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Murder in Boston Podcast: Guide to episode 4

Boston police have spent 12 days searching for the suspect. They’ve stopped countless Black people in Mission Hill, all to no avail. But now, there’s a tip about a notorious man in the neighborhood who’s been bragging about shooting the Stuarts. The whole story starts with a few teens smoking weed one afternoon and takes off from there. In this episode, hear never-released police interrogation tapes and meet the suspect: “Wild Bill.”

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For more about this episode:

– Read Chapter 4 of the Globe’s written series on the Charles Stuart case

– Find out more about the characters interviewed throughout the podcast

– Look at documents related to this podcast

Transcript

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Before we begin, this episode contains some offensive language and descriptions of violence. It may not be appropriate for all listeners.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): One, two, three, four, five... I’m going to put a stop on it [CLICK] All right. Oh, I just started the tape. It’s active now and we’re gonna talk.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): All right.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You know my name is Peter O’Malley.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): I’m a detective in the homicide unit.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Alright. This is Miller Thomas. He’s a detective and he’s my partner. You know his name.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): We have been talking to you for some time. So you’re familiar with the both of us.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): It’s 9:29 p.m. and today is November 3rd. It’s a Friday. You’re at the homicide unit, which is old District 6 in South Boston.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): It’s been almost two weeks of panic since the killing of Carol Stuart. Two weeks of questionable searches. Two weeks of national attention on this heinous act of violence. The pressure is immense and police are chasing the most promising lead yet.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Alright. Tell the tape recorder your name.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Dereck Jackson. D-E-R-E-C-K J-A-C-K-S-O-N.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Where do you live?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): 185 Cabot Street, Boston

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): How old are you?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Seventeen.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You go to school?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes. McKinley Tech.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): How’d you happen to come here tonight?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Of my free will.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Detective Peter O’Malley is known as a closer. He solves cases. He’s almost a cliche of an old-school detective – white, Irish, thick Boston accent, a bit of a paunch.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You came in here because we asked you to. Because we have received information that you were told by somebody about the Stuart shooting that happened over in Mission Project. Is that right?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dereck Jackson isn’t the only teenager being interrogated that night. An 18 year old named Erick Whitney was in another room. Detective O’Malley is walking back and forth between the two friends.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): That Tuesday we was sitting down to smoke weed, grass.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You were privy to or you were present when someone spoke about the Stuart murder. Is that true?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): O’Malley’s working one of the biggest murder cases in Boston history. He’s getting squeezed. His boss and the mayor — they want the killer caught. O’Malley chain smokes through his interviews. You can practically smell his breath through the tape.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Get up there close so it won’t miss a word, all right, and you tell the story.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): He’s getting frustrated – the truth just doesn’t come easy. But the teenagers he’s talking to – well, all they want is to go home, a world away from this homicide office in Southie. They’re Black, and Southie is hostile territory.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Does that mean you’re nervous that your hands are sweating?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): It means I’m scared.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You’re scared? Do I look like I’m going to beat you up?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): No.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Huh?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): No.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): What are you scared of?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Going to jail.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The police have spent the last twelve days searching for the “skinny Black man in the tracksuit.” The guy who reportedly shot Chuck Stuart and killed Chuck’s wife Carol. In fact, police have already arrested one guy – a homeless man with a drug problem who happened to have a track suit soaking in his sink. He spent 10 days in jail and then police quietly let him go.

Now there’s a new tip about a different skinny Black man – who’s been out there bragging about what he did. And this story has been swirling around Mission Hill.

It all started with a bunch of teenagers smoking weed in somebody’s bedroom, talking trash and passing a bong… and now it’s gotten all the way to O’Malley.

Angela Brittle: The first thing I said there was, “Oh, my God, did Erick kill this lady, or does he have something to do with this?”

Laroy Cox: That’s exactly what he said. “You’re fucking lying. Tell us what happened.” And I kept telling them, “I don’t know” because I didn’t know.

Dereck Jackson: I said what they wanted me to say. Do I regret it? Yes.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): You see, murder cases are made in the interrogation room. And here, O’Malley’s earning his paycheck. But the detective is at the end of this long game of telephone. He’s trying to figure out what happened during the smoke session to make sense of the story these teenagers are sharing, which has gotten twisted with each telling.

So this is going to be a complicated episode. It’s all about this rumor that came out of a teenage smoke session. You’re going to hear several people telling different versions of this story. You’ll hear where it started, where it went, and how these teenagers ended up here in Southie, sucking in Peter O’Malley’s cigarette smoke. This is all going to make sense soon – or maybe not. So sit tight.

I’m Adrian Walker and this is Murder in Boston: The Untold Story of the Charles and Carol Stuart Shooting, Episode 4: The Suspect.

[MONTAGE AUDIO WITH MULTIPLE VOICES]

Billy Dunn: The story goes—

Joey Bennett: Dereck Jackson told Erick Whitney—

Angela Brittle: Somebody asked us something about a room.

Billy Dunn: There was Dereck, Erick and Man, or Reverend I call him, Man.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Ron, Ron Ron, was there.

Angela Brittle: And Erick was in that room with Willie

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Well you first told your mother, mister, that he told you. What about Reverend? You know Reverend?

Billy Dunn: Erick and Dereck.

Angela Brittle: Erick was in the room with Willie and Dereck Jackson.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): He, being Dereck, told you that Willie told him.

Billy Dunn: They’re sitting in the apartment and Willie comes in—

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): He said him, Dereck, Toot—

Billy Dunn: Erick and Dereck I refer to as Nit and Wit.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Mike, Jr.—

Angela Brittle: I didn’t even know that Erick knew Willie.

Billy Dunn: —Pete and Repeat.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): William came in.

Joey Bennett: My uncle came in—

Billy Dunn: “My uncle, my uncle’s the one that did the robbery.”

Joey Bennett: —showed a gun.

Billy Dunn: And shows them a gun.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): So what you’re telling me now is that was never said to you.

Billy Dunn: And there’s three bullets missing.

[MONTAGE WRAPS]

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Okay, you heard a lot of names right there. But let’s start with Erick.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): My name is Erick Whitney. W - H - I - T - N - E - Y.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Erick’s the reason police know about the smoke session.

Angela Brittle: He was a bagger for Stop & Shop. And I was a cashier on Westland Avenue. And that smile… (EXHALES) I was doing my thing and I turned around and I, ah, just oh my gosh, his smile. I was sold by the smile. I am Angela Brittle and I am the former girlfriend of Erick Whitney.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Angela was 17 when she met Erick.

Angela Brittle: Oh, girl. Oh, oh, girl. Oh! girl, girl, girl. He was 5-foot-5. He weighed about 140, 45 pounds. He was very slim. He had a long torso. And he was built like DMX, he had the muscles. He could wear the wife beater. He had a flat stomach and he had a six pack. Oh, okay. And he was, he was like a chocolate brown. He had long eyelashes, like a girl. Waves for days, you could just drown in them, girl. Oh, my goodness. And he cleaned his sneakers every day with a toothbrush and soap. Every single day. And he cleaned his face with Ivory Snow [soap].

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Angela was living with her mom, and her home life was pretty chaotic. Erick was exciting – and a little dangerous.

Angela Brittle: He picked me up in a friggin’ stolen car, and I was in that stolen car. Went to Mission Hill projects for the first time. Man. Listen, I went into the projects like Mission Hill. You didn’t go into Mission Hill projects like you– I mean, I’m from Dorchester, like I will fight like, I’m like, I was what you call hood rat. Like, you know, like high top Adidas, tight jeans, carefree curled ponytail, lollipop in the head. That was me! You know, so, but Mission Hill, the projects?!

ADRIAN WALKER (host): They started dating. Erick was a funny mix of earnestness and swagger. He was sweet with Angela, and cool with his friends. Beneath his tough-guy act, Angela saw vulnerability.

Angela Brittle: He was typical street n****. That’s what he said. He’s like his daddy. He pimps hoes and slams Cadillac doors. I’m like (EXHALES) one of them cats. Yeah, but little did anyone know he was a whole handful of virgin. Yeah, yeah, so I was his first. I’m sure none of his guys knew that he was king virgin. I would have never known. Fine as he was with that beautiful smile.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): That was Erick. Playing the big man. Underneath it all was an insecure kid, looking for love.

Angela Brittle: He was always searching for that attention or affection from his mother. And sometimes she failed him in that area.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And this is the thing you need to know about Erick, to understand why police wound up focusing on these teenagers. Because when he heard the rumor about who killed Carol Stuart, the first person that Erick told wasn’t a cop. It was his mom. He was trying to impress her. And Erick’s mom happened to be friends with a Boston cop. So she told her cop friend, her cop friend told homicide, and then homicide detectives were all over Erick.

But Erick wouldn’t talk. He didn’t want anything to do with the police, because he had warrants out for his arrest. So the cops tried a different tactic. Angela’s uncle was a police officer. His name is Wilbur Brittle.

Wilbur Brittle: I’m sitting at my desk one day, in B2, I’m duty supervisor.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): One day a homicide detective went into B2, looking for Wilbur.

Wilbur Brittle: And he comes out, he got a cigar, looks at me and he goes, he tells me, like “We’re trying to get a hold of this, your niece’s boyfriend, because he told his mother.”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So Wilbur went looking for Erick.

Angela Brittle: That was the morning that Uncle Wilbur came to the house. He knocked on the door and the house was asleep. I think it was late morning or early afternoon. And they said, “It’s Uncle Wilbur.” Erick is such a criminal. (LAUGHS) He was such a criminal-minded guy. Erick was out. As soon as he heard it was my Uncle Wilbur, he was out. He left out the back door and was gone to Codman Square.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Wilbur told Angela that Erick wasn’t in trouble.

Angela Brittle: He just said, “Angel, the police, my superiors want you to come and bring in Erick. They want to talk to Erick, and they want you to come in with him. So he’ll come and know that he’s not going to be arrested.” I didn’t know what it was about.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So later that day Angela convinced Erick to go to homicide with Wilbur.

Wilbur Brittle: We go down [to] homicide and we get into homicide and they have warrants that Erick has against someone, they have them taped up against the wall. [They] say those warrants are for you, but you need to cooperate with us or we’re going to activate them.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The homicide office is packed with cops. Everybody wants to hear this interview. But it’s clear the guy running the show is Peter O’Malley.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): I’m gonna stop it. All right. Oh, I just started the tape and the fact is we’re gonna talk.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): O’Malley is a Korean War vet and a longtime detective. He is an imposing figure. People call him “The Colonel.”

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): The Stuart murder happened on October 23rd. It was a Monday evening.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): These recordings of O’Malley’s interviews haven’t been heard widely before. We helped locate them in the basement of a retired judge.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Yes. I want you to tell me your own words.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Erick describes this smoke session that happened the day after the murder at his buddy’s house. Usually, a bunch of teenagers get high, drink 40s, and play Nintendo. On this day, they’re talking about the biggest story in Boston.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): They’re sitting down, they’re smoking bongs. That’s weed.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You’re saying bong. B-O-N-G, which is marijuana.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Yeah.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Okay.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Some of the tape is hard to hear. It’s old and worn cassette tape. And the homicide unit was right next to the airport so you can hear the planes flying overhead, real low.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Wait ‘til the plane goes by.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But if you listen closely you can hear the story detectives were after. Erick wasn’t even at the house that day... but one of the guys who was there started running his mouth.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): What did he tell you?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): He told me that he knew who did it and he would tell me who did it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Erick’s friend who was in the smoke session said he knew who did it. And the friend even referenced the track suit.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Yes, he was wearing a black Adidas suit with black– I mean red stripes.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Erick’s pal who was telling him all of this is Dereck, who goes by D. And Dereck had details about the shooter.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Dereck said that he said he was in the car. He got out the car and got into the Stuart family’s car. Told ‘em, “give me your money and your wallet.” So, he seen the watches then took that. He got out, he saw the Stuart man reach for whatever. He thought he was “5-0.”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Erick says Dereck told him the suspect got into the Stuarts’ car, robbed them and then ran when he thought Chuck was a police officer: “5-0.” How does Erick know all this? Well…

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Toot had told Dereck and then D in turn told me, right? And in turn to D telling me, I told my mother.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Like I said, it was a game of telephone.

Angela Brittle: It was like eight or nine officers in this small room. And me and Erick’s sitting in there and multiple officers ask him questions at the same time. It was the first time I ever saw Erick scared.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Angela was in the interrogation room with Erick for a long time, while the cops walked him through his statement over and over.

Angela Brittle: And, you know, like we were facing each other in the chairs. And my back was to the door and the door opened and Erick looked like a ghost and he was scared. And the guy goes, “You know who I am?” Now, if I’m not mistaken, I think he said, “You know who the fuck I am?” And Erick shook his head, you know, and said, “Yeah.” And he’s like, “Who am I?” And he said, “Dunn.”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Billy Dunn – the Legend.

Angela Brittle: I’m like, well, who scared Erick? So I turned around and I was like, oh, shit, (LAUGHS) I’m scared. There’s this big, massive force of white man. He was big. He was just, he was a scary man. I was like, Oh, shit, can I leave the room?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So Billy’s there in the room that night.

Billy Dunn: I sat in on the frequent flyers up in Mission’s interviews only because I was the interpreter. I was only a patrolman, I was the lowest rung on a ladder. So I was the gofer.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Billy’s fingerprints are all over this part of the story. They brought him in because he knew Mission Hill. And he knew the kids who were spreading this rumor: Erick and Dereck.

Billy Dunn: Erick and Dereck I refer to as Nit and Wit, Pete and Repeat. Two kids that I don’t know if they were just stupid or, just, their luck really sucked because they didn’t do much and didn’t get caught. And then they tell you about it, you know? So they were regular kids. Other than to do a robbery here and there.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Lead detective O’Malley thought Billy could coax the truth from the teenagers.

Billy Dunn: O’Malley said “the only lie detector test”— supposedly he pointed at me, but “the only lie detector test we have is Billy Dunn,” that was the statement.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Billy was O’Malley’s boots on the ground in Mission Hill. When the police heard about the story going through the neighborhood, they sent Billy out to find Dereck.

Billy Dunn: “We’d like to talk to this guy. Don’t make him come in. If he wants to come in, go get him.” You know, and that’s what we did.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): In fact, the cops went to Dereck’s school. Ruth Gough was a social worker there.

Ruth Gough: The Friday that they came to the school, they called and said they were coming. And they wanted us to verify that he was there, but they did not want us to tell him that they were coming. I have red flags about the police calling up, asking about people’s children. So if it’s not your mother or your father, why are you calling me? Who are you? And my instincts about white cops back then and Black children was, “Who are you and why are you calling me?”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So Billy and another cop show up at the school to try to talk to Dereck. But Ruth isn’t having it.

Ruth Gough: “Is he under arrest?” “No, he’s not under arrest.” “Well. Okay, so why are you here?” “We just want him to go for a ride.” I’m looking at Dereck. Dereck is looking at me, shaking his head. I said in the police car? He said, “Yeah.” I said, whoever heard anybody going for a ride with the police and they ain’t under arrest?! Whoever heard of that?! No! No, he don’t want to go for a ride. He’s a Black male. We live in Boston. White police officers. I just had a basic distrust and that was my job not to let him be taken advantage of. White kids don’t get in trouble because they always got a lawyer. You know, we get in trouble because we don’t have sense enough. We always want to talk and be friendly. You can’t be friendly with the police!

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But Ruth loses the battle. Billy Dunn leaves the school without Dereck, but picks him up later that night and sits him down across from Detective O’Malley.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): That Tuesday, do you remember where you went?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Where was that?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): I went to Toot’s house.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Toot, is it T-O-O-T.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Correct.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): I’m showing you a Boston police photo, which number is 341227. And you say that that is the man you know as Toot.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Young man.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): And his real name on our record is Joey Bennett.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey Bennett. We’re coming back to him. For now, all you need to know is that the pot smoking happened in Joey, aka Toot’s, bedroom in Mission Hill the day after the murder.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): We was sitting down, Toot invited us to his house to smoke weed, grass. Then we sat down. I sat down on the couch. And at this time, as we were walking to the house and up the stairs, this guy had appeared and he had went before me, and we all went upstairs. And the guy that I didn’t know as Willie Bennett at that time had went to the bathroom and we all went into Toot’s room and we closed the door and I sat down. Toot turned on the Nintendo game. He turned on the radio, very loud.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): All right. While you were in there, did somebody tell you something about the shooting the night before?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Who was that?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Toot.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): What did he tell you?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): He said that his uncle had committed this crime, had shot the Stuart family.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Did he say how he knew?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): He says his uncle told him.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Did he tell you anything else about it?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): And, no, that was it. He told. He just told me. And when he told me, he laughed.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Willie Bennett. Willie’s name was well known to just about every detective and cop in Boston. He had legendary status in the toughest corners of Mission Hill.

Willie freakin’ Bennett.

[MONTAGE]

Archived Recording (Willie Bennett): I was a wild one. Oh, yeah. I was wild. I didn’t give a damn. I had like a reputation in the projects.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Willie Bennett, he’s probably third grade, but he’s summa cum laude on the street.

Leslie Harris: Nobody would have argued that Willie Bennett was an angel in the community.

Archived Recording (Reporter): Long-time career criminal, no education, a street thug. And he had a record, a long record.

Evan Allen: Would you say he’s a bad person or a good–?

Billy Dunn: Yes. Yes, no doubt. One of the baddest… Evil.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The stories people tell about Willie’s exploits — they may sound mythic, but they’re basically true. And around the time of the Stuart shooting, Willie had recently gotten out of prison for a shootout with the cops.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Willie shot at an MDC policeman. Willie robbed the paraplegic and took his legs. Wilie is a… a tough man.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So yeah… Willie had a reputation. He shows up in a lot of places.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): This time, there was a knock at the door, and it was Mr. Bennett.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dereck tells the cops that Willie has been there in Toot’s house the whole time the boys were smoking pot and playing video games.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): He came in and he said that he did this crime and he said how he did it. He got in the car. He told him to don’t look behind in the rearview mirror and he took their money, whatever, and the guy made a motion. And Mr. Bennett said, “You’re 5-0,” and he shot him.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dereck says that Willie even showed the teenagers the old silver gun he used. They passed it around and Toot put the gun under his bed. Willie told them he did it all for money.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): He said all these things without you asking him any questions?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yep.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Why was he telling you this?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): He just came out and said it.

Joey Bennett: I know this is a true story. You can’t make this shit up. Oh, but they did make it up. (CHUCKLES) Sorry about that. I’m not making this shit up. They made it up. This is a true story.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): This is “Toot” or Joey Bennett, as he likes to be called today.

Joey Bennett: Supposedly all this came about that Toot and his uncle was kekeke and laughing and saying that you know, “Willie said he killed them and passed Toot the gun,” and all this. And none of that ever happened.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey’s memory of the exchange is very different from what Erick and Dereck told O’Malley back in 1989. Yeah, they smoked some pot and played some video games – but the whole thing about his uncle’s confession and Joey’s bragging? Joey says that’s bullshit.

Joey Bennett: My version is that I never told Dereck that. Erick Whitney was never in my house. My uncle never killed these people or killed this lady or shot Chuck. My uncle never was even in the house when we was there.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey does remember that Willie’s name came up. You’re not gonna believe this, but Joey says it all started with a Boston Globe article. Yeah, I know. In Joey’s room, he had a framed Globe story from 1981 about his Uncle Willie. And the headline reads: “You’re not going to take me alive but they did.”

Joey Bennett: Somebody was like, yo, who’s that? And I was like, “Oh, that’s my Uncle Willie.” “What’s that?” “Oh, that’s when he shot at the police and they finally caught up to his ass and he said they ain’t gonna take him out alive. And he got shot in the hand and he walked out alive. (LAUGHS) You know?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey remembers they did talk a little bit about Willie’s criminal hijinks. But it was a short conversation, and Joey didn’t think much of it.

Joey Bennett: Nothing else is being said of it. Nothing. No conversation whatsoever. We’re smoking a blunt. Next thing I know, it was a whole other story told.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey’s decision to have some pals over to smoke pot and play video games... he regrets it to this day.

Joey Bennett: That decision was the decision that altered, not even altered, fucked up our lives.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Look, this story of the Stuart shooting in Mission Hill... it’s been told a lot of times before this podcast. And there’s no denying it’s a gripping true crime tale. But there’s this whole world of people that have never spoken, because what they have to say doesn’t fit neatly into the plot of a thriller, with easy good guys and bad guys.

And Joey – he’s complicated. He’s never really talked about the Stuart killing before. It took me more than a year to get him to sit down.

Joey Bennett: Protect the family. Protect the family. Protect the family. Protect the family. You know that, Adrian.

Adrian Walker: Yes, I do.

Joey Bennett: This interview didn’t come easy.

Adrian Walker: (CHUCKLES) I’ve done this 37 years, and this is the longest I’ve ever chased anybody. (LAUGHTER) Congratulations for that.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So, you’re gonna hear a lot of my interview with Joey. You’ll also hear significant tape of Joey from an interview he did for a documentary series funded and distributed by HBO and the ‘Max’ streaming service. We contributed to it. This podcast is also funded in part by HBO and distributed by them as well.

And we need to be transparent here. The production company that made the HBO series entered into a financial agreement with Joey Bennett. HBO says it is part of a standard archive licensing agreement for the use of family photos and audio materials and that the arrangement is in line with industry practices. That agreement includes a confidentiality clause.

It’s different in our world. According to Globe guidelines, journalists can’t pay for materials like this. We’ll spend more time in a later episode talking about the legacy of this case, what’s owed to those involved and who gets to profit off their stories. But for now, let’s get back to it.

Joey Bennett: This story has to be told from our family because it’s our time! It’s time for the world to hear what really happened.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The Bennetts are one of the OG families in the Mission Main housing project. Joey grew up there in the 80s.

Joey Bennett: I used to play marbles, ride dirt bikes, play in the fire hydrants, you know, out in the middle of the street. We used to block off the streets. We used to earn money by cleaning people’s cars and also, you know, we were just playing in them as a kid. That was our swimming pool, so to say, you know, the block parties in the neighborhood where it was just all family, all friends. We would alway hang out, have a good time sometimes. You know, just growing up was a beautiful thing in my neighborhood.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But Joey knows a lot of people saw his neighborhood differently.

Joey Bennett: Ghetto poor, ran down, poverty stricken, you know, bad people, all that.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Remember, this is the late 80s, just a couple years after crack took hold in Boston and most certainly in Mission Hill.

Joey Bennett: That’s when the violence really started. You know, people were robbing each other because some people had to get what they had to get. And money wasn’t plentiful in the projects. So you had to figure out how to get, you know, money. It was hard. (LAUGHS) I grew up. I had to take care of my brother, my mom’s. You know, my dad wasn’t around and I had to grow up and take care of me and my little brother. So at a young age, you know, I started selling drugs out of my mother’s house. At like 12 years old, 1986.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Think about that. A 12-year-old selling crack out of his mother’s house.

Joey Bennett: It was just survival and taking care of my little brother. And then I couldn’t stash it in the house. One day I went to school and I left it in my sleeve. And when I went up to the gym to play basketball, there was an officer there that came upstairs and I see them with my coat and he was like, “Is this your coat?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s my coat.” He whipped out the drugs like, “These your drugs?” I was like, “Those are my drugs.” So I– that was my first experience with going to jail over selling drugs.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Eventually social services removed Joey and his brother from his mother’s custody and they go live with their grandmother.

Joey Bennett: That was one of the best things that happened to me, because my grandma was always a loving lady. But to live with her and to get that love that my mother wasn’t giving me. It was so, like, rewarding.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But his grandmother’s love wasn’t enough to put him back on the right path. He’s angry. He starts carrying guns at 13, gets shot at 14. He’s running with grown men, stealing cars from Logan Airport before he’s old enough to drive. But... he’s just a kid.

Joey Bennett: I was just scrawny. I was about 120 pounds. About 5′7″, but my heart was across my chest, so I was bigger than my stature.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And this is when everyone starts to use his childhood nickname, Toot.

Joey Bennett: When I used to have to go to school, I used to have my tape cassette Walkman where I used to steal my tape cassettes from Strawberry Records, and I used to listen to my music. And it used to be N.W.A.

[SONG SNIPPET]

Joey Bennett: Angry music. N**** with an attitude. Fuck tha Police. Yes. Music like that. That was the music that was being played in the neighborhood.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): In his rage and alienation, Joey looked to his uncle, Willie Bennett.

Joey Bennett: My uncle was more like a ghetto celebrity. He was what some people would refer to as a badass. And, you know, he protected our family.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey followed his every move.

Joey Bennett: I just watched as a kid. Just watched. I’m a sponge for things like that. I learned just [by] watching. Even when he didn’t know I was watching. I was watching. I had my mind made up. I wanted to be like my uncle. So I just started gangbanging. I wanted the reputation that my uncle had.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Willie had girlfriends and kids in several cities. And he was a fly dresser – linen suits, suede jackets, trench coats and a serious shoe game. Everybody called him Wild Bill.

Joey Bennett: Wild Bill. He was wild.

Adrian Walker: Who gave him that? (LAUGHS)

Joey Bennett: The streets. (LAUGHS) He was wild. My uncle loved people. He just hated cops.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The feeling was mutual. Here’s Billy Dunn again, talking about the first time he met Willie, not long after Willie got out of prison sometime in the 80s.

Billy Dunn: So we go into the projects one night and we know Willie was out, and we see a guy standing in a dark doorway. And we didn’t recognize him but he looked familiar. I pull up. “What’s your name?” “You know my name. I know your name.” I said, “So what’s my name?” He said, “Dunn.” I said, “Very good. Now what’s your name?” “Willie.” I said, “Willie Bennett?” He said, “Yeah.” So I said, “Geez, I heard a lot about you.” And he said, “I heard a lot about you and if you get in my way, I’ll kill you.” I said, “If you get in my way, I’ll kill you. I think I’ll kill you first because you just gave me the heads up. So I don’t trust you ever.” And I said, “Get out of here.” So he left. He walked, walked away. He had a hoodie up. And that’s the first time I met him.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So when the cops heard that Willie was walking around Mission Hill telling everybody who would listen that he shot the Stuarts – it made sense. In fact, Erick and Dereck weren’t the first people to tell police that they should look at Willie for the killing – they just had the most specific story. But Willie’s name shows up, along with dozens of others, on police tip sheets collected from hotline calls from the public in the days after the killing. We found those tip sheets. One read, “Word on the street is, Bennett did it.” Willie’s name is on everybody’s lips.

Billy Dunn: So then other people started talking. There was a lady, Mary Smith, who said that the night of the shooting, she seen Willie Bennett run through Block City, wearing a running suit. Then there was another girl, Toni Jackson, said that Willie told her that the bullet was meant for the man and not the woman. There was a young kid. I don’t know what he told them, but supposedly he’d seen something. So there was all kinds of things coming in. But it was the people around Willie that said he did it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But it’s not going to be that clean. Even though a lot of people are talking about Willie, the best evidence the cops have comes from Erick and Dereck. But a day after those two give their statements in that smoky interview room, they come back to police. They want to take the statements all back. They want to recant.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Can you tell the machine why you came in and lied to me last night?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Well, my, my girl said you was gonna kick my– my booty and give me 20 years in Walpole. I mean, I flipped out. I was scared, you know, I came and said anything, you know?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Here’s Erick, back at homicide, saying the story he told about Willie was not true. Willie never said he was the killer.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): So what you’re telling me now is that was never said to you?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): That was never said to me.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): And you told your mother that?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): I told my mother that.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Well, where— where did you get that story?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): I made— I made that story up.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You made that story up.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): O’Malley’s pissed. You can hear his voice go up several octaves. It could be because the tape is old and stretched. Nonetheless, it’s clear the intensity picks up.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You were lying to me in a homicide investigation. Well, tell the machine your answer. Were you lying to me last night?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Why were you lying to me in a murder investigation?! Tell the machine that.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney) Oh, I told you that. You know, I was trying to get my, my booty off–

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): No, no, no, no, no, no. You tell the machine very slowly why you lied to me and you know, this is a murder investigation of the woman that got shot. It was made very, very clear to you! Now, you tell that machine why you lied to me in this homicide case.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): The reason I lied to you is because, you know, y’all had got (STUTTERING) y’all had got my girl.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): His girl. Angela Brittle.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney) She told me the same thing you told me when I first came up here. And I knew I had them two warrants out…

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Erick knew he had warrants out for his arrest.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney) So I wanted to get— I wanted to, you know, to smooth by this, you know, get my warrants and stuff done, I mean, taken off…

ADRIAN WALKER (host): He didn’t want to get arrested. He wanted the cops to drop the warrants.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): You know, so I tried to play by it. When you was asking the questions, I was adding more on, you know, trying to make it look good for me, you know.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So when they asked him questions, he said what he thought they wanted to hear.

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): And then I could, I could get out [of] this building the same day I came in.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And then he could go home. The longer the interrogation goes, the more O’Malley presses.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Does that mean you’re nervous that your hands are sweating?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): It means I’m scared.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): You’re scared? Do I look like I’m going to beat you up?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): No.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): Huh?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): No.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): What are you scared of?

Archived Recording (Erick Whitney): Going to jail.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): We don’t know what Erick Whitney would say if anybody asked him about this case today. He was stabbed to death in 1999.

But Dereck Jackson is around.

Dereck Jackson: We said— I said what they wanted me to say.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dereck says that Joey did tell him Willie killed the Stuarts. But he never heard it from Willie himself. He just passed Joey’s story on to Erick.

Dereck Jackson: I ran my mouth and told Erick. Erick told his mother, and the lie just kept going until the police got it. And then when the police got it, this is what happened.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): He told us why he and Erick told the police the story.

Dereck Jackson: They had me down there in this room, like you see on TV, in this room, dark with a bunch of white dudes, who don’t like me. I’m in Southie. You have to understand what Southie was in the 80s for a kid like this, coming from Roxbury, and you got a bunch of old white cops sitting around with fat Billy Dunn there right here! In my face.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And Peter O’Malley was asking the questions.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): How’d you happen to come here tonight?

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Of my free will.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): We’ve been in touch with you by telephone. We asked you to come in here.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): And you did.

Archived Recording (Dereck Jackson): Yes.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): When Dereck hears that old tape of himself today he hears…

Dereck Jackson: A scared kid. I hear it in my voice. The pause and the thought about it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dereck tried to recant the same night as Erick. But the cops didn’t believe their second version. They were locked in on “Wild Bill.” And the teens had already given them what seemed like enough ammo to make a case against Willie.

Remember, all of this began with Erick Whitney. It was set in motion when he told his mom about a rumor he heard and then his girlfriend Angela convinced him to go to the police.

Angela remembers feeling a deep sense of foreboding about everything they’d set in motion.

Angela Brittle: What did we just get into? You know what’s going to happen now? Like, what’s going to be set off now? Because, you know, this, this is a pregnant woman. This is a white woman. This is not going to roll over easy, you know. And thank god I don’t live in Mission Hill.

Archived Recording (Reporter 1): Good evening, I’m Mark Vaile and welcome to this News Seven Late Update.

Archived Recording (Reporter 2): Topping News Seven tonight, Boston police remain tight-lipped about what could be a major break in the investigation into the shootings of Chuck and Carol Stuart.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Police make their move on Willie, search warrant in hand. They raid three different homes where he’s laid his head. The raid on his mother’s house in Mission Hill is captured by TV news cameras.

Archived Recording (Reporter): White balance, you got it?

Archived Recording (Reporter 2): Archived Recording (Photographer) Yeah. (CAMERA CLICKS) That’s all the information that I have.

Archived Recording (Reporter 3): Now whether he’s going to be picked up or not, I don’t know.

Archived Recording (Unidentified Person) Just stand by. (SIREN SOUNDS)

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The media gather across the street from Homicide, and follow the police to Mission Hill in a caravan with cameras rolling.

Sharita Bennett: As I lift up the shade, I can just see a line of men with big shields in their hands just marching down the hill.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): That’s Sharita Bennett, Willie’s niece. That night she was seven years old. Watching TV with her grandma.

Sharita Bennett: I looked, I said, “Ma, there’s some people coming down the hill, they’re police!” But before she tried to get to the window, that’s when we heard the banging. So there was a door that you had to get in before you could actually get to the house door. So we can just hear them just banging and banging and banging on that.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The cops take a sledgehammer to the door. They’re looking for Willie, but they’ll take what they can get, whether that’s evidence, interviews with family members, whatever.

Archived Recording: (SLEDGEHAMMER SOUND)

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And guess who’s leading the charge? Billy Dunn.

Billy Dunn: I was there.

Evan Allen: Tell me about that–

Billy Dunn: I knocked on the door. I knocked on the door, announced “police.” And then I stepped back and they hit the door. People didn’t open the door.

Joey Bennett: Didn’t you just see that sledgehammer in his hand? I’m not fucking crazy. He had to hit that shit down. I remember him hitting that shit down. He had that shit in his hand. Someone’s going to bust my fucking head with it. So they hit that door. And when they hit that door, that– that’s when all hell broke loose. You see what I said? They had the shields and the black masks and the hoodies.

Sharita Bennett: So somehow, some way, they managed to get in.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The Bennetts run for the door.

Sharita Bennett: And as we’re coming down, they’re already in, coming up the stairs, pulling us down the stairs. And when we finally got down the stairs, they told us to sit on the couch. So as we’re downstairs, they all just rush upstairs. At this point, we can hear, like, the guns clicking from the guns they had. So we could just hear the guns: click, click, click. And they’re just yelling “Freeze! Freeze!” And at this point they just ramshacking the whole house.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Photos show the Bennetts’ stuff strewn everywhere and amid that mess, the cops find something. The detectives tore a hole in the wall and collected a .38 caliber bullet that was lodged deep in the plaster – the same type of bullet that killed Carol Stuart. They also grabbed a bag of white powder in a jewelry box.

Joey Bennett: They said they found powder cocaine in my bedroom. And I just told you, I sold crack. I know that I didn’t have no powder cocaine. I sold crack. Well, it was all a ploy for them to get me out of that house and down to that police station.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So the cops didn’t find Willie there, but they grabbed 15-year-old Joey and took him to the homicide office in Southie. And they ask Joey about the smoke session in his bedroom – the rumor that started all of this. They wanted him to confirm what Erick and Dereck told them about his uncle.

Joey Bennett: But I wouldn’t crack. I would not say what they wanted me to say, and they could not understand how a 15-year-old boy was not afraid of the Boston police homicide detectives after threatening me with beating me up, whether sending me to Walpole for lying with my uncle, charging me with accessory after the fact. I’m going to Walpole with my uncle. You’re going to grow old. He’s going to die. I’m going to get old. All that type of stuff was said to me at 15 years old.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): He wouldn’t tell police what they wanted to hear.

Joey Bennett: Like I said, the difference between me, Dereck and Erick was I was raised by a gangster, so I don’t crack under pressure.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Willie wasn’t in Mission Hill that night. Cops picked him up at his girlfriend’s place in the suburbs and they booked him into jail on an old traffic charge.

Archived Recording (Reporter): The Bennett apartment is in disarray after Boston detectives and the chief assistant district attorney for homicide searched their home early Saturday morning for 39-year-old William Bennett. Privately, a source close to the investigation says the Roxbury man is a suspect in the Stuart murder case. Burlington police arrested Bennett for a defaulted Boston traffic warrant at his girlfriend’s Burlington home yesterday morning. Bennett’s mother insists her son is not guilty of any crime.

Archived Recording (Reporter 2): What happened here last night, Mrs. Bennett?

Archived Recording (Pauline Bennett): What happened? They tore my house all apart. They stole my money.

Archived Recording (Reporter 2): How do you feel when you see that newspaper story this morning saying your son is the number one suspect in the Stuart case?

Archived Recording (Pauline Bennett): How do I feel? Like I said, I know he didn’t do it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Willie wasn’t charged with the murder – at least not immediately. Prosecutors were able to keep him jailed on other unrelated charges, while they continued to build their murder case.

Archived Recording (Reporter): After reading Bennett’s long and violent criminal record, which includes shooting at a police officer, the prosecutor wanted bail set at half a million dollars.

Archived Recording (Prosecutor): Always running around with guns, a record of violence and always shooting people. He’s just a mad dog running amok and society has to be protected here.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Some people urged caution. Leslie Harris, the public defender who represented the first suspect in the case? Well, he was highly critical of Willie’s arrest.

Archived Recording (Leslie Harris): What they’ve done is to give the public, through the media, some type of bone to chew on. You know, they show that they [are] out doing something and at the expense of possibly another innocent person.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But the police are confident. They’ve got those statements from Dereck and Erick. They’ve got a bullet from a wall that they sent for testing. They got Willie, a skinny black man with a helluva record, in jail. All they need is a positive ID.

That happens about seven weeks later on Dec. 28. Chuck Stuart walks into a little room in police headquarters with a big one-way mirror. On the other side of the mirror? Willie Bennett.

Archived Recording (Chuck Stuart): My leg was shaking. My heart was pounding. I called over my attorney, Jack Dawley, to tell him that the individual that I identified, I was 99 percent sure and those were my words, that that was the man.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The tape’s a little tough on the ears, but in it, Chuck says he’s 99 percent sure that person number three in the lineup is the skinny Black man who was in his car that night… the man who murdered his wife and child.

Chuck points to Willie.

That’s on the next episode of Murder In Boston.

Credits

Murder in Boston: The Untold Story of the Chuck and Carol Stuart Shooting is presented by The Boston Globe and HBO Documentary Films. This podcast was reported and written by Globe journalists Evan Allen, Elizabeth Koh, Andrew Ryan, and me – your host, associate editor Adrian Walker.

The project was led and co-written by Assistant Managing Editor Brendan McCarthy and Globe Head of Audio, Kristin Nelson. Nelson served as senior producer. Melissa Rosales is the associate producer.

Our theme music is Speak Upon It by Boston’s own Edo G. Reza Dahya is our sound designer. Voice over direction by Athena Karkanis. Research from Jeremiah Manion. Fact-checking by Matt Mahoney. The Boston Globe’s executive editor is Nancy Barnes. Thanks to former Globies Brian McGrory and Scott Allen and to Boston Globe Media CEO, Linda Henry.

Additional interviews and audio courtesy of Jason Hehir and Little Room Films.