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Murder in Boston Podcast: Guide to episode 7

The main suspect might be dead, but this story is far from over. The long-told narrative – some kind of true-crime catnip – suggests the world was fooled by a master manipulator. But that’s not the case. More than 30 years later, Boston Globe investigative reporters dive into the case, unearth secret grand jury files, and obtain never-before-released recordings. The reporters find a conspiracy that was bigger than anybody knew and uncover evidence that suggests someone else may have pulled the trigger.

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For more about this episode:

– Read Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 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.

Andrew Ryan: (PHONE RINGS) You’ve reached Andrew Ryan from the Boston Globe. Leave a message here. Thank you. (BEEP)

Dan Grabowski: This is Dan Grabowski. You dropped off a letter at my house. I just have to let you know that I have no faith in journalism any longer. I know what’s going to happen. You’re going to make Willie Bennett a hero just like they made George Floyd a hero.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Last year, retired state trooper Dan Grabowski left this message on my colleague Andrew’s cellphone.

Dan Grabowski: There’s no check and balance at all on our federal government that’s out of control, completely out of control, destroying America. And you people, you people are a critical failsafe and you’re not performing.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Andrew reached out to Grabowski because he was one of the emergency dispatchers who took Chuck Stuart’s 911 call on the night of the shooting.

Archived Recording (Dan Grabowski) That night we were on duty myself, senior dispatcher Jack Moran and Gary McLaughlin…

ADRIAN WALKER (host): This is Grabowski telling a TV interviewer all about the call.

Archived Recording (Dan Grabowski) Mr. Stuart lost consciousness and faded out. He blanked out on us. At that time, I heard a siren in the background…

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Grabowski told the interviewer that it was his idea to use the sirens to locate Stuart’s car.

Archived Recording (Dan Grabowski): And then Boston flooded that sector with cruisers. And it was probably less than a minute before they found the blue Toyota that we were looking for with the victims in it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dan Grabowski’s involvement in the Stuart case didn’t end there.

In reporting this podcast, the Globe team and I uncovered a whole lot of new information, including this: Trooper Dan Grabowski was told long before Chuck’s suicide that Chuck was behind it all. And Grabowski appears to have done little to nothing with that tip.

If Grabowski had pushed it, if the police department acted on it, well, this could have changed the whole case, could have changed history. That tip came in while officers were ripping through Mission Hill, frisking scores of Black and Latino men, and before police zeroed in on Willie Bennett as the prime suspect.

We wanted to ask Grabowski about it. But it became pretty clear that he wasn’t taking questions.

Dan Grabowski: You’re a disgrace. I’m sorry that I had to relay this, like, but it just infuriates me because I know what you’re after.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Grabowski eventually helped lead the Massachusetts state police force. He retired as a major – which is a very high-ranking position. In fact, when I covered the State House, I used to see Grabowski almost every day because he ran the governor’s security detail.

Now… he’s pretty unfiltered.

Dan Grabowski: 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): Grabowski had thoughts on a lot of other matters too.

Dan Grabowski: You look at the Mueller investigation, Hillary’s emails, Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, two impeachments, Hunter Biden’s laptop, money to favored groups, the IRS scandal with Lois Lerner, guns to Mexico, border security, fentanyl crisis, human trafficking, destroying Texas, COVID autocracy. It just goes on and on and on. And you people question nothing.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): For about eight months, Grabowski bombarded Andrew with daily insults. Some of the texts were childish — like the time he called Andrew a “smelly coward.” Other times, they were scary, like on Christmas morning, when Grabowski called him a “disgrace to America” or later suggested Andrew kill himself.

Dan Grabowski: Everybody knows right from wrong, everybody. And then throw in Black TV, the propaganda. Like the six percent of good Black people are the ones on TV with a beautiful home, two Labrador retrievers, when really their behavior and their track record is atrocious. It’s propaganda. Have a great day. (CLICK)

ADRIAN WALKER (host): It’s been more than 30 years since the Stuart shooting in Mission Hill. And aside from a few panels and commissions, the story Boston has told itself about this case has largely remained unchanged.

It’s cemented in books, documentaries, movies, and songs — and it almost always goes the same way. This content is like catnip for the true crime genre.

Archived Recording (Narrator): The Dead Wives Club. Next Sunday at eight on HLN.

Archived Recording (Lorraine Bracco): The investigation was on the cusp of indicting Willie Bennett, but a shocking bombshell was about to blow everything up.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The gist is always this: Chuck was a psychopathic manipulator. He planned the near perfect crime. He fooled everyone, including the police. What else were detectives supposed to do?

This mythology – that everyone was duped – has been seemingly set in stone. But our team of investigative reporters at the Globe… Well, we had this sense that there was more to this story, so we’ve been digging for two years, making calls, combing through dusty records.

Andrew Ryan: I mean, we were afraid that somebody was going to take the file away.

Evan Allen: Rows and rows and rows of manila folders that get progressively older the further back you go.

Andrew Ryan: And so what we were faced with was just taking photos of every single page, which was, I mean, thousands and thousands of pages.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): We’ve been knocking on hundreds of doors. (DOORBELL SOUND) (KNOCKING SOUND) (DOORBELL SOUND) Traveling thousands of miles to talk to key players.

Elizabeth Koh: We are in Revere.

Andrew Ryan: A canoe launch parking lot in Danvers.

Evan Allen: Mass and Cass. It’s kind of like Boston’s version of Skid Row.

Elizabeth Koh: Brookfield, New Hampshire.

Evan Allen: Mission Hill.

Andrew Ryan: Back in Revere.

Elizabeth Koh: I had to go down to Atlanta, actually.

Andrew Ryan: We are in Riverdale, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart) Chuck said, “Don’t say nothing to nobody.”

Nancy Gertner: This was a young man who was tortured by this.

Archived Recording (Janet Monteforte): I’ve known since October 24th and I’m not going to keep my mouth shut.

Billy Dunn: We’re never going to know who killed Carol Stuart. At least in my mind.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): What we’ve discovered is pretty wild. And in this episode, we are going to tell you all about it. It should change how you view this case. Heck, if reporters like me had known then what I know now, who knows how this would have turned out?

You are about to hear what police would have discovered, if only they hadn’t bungled the investigation. We’ll tell you how Chuck almost got away with murder, and about the accomplice who helped him. We’ll also reveal a whole whisper network of people — like, a ton of folks — who knew Chuck was the mastermind and yet… stayed quiet.

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

ADRIAN WALKER (host): It turns out that Trooper Grabowski wasn’t the only officer who could have steered the investigation in a different direction. Get this… the very first Boston police detectives assigned to the case suspected Chuck from the start.

Archived Recording (Detective Robert Ahearn): My name is Robert F. Ahearn. A-H-E-A-R-N. I’m the Boston police detective assigned to the homicide unit. Present is Robert T. Tinlin. T-I-N-L-I-N. He’s also a Boston police detective assigned to the homicide unit.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Robert Ahearn and Robert Tinlin worked hundreds of murder cases together. They were detectives to the core. They even had an autographed picture of Columbo, the famous TV gumshoe, hanging in their office. Ahearn and Tinlin were inseparable. Bob and Bob. Colleagues called them the Two Bobbies.

Matt Tinlin: My father was, he was considered by people, like, to be more on the quiet side. And Bob Ahearn was definitely more the outgoing type and kind of a kind of a hot ticket, you know?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): That’s Matt Tinlin — Bob Tinlin’s son. The two Bobbies died years ago.

Matt Tinlin: Bob Ahearn was almost like an uncle to me. They were fun together. I like to listen to them two talk. Took the jobs very serious, but they were really kind of colorful, you know? I mean, they were just, they were funny to listen to.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Ahearn and Tinlin were working together on the night of the shooting. They were next on the homicide rotation – meaning that this was their call, their case.

Matt Tinlin: They were sent out there to investigate it. And I know from talking to my father, I do know that he went to the hospital.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Almost immediately, the two Bobbies had questions for Chuck. And when they talked to him they found him “too calm.” We know what the pair were thinking because we got our hands on Ahearn’s grand jury testimony.

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): He wasn’t acting as a person that just got shot and saw his wife get shot.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): You’re hearing my colleague giving voice to Ahearn’s statements made under oath. Ahearn described a “Columbo moment” they had when they left Chuck’s room.

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): I asked Bob. I said, “Does he remind you of anybody?” And Bob says, “Yeah.” And we both said at the same time, “John Jenks.” That’s from another case we had, that we had to go to a hospital and interview a so-called victim. And it turned out that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and he did kill somebody in the combat zone. So we both thought he was acting the same way as this John Jenks.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): John Jenks was a cop who had staged his own shooting in 1983, after he robbed and killed a man in Boston’s red-light district. Jenks shot himself to cover up the crime – but he was caught anyway. Tinlin talked about it with his son.

Matt Tinlin: I do remember him saying something to the effect like, “He was full of shit,” talking about Stuart. The story did not jibe with them from the beginning.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): There were other parts of Chuck’s story that didn’t line up.

Just as a reminder, Chuck called 911 at 8:43 p.m. on a Monday night in late October. He said that he was lost in Mission Hill, that it was pitch dark and that there was no one around. But Bob and Bob wondered, how was Chuck so lost? He had just left the hospital and was only a couple blocks away. Why didn’t he just drive back in that direction? And how was there no one around to ask for help?

On three different nights, Ahearn took his own car out to Mission Hill, drove the same route, and played the 911 recording on his tape deck. He found that Chuck’s details were off. There were people regularly out on the streets at that hour. And it wasn’t as dark outside as Chuck had described.

Another thing that didn’t check out, Chuck claimed that he didn’t get a great look at their attacker, because the dome light in his Toyota Cressida didn’t turn on when the carjacker jumped in.

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): I went and I tried that door in his car myself. I must have done it a hundred times, and the light came on every time. But when I questioned him on that, he said that he had turned the light off.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Even the car’s backseat, where Chuck and Carol’s alleged attacker sat, it just seemed too clean. The story didn’t add up. But police brass had already written off Chuck as a suspect. They had settled on the Black man in a tracksuit. And that’s when the Two Bobbies got bigfooted, and police officials put another detective on the case.

Archived Recording (Detective Peter O’Malley): One, two, three, four, five… I’m Peter O’Malley. I’m a detective in the homicide unit.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Remember Detective Peter O’Malley interrogating teenagers Erick and Dereck? O’Malley took over the case from the two Bobbies. He became the lead detective… and that’s when the investigation went in a different direction.

More than a year after Chuck’s death, Ahearn was called in front of a federal grand jury that was looking into the shooting.

Ralph Martin (Voice Actor): And at some point, were you discouraged at all from pursuing Charles Stuart as a suspect?

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): Not in so many words, but yes, I became discouraged.

Ralph Martin (Voice Actor): And why was that?

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): I didn’t like the direction of the investigation.

Ralph Martin (Voice Actor): Okay. Tell us why.

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): Because I still had a hunch that Charles Stuart did it.

Ralph Martin (Voice Actor): Well, what was there to prevent you from pursuing Charles Stuart as a suspect?

Detective Robert Ahearn (Voice Actor): It was almost like the investigation was taken out of my hands.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The Bobbies never played much of a role after that. And Bobby Tinlin’s son says the outcome haunted his father for the rest of his life.

Matt Tinlin: Because it was hard for -- it was hard to listen, he said, for people knocking the police department over it, knowing that like, oh, things could have been different. He was really upset about how they handled that. It was ridiculous, you know? He was always just said that, like, they should have let them do their job, you know? They would have had him. And imagine that if they allowed them to do it, none of this would have happened.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So, this all begs the question: What would have happened if Tinlin and Ahearn kept pursuing Chuck as a suspect? If their skepticism drove the investigation, what would they have found?

Well… Plenty.

First off, they would have found much of Chuck’s life was a facade. He was telling lies even back when Chuck and Carol worked together at the Driftwood restaurant. He’d told her he’d had a scholarship to play football for Brown University but dropped out because of his bad knee. Not true. He never even went there — and the school didn’t offer football scholarships.

Chuck played the doting husband. But he’d also been staying out late on Friday nights, pursuing another young blonde coworker in addition to the one he’d flirted with in elevators.

The biggest fiction? Chuck pretending to be an excited dad-to-be. Turns out he didn’t want to be a father, and didn’t want Carol to stay home with the baby. Carol’s pregnancy put his dreams of opening a restaurant on the back burner.

He hated the idea of having a kid so much that, even before their first birthing class, he was plotting to have her killed.

Archived Recording (David MacLean): He told me about his wife being pregnant and that he didn’t want to have children.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): David MacLean was one of Chuck’s oldest friends. Chuck was the best man at his wedding. About a month and a half before Carol’s murder, the two pals had a conversation in a restaurant parking lot. MacLean told police about the conversation… but only after Chuck died.

Archived Recording (David MacLean): He said that he had argued with his wife when she first became pregnant for a few weeks and that he saw something in there that he never saw before. It was an attitude where she had the upper hand in the relationship and that’s when he told me that he wanted to kill his wife.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): “She had the upper hand.” Chuck couldn’t stand not being the one in control. And having a baby, he added, would complicate things.

Archived Recording (David MacLean): My reaction was disbelief. I mean, they dated for four years and they had been married for four years. But he was all business, and his demeanor as far as… he wasn’t thinking.

Archived Recording (Detective Robert Ahearn): And did he say how he wanted to kill his wife?

Archived Recording (David MacLean): No.

Archived Recording (Detective Robert Ahearn): Okay.

Archived Recording (David MacLean): He was grasping at ideas and he was hoping to involve a third party. He was hoping that I knew somebody or that I could help have it arranged.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): MacLean told Chuck he couldn’t help him. So a couple weeks later, Chuck turned to his little brother.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): Things like that happen to a lot of people. And you just never think it’s going to happen to you and… it’s reality right to the face, you know, and that’s just the way it is.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): At the time of the shooting, Chuck’s youngest brother Matthew was 23, living with his parents, juggling small jobs. For most of his life, Matthew had been chasing Chuck’s shadow.

The Driftwood restaurant where Carol and Chuck met — Matthew worked in the back as a dishwasher. Some people described him as the runt of the litter: unpolished, shaggy-haired, a bit of a screw-up. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising when Chuck, the golden Stuart boy, needed someone to help him get rid of his wife… he turned to Matthew.

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): First of all, Matt, is your brother Charles Stuart?

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): Yes.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Here’s what Matthew told police the night before Chuck jumped off the Tobin Bridge. It’s what prompted Chuck’s suicide and the police interview you’re about to hear is Matthew’s version of events.

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): You have a story you like to tell us, Matt?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Matthew told the cops Chuck was planning an insurance scam. The brothers were gonna fake a robbery. Carol’s jewelry would go missing. Then, Chuck would file a claim and voila! An easy payout.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): He wanted to do this thing in town where all I had to do was drive up to him and he’d throw me a bag and, and I’d just drive off.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Matthew’s job was to get rid of the loot. In return, he’d be paid up to ten thousand bucks.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): I got there early about eight o’clock and went into a store ‘cause I remembered he said, you know, “Maybe you should get gloves.” You know, you don’t want to be handling this, you know. So I got gloves in that store, was around roughly eight o’clock.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): This is the tape of Matthew’s actual police interrogation – tape that’s never been released publicly.

Matthew says Chuck told him exactly where to be. Matthew borrowed a friend’s car and waited in a small, empty parking lot.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): So I pulled in to where I was supposed to be, into that spot, and I waited. And about 10, roughly 10, 15 minutes later, I saw his… I saw the blue Cressida come around the corner.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The blue Cressida – Chuck and Carol’s car. As it came around the corner toward him, Matthew said he saw something in the car, on the seat next to Chuck.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): I definitely saw something in the passenger side. I couldn’t definitely say it was a person, but it was something about… about the size of that, that was covered. It was a pile of something, it looked like.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): “A pile of something.” That’s how Matthew described his dying sister-in-law.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): When I pulled up to the car, he said, “Matt, wait a second.” And I’m in my driver’s seat, he’s in his driver’s seat. He said, “Wait a second.” He bent down a little bit, so I’m looking forward. I’m looking back over at him. I can see something just beyond him. But it’s -- it’s basically a glimpse, a small portion of whatever is there. And then he said, “Wait a second.” And he pulled up and he goes, “All right. Get the fuck out of here. Drive slow.” And he toss -- and he gave a toss with his left hand like that.

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): Through the open window?

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): Through the open window.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): With the handoff complete, Matthew took off back to Revere.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart) I pulled out and I just continued on down Huntington Avenue and home. And when I got home, I just, I opened the contents and I said, “What the hell is this? You didn’t mention anything about a gun.”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): “What the hell is this? You didn’t mention anything about a gun.”

In his bedroom, Matthew found a gun in the bag, but that’s not all. It also contained Carol’s wallet and ID, her engagement ring, a Gucci purse, and Chuck’s watch.

He stashed the bag in a dresser, dropped off the borrowed car nearby, and went back to his family’s house.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart) And I walked in the house and my parents, my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, Mark, and my sister’s father-in-law were in the kitchen and they were up in arms saying Carol was shot. She’s in critical condition and Chuck’s in stable condition. So I’m like, “Oh, Jesus Christ what the hell did he get himself into?”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But Matthew didn’t say anything to his family about where he’d just been. Instead, he booked it to a friend’s place.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): I went over to a friend of mine’s house who I had been telling him about this stuff all along. Chuck said, “Don’t say nothing to nobody. Whatever you do, whatever you do, don’t say nothing to nobody,” you know. So I had gone to him and I said, I told them what happened. And he was like, “Geez, what would he get himself into?” So, more or less, we took the bag—

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): This is the friend you talked to?

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): Yeah.

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): Who’s the friend?

Archived Recording (Unidentified): Give us his name.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): John McMahon.

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): What’s his name?

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): John McMahon?

Archived Recording (Unidentified): M-C-M-A-H-O-N.

Archived Recording (Detective Edward McNelly): M-C-M-A-H-O-N?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): John and Matthew were childhood friends and grew up just blocks from each other. They were the same age, and even had the same mullet.

That night around 9:30 or 10:00 o’clock, John – whom everyone calls Jack – told the police that he was at his house watching TV with a few friends.

Archived Recording (John McMahon): Matt came in the house kind of upset. He said, “Jack, let’s go. I want to talk to you. So we left my house. We went outside, and then he started to tell me that his brother and his brother’s wife had been shot. You know, something went wrong and he had something to get rid of.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Matthew wanted Jack to help him get rid of the gun and everything else. Jack didn’t ask a lot of questions. The pair hopped into Jack’s car and grabbed the bag.

Archived Recording (John McMahon): We drove down to the – We drove to Oak Island. We went to the train bridge. I examined the gun. I noticed it was three shots fired, three dead shells in the gun and the gun smelled like gunpowder because we were still, our curiosity was fired still and I was checking it out.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Jack and Matthew walked out along the railroad trestle toward the water.

Archived Recording (Matthew Stuart): I put like rocks in the drawstring bag and put those out in a plastic bag, perforated the bag and just dropped it down. The ruby ring and the watch was still in there at that point and we kept the diamond ring. And we threw the, just threw the gun itself out about maybe 40 or 50 feet, just right out off the bridge and down and then dropped the other stuff weighted, and it just went down.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Both Matthew and Jack claimed they didn’t fully understand what was happening. Though that’s hard to fathom, they told police that at this point, they just figured Chuck’s insurance scam had somehow gone horribly wrong.

Archived Recording (John McMahon): We were watching the news and we saw on the news that they said that Chucky had said that he had been robbed. And he described everything that was in the purse. And then Matt and I looked at each other and, you know, it just clicked.

Archived Recording (Detective Robert Ahearn): What clicked?

Archived Recording (John McMahon): It clicked then that Chucky did it. And he set Matt up, and that we just, you know, basically threw away the murder weapon.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): For two and a half months, the city was in hysterics. Mission Hill was being ransacked. And in that time, Chuck had picked Willie Bennett out of a lineup and Willie’s fate seemed sealed.

And for two and a half months, Matthew and Jack kept this secret from the police. They may not have told detectives what they knew — but they certainly talked to others.

The morning after the killing, Matthew called his on-again-off-again-girlfriend, Janet Monteforte, and told her to pick him up. They drove to a convenience store and bought a Boston Herald – the one with that awful image of Carol and Chuck on the cover.

Archived Recording (Janet Monteforte): He said, “I have to tell you something.” He was being really mysterious. I asked him, you know, “What? He said, “Just drive. Just drive.” So we’re driving. And he proceeded to tell me that Chuck killed Carol. Chuck Stuart killed Carol Stuart. We were driving on Broadway, Revere, and as soon as he said it, I said, “I don’t want to hear it.” And then naturally, I wanted to hear it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Matthew only told her the full story after breakfast — about planning the insurance scam, taking the bag, seeing that “pile” in the front seat.

Archived Recording (Janet Monteforte): Matthew told me that he saw something next to Chuck, but it had no silhouette. It had no hair. He didn’t think it was a person. He thought it was a duffel bag. He didn’t know exactly what Chuck was up to.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): But Janet didn’t go to the police. Instead, she told her parents. Her sister. Her friends and some of her coworkers. Jack McMahon talked too. Within days, his parents knew. His dad’s girlfriend. His brother and his brother’s girlfriend… they all knew. And the game of telephone just went on and on… spreading far and wide.

We know this because we got our hands on police files in which these friends and relatives confessed to knowing the whole time.

Archived Recording (Reporter): (CHOIR SINGING) A sun filled morning masked the darkness of this autumn day. Carol Stuart is buried.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): By the time of Carol’s funeral at least eleven people knew that Chuck’s story was bogus. None of them went to the authorities. One of the eleven was another Stuart brother, Michael.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): I did look up to my brother Chucky. He was a very good athlete. He always had a decent job, always had a nice car, nice clothes. My father used to say, why can’t I be more like him?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Michael heard everything about the shooting from Matthew. But it wouldn’t have come as a surprise. Because – get this – Chuck had asked Michael to help him kill Carol too. Just a few weeks before she turned up dead.

And yet… Michael said nothing to detectives. Michael would later claim that he didn’t fully understand what Chuck was proposing.

Archived Recording: (CHOIR SINGING)

ADRIAN WALKER (host): As Michael helped carry Carol’s casket… you have to wonder: What was going through his mind as he felt the weight of her body?

About a week after the shooting, this game of telephone finally led to someone who told the cops. Chuck’s high school buddy—

Archived Recording (David MacLean): He told me that he didn’t want to have children.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): —David MacLean, told his brother, who told a friend, who called a state trooper to pass on the tip.

That trooper?

Dan Grabowski: You’re a disgrace. It just infuriates me because I know what you’re after.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Dan Grabowski. Yup, that Dan Grabowski.

Dan Grabowski: I just have to let you know that I have no faith in journalism any longer.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): MacLean’s brother later told a grand jury that he and his pal straight out told Grabowski that Chuck was behind the shooting. And Grabowski just never called back. But they didn’t give up. The pair reached out to another officer, who passed the tip along to Robert Ahearn. Ahearn pursued the lead and called David MacLean. But David told Ahearn that he didn’t know anything and didn’t want to talk. So there you have it, one of the best potential leads in the case dried up.

It took until December — the month Willie Bennett was plucked from a police lineup — for people to inch toward telling detectives the truth.

Archived Recording (Janet Monteforte): Michael Stuart told Matthew Stuart that he couldn’t take it anymore, that he was going to tell Mark Stuart. Okay? Michael went to Mark Stuart, told him what had happened.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Mark is the second-youngest Stuart brother. He found out about Chuck’s role in the murder on New Year’s Day 1990. And he’s one of the siblings who pushed for Matthew to come clean. We know about this because Matthew’s girlfriend, Janet, told police about what happened. The family held a flurry of meetings.

Archived Recording (Janet Monteforte) I said, “You can’t push this under the rug.” I said, “Because now I’m involved.”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And she’s wrapped up in it too. At least that’s what the family’s lawyer told her.

Archived Recording (Janet Monteforte) He said, “Well, let me ask you something. How long have you known?” I said, “I’ve known since October 24th.” I said, “I’m not going to keep my mouth shut.”

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The Stuart siblings decided they had to tell their parents about Chuck’s crime.

Archived Recording (Unidentified): (PHONE DIAL AND RINGS) Hello?

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Is Shelley there?

Archived Recording (Unidentified): Yeah, hold on.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): Michael?

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Hi.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): This extraordinary moment is captured on tape because Michael Stuart – a firefighter – talked from the firehouse on a recorded line.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): What’s going to happen?

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): We’re going to tell Mom and Dad.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): It’s hard to hear, but Shelley, one of the Stuart sisters, tells him they’re going to break the news to Mom and Dad.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): What are you going to tell them?

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): We’re going to tell them (CUT) we know that Chuck was involved. We’re not going to say he killed, he killed her.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Killed her.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): They want to tell their parents that they know Chuck was involved… they just don’t want to say that he killed Carol.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Wow, yeah.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): I know, Mike, get ready. Okay? We’re all, we’re all together, Mike.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Who’s there?

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): Mark and Steven. Janet and Matt are coming over and Neysa’s coming over.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): And Neysa don’t know?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Neysa is another sister.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): Neysa doesn’t know yet.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Oh, Christ.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): Okay?

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): All right, I’ll, I’ll get out, I guess.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): All right.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): Maria wants to go too.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): Tell her to come, you guys got to be here soon though.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): All right.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): Like within 10 minutes.

Archived Recording (Michael Stuart): All right.

Archived Recording (Shelley Stuart): All right. Bye.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Okay, we did the math. Our reporting shows that at least 33 people — thirty-three — knew in some way or another that Chuck was responsible for Carol’s death. All this before Matthew confessed.

Now, some of them knew for months. Some of them only knew for a couple days. Two of them tried – and failed – to get the cops to act. For two and a half months, Chuck got away with murder. And 33 people knew. Thirty-three people. This has never been reported before.

Archived Recording (Richard Clayman): The bottom line questions, ladies and gentlemen, in this tragedy seems to have focused on who knew what when.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): About a week after Chuck’s death, the Stuart siblings – save for Matthew – held a press conference. They sat in chairs in a stuffy-looking law office lined with books. Their lawyer said most of the siblings had no clue about Chuck’s deceit.

Archived Recording (Richard Clayman): And this family, through me, wants it to be known that they had no information as to anything that their deceased brother Charles may have done in any way whatsoever. The appearance that has evolved, in my judgment, is that some type of conspiratorial scenario existed by and between all these family members sitting around talking about keeping something hidden. That is not true! They want you, the world, to know they loved Carol DiMaiti. They, to use their words, are on Carol’s side.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): We’ve reached out to each of the Stuarts who are alive today. Even their cousins. And no one… wanted to talk.

Roughly 34 years later their name is still synonymous with one of the most shameful chapters in Boston history. Were they morally culpable? Or just trying to do right by their “baby brother?”

Of all the siblings, Matthew’s hands are the dirtiest. Many see him as a villain… but some see his legacy quite differently.

Jack Harper: Matthew Stuart was one of the few heroes of this.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Former TV reporter, Jack Harper:

Jack Harper: If you give him the benefit of the doubt, he was the brother who went along with it initially, got rid of the gun and the stolen stuff, but at least he had a conscience down the road. He finally said something. And he had the stones to go talk.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Matthew Stuart’s lawyer, Nancy Gertner:

Nancy Gertner: This was a young man who was tortured by this and was actually seeking help from every quarter he could. Here he was saying something that was going to lead to his older brother being in prison for the rest of his life.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And some people – like Jack McMahon’s lawyer, Sarah Banse – think if Chuck hadn’t died…

Sarah Martin Banse: Jack McMahon and Matthew Stuart would have got keys to the city, right? They were the heroes. It wasn’t until… the political backlash from everything that happened in Mission Hill that, you know, the feelings. It was like, oh, somebody’s going to pay. Someone’s gonna pay.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Matthew always maintained that he was a bit player in Chuck’s insurance scam… helping facilitate the heist of his sister-in-law’s jewelry – all part of a plot to make some easy cash. Matthew swore he didn’t know Carol was dead until he saw the news reports later that night… But pretty early into our reporting, we started to have our doubts.

What was Matthew’s deal?

We started by retracing Matthew and Jack’s steps. The whole Globe team piled into a rented minivan, drove out to Revere, and walked along the rail trestle near where the pair tossed the gun. (TRAIN PASSES BY)

From there, the team pulled medical records, police forensic reports, FBI lab notes, and a whole lot more. Eventually, we determined, there’s strong evidence that someone else was there that night helping Chuck, and that person may have even pulled the trigger.

The first clue? Three separate witnesses told police they saw a third person in Chuck’s car. We took the minivan to Mission Hill and drove the route that Chuck described in his 911 call, just like the detective Bobby Ahearn did 34 years ago.

Evan Allen: But so if we start from where, where the police believe that call started.

Andrew Ryan: Yes. Well, let’s listen.

Elizabeth Koh: Hit auxiliary cable. There we go. Thank you. Okay. You all ready?

Andrew Ryan: Ready?

Elizabeth Koh: Yeah.

Archived Recording (Dispatcher): (911 CALLS PLAYS ON THE STEREO) Boston, recorded, emergency 5-1-0.

Archived Recording (Chuck Stuart): My wife’s been shot. I’ve been shot.

Archived Recording (Dispatcher): Where is this, sir?

Archived Recording (Chuck Stuart) I have no idea. I’m off. I was just coming from Tremont, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Today, Mission Hill is a very different neighborhood. But it’s still a busy place – people on the sidewalks, living in apartments densely packed together.

Archived Recording (Dispatcher): Huntington Avenue.

Archived Recording (Chuck Stuart): Drove straight through Huntington Ave. Oh!

Archived Recording (Dispatcher): Where are you right now, sir? Can you indicate to me.

Archived Recording (Chuck Stuart): No, I don’t know. I don’t know.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Detective Ahearn thought folks in the neighborhood would’ve seen the Stuarts’ car that night. And, we know now that at least three people did.

Adrian Walker: This is the Tobin Community Center. I’ll tell you more about that later. This is where a bunch of kids got shaken down on the street right out here.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The first witness was a basketball coach, standing on the steps of the Tobin Community Center. He saw the blue Cressida driving erratically with a person in the backseat.

The second witness was a woman in a nearby apartment watering her plants and watching from a window.

Andrew Ryan: There was a witness, a woman by the name of Faith Mickelsons. And so she was looking out and she saw the car and she reported potentially seeing somebody else, like a third person, essentially…

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The third witness was David Wood, who later said that he saw a man getting out of Chuck’s car.

Elizabeth Koh: David Wood, who was driving his car around this block a couple of times looking for somewhere to park. And he said he noticed a car driving erratically on one of his kind of loops around this block and seeing a third person get out of the back of the car… which is another eyewitness account we have that contradicts this idea that Chuck would have been the only other person in the car and have shot Carol.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Unfortunately, we can’t ask any of those witnesses what they saw… because all of them are dead.

So there’s the three witnesses. That’s a start.

Now, let’s talk about the ballistics. This much is clear: there were three shots fired in the car that night. One bullet entered the back of Carol’s head. Police found another bullet lodged in the ceiling of the car. A third bullet left a wound in Chuck’s lower back – it traveled upwards and tore through his liver and intestines.

Archived Recording (Doctor Erwin Hirsch): I did not believe that that was a self-inflicted wound, and that was my opinion. That’s my personal opinion and I will leave it at that.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): The Boston trauma surgeon who operated on Chuck that night, had served in Vietnam. Doctor Erwin Hirsch had seen thousands of gunshot wounds before.

And looking at Chuck’s fresh bullet wound, minutes after the shooting, Hirsch thought there was no way it could’ve been self-inflicted — someone else had to have shot Chuck. Hirsch’s opinion had big ramifications. After all, it was one of the reasons police didn’t take a closer look at Chuck.

Hirsch passed away many years ago. But we found two other surgeons who treated Chuck as well. They both agreed with Hirsch’s assessment. But where Hirsch thought Chuck was a victim of a gunman, the hospital’s chief surgical resident said he and others in the unit thought Chuck’s story didn’t make sense.

Dr. Fred Millham: I didn’t think that Charles had shot himself, so if he didn’t shoot himself, then who did?

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Doctor Fred Millham spent countless hours around Chuck and the Stuart family. He not only examined Chuck’s guts… he also watched Chuck’s behavior in the weeks after the shooting.

Dr. Fred Millham: Oftentimes I was the only physician that he saw during the day because we kept the other people out.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): During those visits, Millham picked up some weird vibes. In a recent interview, the doctor cited patient confidentiality laws, saying there’s a limit to what he can share. But given everything he saw back then, he’s confident today in saying who he thinks shot Chuck.

Dr. Fred Millham: Well, the reporting and what seems to be the facts and evidence was that the brother was in the car. I’m pretty sure Carol DiMaiti didn’t do it. So it seemed like a reasonable conclusion to reach. It’s my opinion based on facts that everybody has. I think that the brother probably did the shooting. But I’ve always thought that since I saw them dragging Charles’ body out of the harbor… It was Matthew. Of course.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): So let’s put this together.

* NUMBER ONE: Three witnesses say there was a third person in or near the car before the shooting.

* NUMBER TWO: Three of the doctors who worked on Chuck said there was no way he could’ve shot himself: * NUMBER THREE: Matthew acknowledged he was there in Mission Hill around the time Carol was killed. He conspired with his brother Chuck and helped get rid of the gun.

* AND NUMBER FOUR: Matthew helped bury the truth for at least two and a half months. When he did confess, it’s not clear he told the whole truth.

The evidence we uncovered suggests Matthew may have been a lot more complicit. For example, the lead prosecutor? The person who knew this case better than almost anyone? He seemed to think the same thing.

We got our hands on grand jury testimony that’s never been widely available until now. The transcripts include statements made – under oath – by Francis O’Meara of the DA’s office. O’Meara said he was sure that someone else was there for the shooting – and that it could only have been one of two people.

Quote:

“...there’s no question in my mind, none whatsoever, that there was a third person on St. Alphonsus Street that night, and it’s either Matthew Stuart or Willie Bennett. There’s absolutely no question in my mind.”

There you have it – the sworn testimony of the lead prosecutor. Of the hundreds of people we’ve talked to – no one, save for a few cops – believes Willie was the shooter. So, then, why wasn’t Matthew implicated in the killing? We sought out the person who could answer that – Francis O’ Meara.

When my colleagues went to his house in late 2022, the retired prosecutor suggested it was better to let sleeping dogs lie. But O’Meara hadn’t changed his mind… Unfortunately, he died a few months later.

A couple years after the murder, the Stuart case was immortalized in this song.

(Mark Wahlberg raps in song)

Wildside by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Claiming a burglar shot his wife and himself. His pregnant wife lay slumped over. Dreams corrupted and a young life over.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Wildside by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch topped the charts in 1991. It told the story of Carol Stuart’s murder.

(Mark Wahlberg raps in song)

Wildside by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: The whole plot was an insurance scam. Charles and his brother came up with a plan. Kill Carol, collect the big check, blame it on a Black man, what the heck!

ADRIAN WALKER (host): And listen… Boston has a love/hate relationship with the Wahlbergs. But however you feel about the Funky Bunch, the song was huge in the early ‘90s… and it made Matthew’s role in the crime part of the cultural lore.

Archived Recording (Reporter): Today, Stuart’s brother Matthew pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and other charges for disposing of the gun Charles Stuart allegedly used to shoot his wife.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): In 1992, Matthew Stuart pled guilty to insurance fraud and weapons charges and served two and a half years in prison. He struggled with drugs following his prison stint. And he died in a homeless shelter in 2011.

Matthew’s sister, Neysa, was the only Stuart sibling who got back to us. Actually, she had her son call and pass on the message that she didn’t want to talk. But we could hear Neysa in the background, saying we should portray Matthew as innocent. She believes he had nothing to do with it. There are other people who think Matthew was innocent too — including his lawyer Nancy Gertner.

Nancy Gertner: Sometimes I wonder whether he was telling everyone in the hopes that the police would hear about it. And that he thought that he was doing the rational thing, which is exchanging his information for protection from prosecution.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Gertner says Matthew would never have come forward if he had been more complicit. Plus, she noted, a grand jury interviewed nearly a hundred people and pored over the case for years.

Nancy Gertner: The grand jury tried very hard to indict Matthew for murder. The prosecutors tried very hard to indict Matthew for murder. And the grand jurors resisted that.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Nancy even told us the old cliché about how easy it is for a grand jury to indict someone or anything.

Nancy Gertner: You know, the classic “the grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.” So if the implication is that somehow Matthew was the person in the car, I mean, if there had been a whisper of that evidence, he would have been charged with being an accessory to murder. And that was not a charge that they could bring.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): We also sought out Matthew’s accomplice in ditching the gun – Jack McMahon.

Elizabeth Koh: It’s two in the afternoon, I’m across the street from where John McMahon lives. We left a letter for him a couple of weeks ago, and I’m going to go back and see if he got that letter and if he might be willing to talk to us face to face.

Adrian Walker: He wouldn’t talk to us. We tried. And tried…and tried.

Elizabeth Koh: (DOOR KNOCK) (ANOTHER DOOR KNOCK) Yeah, no luck. All right. I’m leaving a letter. (FOOTSTEPS) So that’s another letter at Jack McMahon’s house.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): McMahon served a year in prison and hasn’t talked publicly about the case since.

After all this... We still tried to settle this once and for all.

We reached out to an independent forensic consultant. But after reviewing our files – and countless conversations – he unfortunately couldn’t provide us with any kind of definitive answer. Lewis Gordon:

Lewis Gordon: He certainly could have shot himself. He certainly could have been shot by someone else. We just don’t have enough information to reach a conclusion one one way or the other.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): Look, it would be great if I could deliver you some kind of hair sample, some DNA evidence, maybe a smoking gun. But we can’t get there – at least we aren’t able to pull this off on our own.

But maybe someone listening to this knows the truth. Perhaps someone in the Stuart family. If 33 people knew the truth before the cops did… is there one person out there who knows who really pulled the trigger?

When we started reporting this podcast, I knew there were a lot of screw-ups in this case. Still, I was shocked to learn how many people were involved in covering this up for Chuck… and how easily the authorities bought into the narrative.

Heck, the media did too.

I’ve been agonizing over these failures for years. The way the media fueled public hysteria. The way it created the sense that someone had to be caught quickly. We helped create this.

And it’s time we owned up to it.

Greg Moore: We were feeling pressure to break the story. Like every morning, the senior editors on my team, we met and we used to say to each other, whoever can break the story is going to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Michelle Caruso: I consider it the biggest failure of my entire 27-year journalistic career.

Gary Witherspoon: I think the media bought it hook, line and sinker. We were guilty for sure.

Renée Graham: Man. It’s been a long time. It’s really weird thinking back on this stuff, and I’m almost surprised how kind of still angry I am about some of it.

ADRIAN WALKER (host): 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.