Guilty plea finally brings Boston's Stuart case to an end

November 03, 1992|By Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Three years after the murder of Carol DiMaiti Stuart, law enforcement officials and politicians are still feeling the repercussions.

The Stuart case profoundly changed the law enforcement community in Boston, helping to bring the first black district attorney in the state's history into office and prompting unprecedented scrutiny of the Boston Police Department.

It also demoralized some of the city's black leadership, which failed to win either of its major demands: an apology from Mayor Raymond Flynn for what many agreed was the mistreatment of a neighborhood and the creation by the state Legislature of a special commission to investigate the Stuart case.

"The Stuart murder is one of those events in history that will always be talked about, that will always influence the way we exist as a community," said state Rep. Byron Rushing.

For some, the guilty plea yesterday by Matthew Stuart to a role in the murder closed a chapter in the case and could not have come too soon.

Mr. Stuart, 26, of Revere, Mass., was sentenced to three to five years in prison for his role in disposing of the gun his brother, Charles Stuart, allegedly used to shoot his pregnant wife.

On Oct. 23, 1989, Charles Stuart called 911 and told state police that he and his wife had been robbed and shot. Charles Stuart later told police a black man forced his way into their car at gunpoint.

Based on this information, Boston police began an intensive investigation that led to a grand jury investigation targeting William Bennett, a man who answered Charles Stuart's description, as the murder suspect.

On Jan. 3, 1990, the investigation took a dramatic turn. Matthew Stuart went to authorities to expose his brother's hoax and incriminated himself. The next day, Charles Stuart apparently committed suicide.

While Mr. Stuart's lawyer and his family characterized the guilty pleaas the close of a chapter in the Stuart murder case, others argued that too many questions remain unanswered.

"The whole city received an enormous black eye over this -- it was just a horrible set of events in which nobody came out a winner," said Michael J. McCormack, former Boston city councilor.

"The Stuart case took on a life of its own, and, hopefully, it has now come to an end," he said.

Mr. McCormack said public officials, including Mr. Flynn, probably should have exercised more restraint in the aftermath of the shooting. Mr. Flynn, for example, called on "every available detective" in the city to work on the case.

"Most people reacted viscerally, but, under the circumstances, it was predictable, and probably would be done the same way tomorrow," he said.

For Mr. McCormack, the villain was not the police, the district attorney's office or even the news media. "I blame the monstrous lie of Charles Stuart," he said.

In Revere, some people said they have had enough of the Stuart case. "I hear a lot of people saying, 'Hasn't the Stuart family suffered enough?'" said James J. Cipoletta, an attorney. "Most people here feel that the city has suffered as well as a result of this."

Dick Powers, editor of the Revere Journal, said the plea leaves him with an "unsettled feeling." He said he still does not know "what happened that night," and had hoped a trial might answer some questions.

Mr. Powers said it troubled him that some in Matthew Stuart's social circle knew of his involvement, but did not come forward to authorities.

"I keep looking for something good to come out of this, but I can't find anything," he said.

Mr. Rushing, the state representative, said he may try once again to have a commission created, with subpoena power, to investigate the Stuart case. It was earlier rejected.

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