Charles Stuart: Monumental Murder Actually a Hoax

Last week’s case was the unsolved murder of Arkansas college professor Ruby Stapleton. The case this week takes us to Boston. There, in 1989, Charles Stuart reported a man shot him and his wife in their car. That story turned out to be a hoax designed to cover a cold-blooded murder.

Charles Stuart and Carol DiMaiti

Charles Stuart came from a blue-collar family of six, four brothers and two sisters from Revere, Massachusetts. In 1985, he married Carol DiMaiti, a lawyer. By the fall of 1989, Charles was manager of Kakas & Sons Furs and Carol was pregnant with their first child.

Charles and Carol DiMaiti Stuart (wbur.org)
Charles and Carol DiMaiti Stuart (wbur.org)

On October 23, 1989, the couple attended a childbirth class at Bingham and Women’s Hospital. After the class, they drover through the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston on their way home. At a stoplight, a Black man with a raspy voice forced his way into their car. He ordered Stuart to drive to Mission Hill, where he robbed them. Then he shot Carol in the head and Charles in the stomach.

Rescue workers treat Carol and Chales Stuart at the supposed scene of the shooting (investigativediscovery.com)
Rescue workers treat Carol and Chales Stuart at the supposed scene of the shooting (investigativediscovery.com)

Stuart then drove away and called 911 from his car phone.

The Boston Herald screams the news
The Boston Herald screams the news

Charles Stuart, Victim

Emergency services arrived quickly and extracted both Carol and Charles from their car and rushed them to a hospital. Despite lifesaving efforts, Carol died at about 3:00 the next morning. Shortly before, doctors delivered her child by caesarean section. The boy, named Christopher, was two months premature and had suffered trauma and oxygen deprivation. Sadly, he too died 17 days later.

Carol DiMaiti Stuart (WCVB-TV)
Carol DiMaiti Stuart (WCVB-TV)

Charles Stuart had lost both his wife and his newborn son. His wounds required two surgeries and a six-week stay in the hospital, but he ultimately recovered.

The Manhunt

Based on Stuart’s description of his attacker, police scoured Boston for suspects. Their use of indiscriminate “stop-and-frisk” tactics heightened racial tensions in the city. Before long, they focused on 29-year-old Willie Bennett. When Stuart picked Bennet out of a lineup on December 28, police felt they had their man.

Willie Bennett in 2017 (WBZ-TV)
Willie Bennett in 2017 (WBZ-TV)

The lineup wasn’t perfect, however. Bennet stuck out like the proverbial store thumb since the rest of the men were clean-cut Boston police officers. But Stuart’s positive identification was good enough for police.

The Undoing of Charles Stuart

The positive identification of Willie Bennett was the last straw for Stuart’s brother, Matthew. On January 3, 1990, he went to police and fingered Charles as Carol’s killer. He confessed to helping his brother in what Charles told him was an insurance fraud. He took the gun and valuables, including the couple’s wedding rings, and tossed them off Pines River Bridge in Revere. Divers later recovered the gun and some of the other items.

Matthew Stuart confessed to aiding his brother in what he thought was an insurance scam
Matthew Stuart confessed to aiding his brother in what he thought was an insurance scam

When Charles learned that Matthew had confessed, he bolted. Driving to the middle of the Tobin Bridge over the Mystic River, he jumped to his death in the river below. Rescuers recovered his body the next day.

 The Tobin Bridge over the Mystic River (Wikipedia user Chensiyuan)
The Tobin Bridge over the Mystic River (Wikipedia user Chensiyuan)

With Stuart’s death, the case against Willie Bennett collapsed. When witnesses told a grand jury that police had pressured them into identifying Bennet, there was no alternative but to release him.

Rescue workers recover Stuart's body from the Mystic River on January 5, 1990 (esquire.com)
Rescue workers recover Stuart’s body from the Mystic River on January 5, 1990 (esquire.com)

Why Did Stuart Do It?

Police later learned that Stuart wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of fatherhood and wanted Carol to get an abortion. She refused. Apparently, he felt she wouldn’t go back to work after the baby arrived, thereby curtailing the family income. Stuart apparently cashed some life insurance checks, although. The number of checks is unclear as is their amounts.

Divers search the Pines River in Revere, MA for the gun reportedly used in the murder of Carol Stuart on January 6, 1990 (Boston Globe)
Divers search the Pines River in Revere, MA for the gun reportedly used in the murder of Carol Stuart on January 6, 1990 (Boston Globe)

It further developed that Stuart had developed a romantic interest in Deborah Allen one of his employees at the furrier. Allen denied there was ever any romantic involvement between them.

Epilogue

The case had an adverse effect on Stuart’s brother, Matthew. He died in a homeless shelter on September 3, 2011, from an overdose of alcohol and cocaine.

Willie Bennett served 12 years in prison for an unrelated armed robbery in Brookline. He maintains his innocence and was released in 2002.

Stuart’s wife, Carol, and son, Christopher, are both buried under Carol’s maiden name, DiMaiti, in Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden.

To read more about the Stuart murder case, check out Ken Englade’s Murder in Boston or Joe Sharkey’s Deadly Greed.

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