notice how closely he matched the description given by Chuck Stuart – right down to the raspy voice. November 11 was also the day that baby Christopher Stuart lost his fight for life, meaning that Willie was now looking at two charges of first-degree murder.

In truth, the police had very little evidence on Bennett. There were no forensics or eyewitnesses linking him to the crime, and both Derek Jackson and Eric Whitney were now agitating to have their statements withdrawn, saying that they had been coerced. Desperate to keep their suspect in custody until they could build a case for murder, the cops decided to charge Bennett with armed robbery. He was the prime suspect in a holdup at a video store which had netted the princely sum of $640. Original suspect Alan Swanson had meanwhile been released after the forensic tests on his tracksuit came back clean.

The entire focus of the investigation was now on Willie Bennett. On November 20, detectives visited Chuck in the hospital and showed him a photo array from which he selected two possible suspects, one of which was Bennett. Later, when the cops returned with a new set of photographs, this one containing a more recent picture of Bennett, Chuck had no hesitation. There were tears streaming down his face as he picked Bennett out. Three days later, after he was released from the hospital, Chuck was asked to attend a physical lineup and again pointed unerringly to Bennett as the man who had shot him and his wife.

Things, at this point, were not looking good for Willie Bennett. For Chuck Stuart, however, they were on a decidedly upward trajectory. He was going to recover from his wounds with no lasting effects, and he was considerably richer, having collected $82,000 from Carol’s employer and a further $100,000 from her insurance policy. There was also a pending claim for items lost in the robbery, but Chuck wasn’t waiting around for that payout. He was already on a spending spree, splashing out $22,000 on a new Nissan Maxima and, surprisingly for a man who’d just lost his wife, blowing a considerable sum on a diamond-encrusted woman’s bracelet. (It would later be revealed that he had been pursuing an attractive female co-worker before Carol’s murder). 

As 1989 ticked over into 1990, the Stuart murder inquiry hung in the balance. The police remained convinced that Willie Bennett was their man but did not have the evidence to charge him. And with their two key witnesses eager to renounce their statements, it appeared that this most high profile of cases might go unsolved, a significant embarrassment for the Boston police department. Then, on January 2, the case was turned on its head when an attorney named John Perenyi phoned the District Attorney’s Office. According to Perenyi, he had a client who could shed some light on Carol Stuart’s murder. That client was none other than Matthew Stuart, Chuck’s younger brother.

A meeting was arranged for the following day. At that meeting, Matthew Stuart told a Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney that his brother Chuck had contacted him in mid-October ‘89 and offered him $10,000 to participate in a scam. The plan was for Chuck to leave work on October 23, carrying the day’s receipts in a gym bag. He would not be able to deposit the cash immediately since he and Carol would be attending a childbirth class at the hospital that evening. That would give him the opportunity to claim he’d been robbed at gunpoint. His employer would lodge a claim with their insurers, he’d get to keep the money, and Matthew would get $10,000. It was, as Chuck described it, a victimless crime. All Matt would have to do to earn his payday was to meet Chuck, take the bag of cash from him, and hold onto it.

Matthew Stuart claimed that he was at first reluctant to get involved but was eventually talked around by his big brother. On October 22, the brothers staged a ‘dry run.’ Matthew waited on a deserted Mission Hill street that Chuck had designated. Right on time, he saw his brother’s vehicle approaching. Chuck opened the window and handed him a gym bag and immediately drove off. It went like clockwork.

The following evening, Matthew waited at the same location. Chuck wasn’t as punctual this time. He was a few minutes late. Matthew noticed something else. His brother was wincing in pain as he handed over the bag. Peering into the darkened vehicle on the dark stretch of road, Matthew noticed something in the passenger seat. At the time, he’d thought it was a laundry bag. In the light of subsequent events, he had become convinced that it was his sister-in-law, Carol.

Matthew Stuart drove home with the gym bag his brother had given him. Once there, he disobeyed Chuck’s instructions and opened the bag. There was no cash inside. Instead, there was Carol’s Gucci purse, her engagement ring, and Chuck’s wristwatch. There was also a snub-nosed .38 Special.

Certain now that his brother had gotten himself into something that might have dire consequences, Matthew called an old friend, John McMahon, and asked for his advice. McMahon suggested that they should get rid of the evidence, and so the pair of them drove to the Pines River Bridge in Revere and dropped the gun and the purse, weighed down with gravel, into the water. The only item he held onto was Carol’s engagement ring which he now slid across the table towards the stunned A.D.A.

In the wake of Matthew Stuart’s revelations, an arrest warrant was issued for his brother. Chuck, however, had been tipped off about Matthew’s betrayal by other members of his family and had gone into hiding. He would remain on the run for only a short time.

On Thursday, January 4, an employee working on the Tobin Bridge in Chelsea, Massachusetts, reported that there was a car abandoned on the bridge with its hazard lights flashing. A security guard and a state police officer went to check on the vehicle, a brand new Nissan Maxima. Fearing that the driver might have jumped from the bridge, the two men looked down into the waters of the Mystic River but saw nothing. Then they searched the vehicle and found a note which read: “I don’t have the strength to go on. I love my family and the last four months have been hell. I’m sorry for all the trouble. Chuck.”

Given Chuck Stuart’s history of deception, the police at first thought that this might be a ruse. But Stuart had indeed jumped from the bridge, and his body was fished from the Mystic at 2:15 p.m. the following day. At the same time, police divers were exploring the depths near the Pines River Bridge and bringing Carol’s purse and the .38 revolver to the surface. Ballistics would later confirm that it was the murder weapon.

The murder of Carol Stuart was officially solved but not all of the questions had been answered. Most pertinent among those was the issue of motive. Why would an apparently successful man, on the verge of welcoming his first child into the world, suddenly murder his wife and child?

The answer to that question might lie in Charles Stuart’s rapid rise from short order cook to senior management. It appears that the trappings of wealth had gone to Chuck’s head. He was spending well beyond his means and deep in debt. Then Carol broke the news that she was pregnant, throwing Chuck into a tailspin. He feared that his wife might give up work in order to raise their child. That would have put a significant hole in their finances and, with the additional expense of raising a child, would have left them in a tight spot financially. It was a situation which Chuck was not willing to endure. When Carol refused to have an abortion, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Within months, his wife and newborn son would be dead and Chuck would take that step from the Tobin Bridge into oblivion.

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