Everything you know, everything you’ve heard, is flipped on its head when one morning a man walks to the edge of the Tobin Bridge and steps off, falling 145 feet into the frigid waters below. The death sends waves of disbelief, rage, and guilt through Boston. And it forces everyone to examine themselves and the role they’ve played in a terrible hoax.
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For more about this episode:
– Read Chapter 7 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
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Please note, this episode includes some spoilers for the HBO Documentary Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage, and Reckoning. Before we begin, this episode contains some offensive language and descriptions of violence. It also references suicide. It may not be appropriate for all listeners. Please take care while listening.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): It’s January 4th, 1990. Chuck Stuart stops his car on the lower deck of the Tobin Bridge. He leaves a handwritten note on the front passenger seat and steps out. The engine’s still running. Chuck walks to the concrete edge and peers down into the Mystic River, climbs over a green metal railing and falls 145 feet into the frigid water below.
In this moment, everything changes.
The police theories, the media narratives, the citizen outrage... It’s all wrong. It’s as if everyone is peering down into the water where Chuck Stuart landed. And they see themselves in the reflection.
TV reporter Jack Harper was sent to the bridge that day.
Jack Harper: I remember it was cold. And I was sent down to the dock because there was a report of a man who jumped in the water. And I’ll never forget it. It was the First Assistant District Attorney Leary was there. And I remember standing there with him and I said, “Oh, my God. This poor guy, how much worse can it get? What a terrible ending. He just couldn’t take it anymore. I understand.” And he said, “You have no idea. You don’t know what happened. It’s not what you think. He killed her! He set this up. He just committed suicide.” Everything stopped.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): The reporter called his newsroom.
Jack Harper: I said. “The district attorney says that it is Charles Stuart… but he killed her.” It was a hoax. He set it up. And they’re like, silence.
Barbara Williamson: I was just kicking myself! We all were kicking ourselves. How could we not have figured this out? How could we not have known?
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Carol’s friend from the accounting firm, Barbara Williamson, remembers riding waves of disbelief and guilt. How easy it had been to believe the lie.
Barbara Williamson: I had to rewrite the story in my head. I had to recapitulate the whole experience through a completely different lens. And I was just so full of shame for what happened to the African-American people in Boston, feeling like I was a part of it. I was complicit. No, I didn’t pull the trigger. No, I didn’t point the finger at the wrong guy but I’m white, and I’m enmeshed in this mess.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And this is the thing, everyone was enmeshed in this mess. Everyone had been sucked into this drama. It only took two words from Chuck, as he lay bleeding on a stretcher: “Black. Man.” And all this machinery – the police, the press, the politicians – kicked into gear. These institutions did what they always did. What they always had done.
Find the Black man.
To pull off his racist hoax, Chuck needed everyone’s help and he knew how to get it. He knew what story to tell. And people didn’t just believe it, they rallied around it. That sense of complicity was uncomfortable for a lot of people.
Archived Recording (Toni Logan, Resident): And I don’t like being made to feel racist and in fear of the Blacks, because there are just as many rotten white people as there are Blacks.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): When Chuck jumped and the truth was revealed, some people had to confront the fact that they were exactly who Chuck thought they were.
Archived Recording (Reverend E. W. Jackson Sr.): Charles Stuart played a racist game on us. We cannot forget, however, that he played out that game on a stage which was already set.
Howard Bryant: It’s ingrained. Blame the Black guy. It’s really easy because it works.
Renée Graham: It’s always somehow the mysterious Black man who’s done the terrible thing.
Archived Recording (Bruce Bolling): I have had enough! This community has had enough!
Dianne Wilkerson: I think it’s the biggest embarrassment in the city of Boston.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): I remember walking into the newsroom that morning. We didn’t have Twitter or text or any of that, so I had no idea what had happened. And I get in, and it’s like, “Chuck jumped off the bridge? What?”
Two top editors gathered a bunch of us up. I remember the city editor said, “Is this guilt, or grief?” Which I just thought was crazy. You know, like, guilt. Obviously. I think white people were more shocked than Black people, without a doubt.
But that morning, nobody had time to think philosophically about what all this meant. It was – who’s gonna go where, who’s gonna do what? Everybody’s heads were spinning – the cops, the politicians, the media, regular people. We were all just trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): I’m Adrian Walker and this is Murder in Boston: The Untold Story of the Charles and Carol Stuart Shooting, Episode 6: The Mask Comes Off.
Billy Dunn: Peter O’Malley called me at my house and he said, “That fucking asshole jumped.” (LAUGHS) I don’t know what he’s talking about. I said, “Who?” He goes, “Chuck Stuart just jumped off the fucking Mystic River Bridge.” And I said, “You’re shitting me!”
Archived Recording (Reporter): We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you this special report.
Archived Recording (Reporter 1◠̈ This is Steve Sbraccia, NewsCenter5 at the Charlestown Navy Yard. We have a rather tragic and bizarre story to report about eight o’clock this morning.
Archived Recording (Reporter 2): This morning on the Mystic Tobin Bridge, the search ended.
Archived Recording (Reporter 3): A lie, a hoax, a scam.
Archived Recording (Reporter 4): A shocking twist to a highly publicized Boston crime, the husband becomes a suspect and commits suicide.
Archived Recording (Newman Flanagan): It’s fair to say that the focus of this investigation changed dramatically yesterday.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): That morning, as divers searched the water, District Attorney Newman Flanagan briefed the media at the river’s edge. For months, Flanagan had played, pushed, and spun reporters. Now, he tried to explain everything.
Archived Recording (Reporter): Mr. Flanagan, are you confirming this morning that Mr. Stuart had become a suspect and he knew it?
Archived Recording (Newman Flanagan): Yeah, I think that’s a fair comment on the entire matter. Mr. Stuart became a suspect — of course, we had a number of people that we were looking at. Among them was Mr. Stuart, and we made a dramatic move towards Mr. Stuart as a result of information we received yesterday.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): The night before Chuck’s suicide, his younger brother Matthew, went to police with an astonishing story. There was no Black man. Chuck was the killer. And Matthew was there that night to help Chuck cover it up.
But in recent days, Chuck got wind of what was coming. He talked to his lawyer and took off. He jumped before the police could get answers from him.
Archived Recording (Reporter) In his car, Charles Stuart left a brief note. Four sentences, saying in part, “I love my family. The last four months have been real hell. All the allegations have taken all my strength.”
ADRIAN WALKER (host): The whole time the police were tearing apart Mission Hill, there was a completely separate drama playing out on the other side of the Mystic River. Up on the North Shore where the Stuart family and their friends lived. It took months, but finally Matthew told the truth to police.
Archived Recording (Newman Flanagan): These statements clearly exculpated Willie Bennett and clearly inculpated Charles Stuart in the murder of his wife and infant son. After a careful review of this new evidence, I instructed Boston Police homicide detectives to arrest Charles Stuart for the murder.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): But before police could arrest Chuck, he went to the bridge.
Archived Recording (Unidentified Man): That’s the body.
Archived Recording (Reporter): They’re telling me to stand by.
Archived Recording (Unidentified Man): They just pulled the body out of the water.
Archived Recording (Reporter): Coming to us in a minute.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): TV cameras caught divers hoisting Chuck’s body onto a search boat. You could see his jeans, white sneakers, and windbreaker.
Archived Recording (Reporter): It is believed that just moments ago, divers pulled a body from the water, from Boston Harbor.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): The divers put Chuck’s body into a blue body bag. Chuck’s cousin, Patrick Reardon, recalls the Stuarts watching it happen in real time.
Archived Recording (Patrick Reardon): We were sitting in my aunt’s living room and I was with her. And I can remember feeling, “How could this woman be bearing up when on Channel 5 or whatever we were watching, you could see the state police boat pulling my cousin out of the water?”
ADRIAN WALKER (host): For Carol’s family, the DiMaitis, it was a different type of nightmare.
Archived Recording (Carl DiMaiti): Shocked. It doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Carol’s brother, Carl DiMaiti:
Archived Recording (Carl DiMaiti): My initial reaction was one of deep guilt because my feeling was he had committed suicide because he just couldn’t take the fact that he had lost his wife and his son.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Carol’s family had never suspected a thing. They felt betrayed not just by Chuck, but by all the Stuarts.
Archived Recording (Carl DiMaiti): That is just mind boggling that they could sit with us or allow us to visit Chuck. You know, for us to cry over Chuck, to pray for Chuck’s recovery, knowing that Chuck was responsible for what happened to Carol.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): They’d been mourning for months with Chuck.
Archived Recording (Carl DiMaiti): My dad was so upset that he literally had to be hospitalized. The utter betrayal. It’s beyond belief.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): It was, once again, the biggest news story in the country.
Archived Recording (Reporter): Topping News 7 tonight, a bizarre and sinister twist in the Carol Stuart murder case.
Archived Recording (Reporter 2): A man killed himself in Boston today. That would appear to close the books on a story of tragedy, violence, and death that sparked a national outcry last fall.
Archived Recording (Reporter 3): Many questions remain about the Stuart case. The most puzzling: why.
Archived Recording (Reporter 4): Experienced investigators, veteran reporters and, later, the nation were fooled by a scheme so diabolical, to cover up a crime so brutal that even the most skeptical among us believe the unbelievable.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Among Black people, the news hit differently. Let’s start with Willie Bennett’s family.
Chuck had picked Willie out of the police lineup just a few days earlier. Willie was “individual number three,” the one whose profile made Chuck so nervous. Chuck told the police he was 99 percent sure that individual number three was the shooter. Willie was languishing in jail, unsure of his fate or if he’d be charged with Carol and Christopher’s murders, when Chuck went off the bridge. The Bennetts had spent weeks telling anybody who would listen that Willie was innocent, but nobody believed them.
Archived Recording (Pauline Bennett): All the time that my son didn’t have nothing to do with it. And he was innocent all the time.
Archived Recording (Linda Bennett): But I know one thing, I’m just glad this shit is over. My brother wasn’t the one that did it, and I’m glad they found out that he was the one that killed his own wife.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Willie’s nephew, Joey Bennett, was especially relieved.
Joey Bennett: I was happy he jumped because I was like, now my uncle’s going to go home. You know, now he’s going to go home. If he didn’t jump, he was going to go to jail!
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And it wasn’t just the Bennetts who were feeling this whiplash. Here’s journalist Howard Bryant.
Howard Bryant: I remember feeling a certain sense of immediate relief that it wasn’t the Black guy after all. And then I remember feeling an immediate sense of anger and it was never the Black guy! What was this all about? What was this for? Who did this serve?
I don’t think Charles Stuart had to consume a whole lot of media to believe it. It’s ingrained. Blame the Black guy. It’s really easy because it works. And there are so many examples of the racial hoax because it works!
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Bryant believes there were holes in Chuck’s story that police and the media should have jumped on immediately.
In the course of our reporting, a lot of people, especially Black people, told us that they had never believed Chuck’s story.
Ruth Gough: It was on the news that a Black man had killed this pregnant white woman over there in Parker Street. And the girl that lived upstairs said, “That was no Black man! That was a white man! It probably is her husband,” and we just laughed about it and went on about our business.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): We even heard that some cops had suspicions.
Wilbur Brittle: A couple of days after this happened, there’s one woman, female police officer, Black. She’s walked by, she goes “That man killed his wife.” And she said that, she just blurted it out!
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And people who knew Mission Hill had seen glaring inconsistencies in Chuck’s story.
Leslie Harris: You know, we knew the neighborhood. It just didn’t fit.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Attorney Leslie Harris said people saw problems with Chuck’s story on the very first night. Remember, Chuck told 911 dispatchers that he was lost, and there was nobody around.
Leslie Harris: People were out on the street. It was a warm evening. He could have blown his horn and got help in so many different places. And one of the things that stood out was that he parked his car perfectly, you know, saying, if he had gone straight, he had to know the neighborhood. He was a block from the hospital. Just a lot of things came up that just didn’t make sense.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Leslie went to church with some of Chuck’s nurses. They were talking about the holes in Chuck’s story too.
Leslie Harris: They said he was too callous and too cold towards the death of his wife.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Leslie had defended the first suspect who was picked up for the case, the guy with the tracksuit soaking in a sink. When Willie Bennett was arrested, Leslie was sure the cops had the wrong guy.
Leslie Harris: I didn’t think that it fit him, you know? Even the worst thugs in the community have some kind of code. And shooting a pregnant woman? Willie was a tough guy. That just didn’t fit him. Didn’t fit the image that had been painted for me and for us in the community of who Willie Bennett was: a thug but towards other thugs.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): People in Mission Hill felt this awful bitterness and rage. Jeff Sanchez was one of the many, many Latino males in the neighborhood to be stopped by police after the murder.
Jeff Sanchez: It was like, see, we told you. (LAUGHS) You didn’t want to listen. I’m just saying, just the people in the community, you know, everybody knew in the community. But everybody was forced to believe that Willie Bennett had something to do with it when people knew that that wasn’t the case. But nobody wanted to listen. Nobody wanted to listen to anybody in the community,
Archived Recording (Bruce Bolling): I have had enough. This community has had enough!
Archived Recording (Don Muhammad): Whenever a wife is killed, the first automatic suspect is the husband. Except when it happens in the Black community. When it happens in the Black community, the automatic suspect is a Black man! And we’re tired of that! This community has been absolutely devastated.
Archived Recording (Reporter): There were cries today for the resignation of Mayor Flynn and Police Commissioner Roache. Some called for some sort of restitution for Mission Hill residents. But the bottom line among these people is that Blacks in Boston, especially in Mission Hill, were dealt a grave injustice.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Black men in Boston had spent the last two and a half months walking around with this constant, helpless fear of being targeted as suspects. And now, all that pent-up anger just poured out.
Archived Recording (Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler): The Black and Hispanic community has once again been the victim of a Ku Klux Klan-type of night riding and a sensational rape of this community by public officials and by the media in particular.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Reverend Graylan Ellis-Hagler was one of the most prominent voices in Boston back then. He ran a church in Mission Hill and had witnessed, first-hand, police violating the civil rights of young males in the neighborhood.
Archived Recording (Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler): This time, however, the night riding was not the action of white robed bigots, but instead the actions of a mayor, Mayor Raymond Flynn, who so quickly jumped to conclusions. (CROWD AGREES)
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Remember, Flynn had called for “every available detective” to be put on the case. Multiple politicians had called for bringing back the death penalty. Some politicians and media figures had called the Black man Chuck described “an animal.”
Nation of Islam Minister Don Muhammad pointed out the hypocrisy.
Archived Recording (Don Muhammad) And there are some public officials who gave credence to that. I want to know now! Will you call Mr. Charles Stuart! Animal?! (CROWD CLAPS)
ADRIAN WALKER (host): The city suddenly felt like it was on the brink of violence again. Police Commissioner Mickey Roache:
Archived Recording (Mickey Roache, Boston Police Commissioner): I was preparing for a riot. That’s how serious it was in this city. You know why? Because the same people who had so much compassion for [the] DiMaiti family, Carol Stuart and the child, suddenly there was only one, one emotion that they could have and that was rage. There was no other!
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Mayor Flynn tried to do damage control. He went to the Bennett home, where just weeks earlier, police had banged down the door and ripped the place apart. He was ostensibly there to apologize. Willie’s sister, Veda Bennett, says she had been knocked down the stairs during the raid and she met with Flynn when he visited.
Veda Bennett: He came to the house. My brother and I offered him a seat. He said, “No, thank you.” He treated us like our house was nasty and dirty. That’s how he looked at us, like we was dirty people. I said, “It’s all right. God’s gonna punish you for that.”
Joey Bennett: I was locked up, so I wasn’t even there.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Joey Bennett was still in jail the night Flynn visited but he heard about it.
Joey Bennett: Flynn came in the house. They wouldn’t even move. They won’t go into the living room, sit down. And they stood in front of the same door that they let get torn down. The ramming hole was still in the door! They came in, they stood at the closet door and gave a half-assed, “We’re sorry, ma’am. We’re sorry.” That was it!
ADRIAN WALKER (host): This is a memory that the Bennett family drags around. The insult still stings. The mayor might have been willing to apologize to the Bennett family, but he never apologized to Willie directly.
Archived Recording (Reporter): Boston Mayor Ray Flynn defends the police investigation but recognizes the irreparable harm could have been done.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): You know, there’s one thing, one redeeming situation out of this whole case. (SIREN SOUNDS) And what would have happened if Mr. Bennett were convicted of first-degree murder and capital punishment were implemented in that regard, what would we be saying here today?
ADRIAN WALKER (host): We tried repeatedly to get Mayor Flynn to talk with us for this podcast. He declined. But back in 1990, as he made the rounds on TV, he didn’t seem very sorry.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): Every investigation, every homicide in the city of Boston, no matter where it’s committed, no matter who it’s committed against, is always handled with the same kind of responsibility and the same kind of concern.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Flynn acknowledged at the time that the people of Mission Hill had suffered.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): And I agreed that they were being singled out. It was the people of the city of Boston and it was the Black community as well.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): But the mayor stopped short of taking responsibility or blaming the police.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): I don’t say that anybody’s at fault. I think what we ought to do is we ought to use this as an example. Use this as an opportunity to understand how fragile the situation really is around racial incidents in any neighborhood of the city of Boston or crime in any neighborhood of the city of Boston. And let’s begin a healing process and let’s try to work together not to place blame on anybody.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): In his State of the City address, which he gave about a week after Chuck’s death, Flynn laid most of the blame for what had happened squarely on Chuck.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): It appears that Charles Stuart has perpetrated a giant fraud on this city. He hurt everyone, especially the residents of Mission Hill.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Flynn defended his call for “every available detective” to be put on the case.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): When I ordered an aggressive police response, I think I did what any mayor would have done. I wanted to send a strong signal, as strong as I could, to show the city’s outrage and to show that we would not tolerate such an act anywhere! Was I wrong? You know? I don’t think so.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And the mayor ended his speech with a very Kumbaya call for healing.
Archived Recording (Ray Flynn, Boston Mayor): Now is no time to think about the past. It’s a time to move forward. It’s a time for leading. And it’s a time for healing.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): But to a lot of people, this didn’t look like a sincere desire for true healing. It looked like a desperate effort to bury the ugliness in the past without having to look it squarely in the face. Black leaders called bullshit.
Archived Recording (Don Muhammad) To apologize is nothing. That’s like stabbing me in the back and pulling that knife out and telling me, I’m sorry! (CROWD CLAPS)
Archived Recording (Bill Owens, State Senator of Roxbury): Two days after the Stuart case was found out, the mayor and his people started talking about healing. Well, they’ve got to be crazy. I’m sick! I don’t want to be healed! I want to have time to be sick for a while. If there is no cleansing of the wound, which will allow the healing to occur, Mr. Chairman, a lot of people are going to be hurt.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): They warned that if the city tried to just move on and didn’t do any real soul searching, the same thing could happen again.
Archived Recording (Bill Owens, State Senator of Roxbury): Mayhem is already going on. Killings are happening every day. I simply say to you, Mr. Chairman, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Some in the Black community worried that if the police were too harshly criticized, they would pull back on all their enforcement efforts at a time when murders were at an all-time high.
Archived Recording (Reverend E. W. Jackson Sr.): We cannot allow one bizarre incident to deflect our attention from the fact that when the smoke clears and the dust settles and the Charles Stuart incident is no longer front page news, we still have a problem with guns and gangs and drugs in our community, and that problem has got to be addressed.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Inside City Hall, the mayor’s closest confidants could feel whatever grip they had on the situation slipping away.
Neil Sullivan: It was an extraordinary, damaging period for the city of Boston. It set us way back racially. Good people misunderstanding each other across racial lines. Suddenly we were back in it.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): This is Neil Sullivan, Mayor Ray Flynn’s top aide.
Neil Sullivan: I mean, Ray was focused on being in charge, being able to tell the churchgoing people of the city — Black and white, white and Black — that the mayor’s got this but we didn’t have it.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): More than 30 years later, Neil still recalls the moment he learned Chuck jumped. He remembers walking into the mayor’s office early that morning.
Neil Sullivan: And there’s Ray standing up behind his desk with his hands propped up, leaning forward. And he looked up and he said, “Neil, Stuart did it. And he just jumped off the Tobin Bridge.”
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Neil had spent the last two months trying to manage the optics of the city’s response but he had never imagined Chuck might be the killer.
Neil Sullivan: I mean, who takes a gun, points it into their abdomen and pulls the trigger as a tactic to deal with whatever he thought he was dealing with? I mean, it’s a hell of a cover. It comes at a price!
ADRIAN WALKER (host): But that cover hadn’t fooled everyone. Neil wondered how it had fooled him.
Neil Sullivan: You know, perhaps that’s one of the sad effects of not having a thoroughly integrated government and society at all levels… that intelligence was not gathered. In that time, that two months, I didn’t ever hear that.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And suddenly, with the knowledge that it had been Chuck all along, Neil thought differently of the city’s response. Flynn and his team had put their faith in Flynn’s childhood friend, Police Commissioner Mickey Roache. And it didn’t end well.
Neil Sullivan: You know, it’s very painful. That we decided that well, Mickey lost control of the police and civilian control of the police department is critical. And if the commissioner doesn’t have control, then the mayor doesn’t have control. And that was a fissure in our ability to lead the city.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And Neil saw how city officials had set the table for the police action in Mission Hill. It wasn’t just Mayor Flynn’s call for “every single available detective” to be put on the case. It was also the stop-and-frisk policy that was in place before the Stuart shooting.
I asked Neil about this.
Neil Sullivan: I mean, hell, I knew that we had started this by allowing the police, who were going to do it anyhow, damn it, stop and frisk young Black men. You know, I knew that that was the slippery slope. What I didn’t see was the cliff, and that was Stuart. The Stuart atrocity just unleashed police action that was, in fact, criminal.
Adrian Walker: So when the police were tearing up Mission Hill in the wake of this murder…
Neil Sullivan: (GRUNTS) Ugh, it’s the worst part.
Adrian Walker: Why was there nothing done about it?
Neil Sullivan: Because nobody had control.
Adrian Walker: What should have happened?
Neil Sullivan: There should have been a police command staff that was on the scene disciplining bad behavior in real time. There should have been a strategy that was based on intelligence, not retribution.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): I gotta be honest. I wish Neil told me all this shit back in the ‘90s.
DonJuan Moses: The police, Boston police department, I see them as bullies. You bully your way into people’s lives and terrorize their lives. I was just scared of them.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): DonJuan Moses was 11 years old when his mom’s apartment got raided by the police on the night of the murder.
DonJuan Moses: They’re the biggest gang I ever seen in my life at that age, that’s what it seemed like to me like, they can’t do no wrong. No matter what they do, they don’t do no wrong.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): He remembers all this the way kids remember stuff. There’s a nightmare quality to some of his recollections. Facts and feelings kind of blend. We couldn’t confirm all the details, but we do know that after Chuck jumped, officials held community events to try to make amends in Mission Hill. DonJuan remembers one such community event behind the Tobin Center. The police were trying to engage folks in the neighborhood.
DonJuan Moses: Everybody’s just gathered and trying to figure out what was this, what was going on and what were they trying? I mean, what is this event for?
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Organizers set up a wooden stage. DonJuan says there were a few dozen people there.
DonJuan Moses: What was the ruckus about? What was this? What was they doing, what was the city trying to do? And once they sat there and gathered and listened, they was not impressed.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): He remembers the officials were trying to make it right with the community. They were handing out Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Donjuan Moses: They didn’t apologize properly. That was not an apology to the Mission Hill residents at all. Your way of doing what you did was not an apology. That was not apologetic, that was not authentic. You brought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream out here to try to make a peace treaty with the people, like you’re going to smooth it over. That didn’t smooth it over. A lot of them was angered, tossed ice cream at them. They were so pissed. They just threw the ice cream. Activists out there just going bananas and looking at it now, they just angered, pissed off. “You did this to my son.” “You did this to my son.” “You did this to my nephew.” “You did this to my husband.”
ADRIAN WALKER (host): DonJuan’s mother told him not to take the ice cream. He could tell from her face that this treat was somehow an insult.
DonJuan Moses: I’m looking at the expression of the adults around me and it’s like, this is bullshit. This is what you going to do after doing that to us?
ADRIAN WALKER (host): What’s important here isn’t the details. It’s what this memory tells us about how these events shaped his personality, his life, the way he sees everything.
DonJuan Moses: You started fires in homes that was no fires. And for these people to feel this way against authority and trust with authority forever. That was traumatic for life. It scarred us. For them to come back to us when they finally made clarity of it, to bring Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to us, that was disgusting.
That didn’t do nothing. That was nothing. You couldn’t do nothing. That’s like somebody bringing a glass of water to a building fire and wondering why it didn’t go out. Glass water can’t put out a house fire that you started.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): And DonJuan says the fire is still burning.
DonJuan Moses: Yeah, it still burns. Still burns people.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): This is what you gotta understand, about DonJuan and his story and all the other kids that lived through this. It shaped them. It never left them.
DonJuan Moses: Folks, if we don’t address it, we can’t get, we can’t get it resolved. We cannot make sure things like this don’t ever happen again if we don’t talk about it now. “Closed mouth don’t get fed,” Grandpa said. “A closed mouth don’t get fed.”
ADRIAN WALKER (host): This case. It’s not just a who-dun-it. It’s a who-are-we.
The way this whole story unfolded can tell us a whole lot about some of the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves. Places we don’t usually like to look.
Howard Bryant: The Stuart case is the ultimate truth serum of the city of Boston, of who we were, and in a lot of ways, who we are.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): Author Howard Bryant:
Howard Bryant: What is the American export when it comes to Black people? Athleticism, crime, vulgarity, danger, all of those things. It makes it really, really easy to believe, if you’re Charles Stuart, that this is the easiest alibi I have. At the very least, it’s going to buy me time because everybody wants to believe it, because they already believe it. I don’t even have to do any work here.
This was once again the fear of Black people. The assumption of Black people. The lack of regard for Black people. And the lack of regard for Carol Stuart! Because getting the Black guy was more important than getting her killer.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): We’ve talked a lot about race. But we haven’t really talked at all about gender.
Carol was a victim of domestic violence. She was murdered by her husband. And that fact is sometimes obscured or lost in the insanity of the story. The leading cause of death for pregnant women in America is homicide. That’s according to a 2022 study by Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Yeah, you heard that right. A pregnant woman in this country is more likely to be killed by the father of her child than she is to die from anything related to her pregnancy.
Howard Bryant: The thing to remember and never, ever forget is that race, class and gender cannot be separated. They are the three third rails of American life. Where there is one, there’s the other two. Somehow, some way. And you saw it in the Stuart case: white woman, Black male, poor Black community. You see it everywhere. And I’ve always felt like if you don’t look at every issue along those three lines, you’re going to miss something really important. And this case was such an example of that and you saw one thing and everybody paid for it.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): That’s exactly what happened in this case. When people looked at Chuck Stuart, their imaginations just failed. The narrative that took hold was that Chuck was the hero, valiantly defending his wife from a savage killer. And in that story, Willie and every other Black man was cast as the stereotypical boogeyman.
It’s a story that keeps getting retold.
Here’s Reverend Graylan Ellis-Hagler again.
Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler: Carol Stuart was a white woman that was killed by a Black assailant. And that story has been told all over America, not just the Charles Stuart, but the same scenario. Tulsa riots come out of that. What happens to Emmett Till comes out of that. It’s the same scenario over and over again. But it’s not because they value women, because they still do the same old sexist crap that they’ve always been doing. So it’s built upon a mythology, right? A mythology that is patriarchal and masculine, but it’s also a mythology that is constructed to keep other people in their place. He knew that that was a plausible story. You have his white wife shot to death in the streets of Boston, Mission Hill, by a Black assailant. It plays over and over again.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): In the many tellings of this story, Carol Stuart has always been emblematic of something else. Sometimes, she’s an almost holy victim: pregnant and pure. Sometimes, a symbol of the lengths to which a racist society will go to defend the virtue of “white womanhood.” She’s always been a supporting character in the story of her own murder.
We asked Carol’s family if they wanted to speak for this project. They said no. They have spent years talking about Carol, participating in documentaries and TV specials. And they told us they had nothing more to say.
But before we go any further, I want to play you this tape of Carol’s dad, speaking in 1990, about losing his daughter. Of all the many hours of interviews we’ve listened to, this one stands out. Because in Giusto DiMaiti’s voice, all you hear is his love for his daughter.
Archived Recording (Giusto DiMaiti): Mere words cannot express the terrible emptiness we feel or how much we miss her now and we’ll miss her for the rest of our lives. All she ever wanted was to be a good daughter, wife, mother, and be happy, be happy in her life. She was not given this opportunity to fulfill all those wishes. But as far as we are concerned, she exceeded it in every way possible as a pure and loving human being. We pray that God has taken her and our beloved grandson, Christopher, into his embrace in heaven, where they will be safe and happy with— until the time we will join them. Thank you.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): In reporting this story, our team has had a lot of conversations about how to make sure we’re not repeating the mistakes of the past. So many true crime stories start with the dead body of a woman. And ours does too. But this isn’t just another true crime podcast.
When we look back at Carol, we want to see her as the three-dimensional person she was. Not just as the perfect victim of a terrible crime. We’ve heard about her zany sense of humor, the way she danced on tables, and how excited she was to be a mom. And we want to pay her the respect of looking at her life – and her death – with the nuance and depth that she always deserved.
Many women die at the hands of their husbands. We rarely interrogate how, or why.
Billy Dunn: I always thought there’s more to the story, even when he jumps. I always said to myself, “There’s more to this story. It doesn’t end with a high dive.”
ADRIAN WALKER (host): In this case, I agree with Billy Dunn. And that’s why we’re doing this podcast. That’s why we dug this whole thing up, and started knocking on doors. And in short order, we kicked a hornet’s nest.
Dan Grawbowski: Hey Andrew, this is Dan Grabowski. You dropped off a letter at my house. You’re a disgrace. It just infuriates me because I know what you’re after. Now Boston wants to make Willie Bennett the hero, who is another piece of trash that’s been terrorizing people and polluting people with drugs his whole life.
ADRIAN WALKER (host): On the next episode of Murder in Boston, we’ll bring you into the Boston Globe’s investigation. You’ll follow along with our reporters as they search for the truth.
This story is far from over. Stay with us. Over the next three episodes we’ll reexamine the case and uncover new findings. Ask how so many institutions failed so badly, including our own — the media — and explore the legacy of the story for Boston and beyond.
Archived Recording (Reporter): There are still countless unanswered questions in this case. For instance, no word about a motive. Or did Charles Stuart shoot himself and did he act alone?
Archived Recording (Reporter 2): Was there a third person in the vehicle? Was there somebody else perhaps in the backseat of that car who was part of this, an accomplice?
Renée Graham: It was like they were making mistakes. They were taking leaps and landing badly and then just getting up and brushing themselves off. And it just kept going. It was indefensible then, it’s indefensible now.
Joey Bennett: We have nothing except for this story that is attached to our name.
Billy Dunn: Let the people that are listening to this. Let them. Give them all the facts. And let them decide.
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.