Thirty years ago this Wednesday, a murder in Boston horrified us, and the ensuing manhunt kept the region on edge as it twisted and turned for nearly three months, culminating with a plunge into the Mystic River from the Tobin Bridge.
The allegations were shocking: A young couple from Reading on the way home from a birthing class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital were carjacked at a traffic light by a black man, robbed, and shot, the wife fatally and the husband in critical condition. The couple’s baby, delivered two months early by C-section, would die 17 days later.
It was, as the Boston Herald’s headline screamed on its front page the next morning, “A terrible night!” — exhibit A of suburbanites’ worst nightmare of venturing into the Big, Bad City and becoming victims of violence inflicted by ruthless outlaws.
The terrible night, amplified by the recording of a 911 police dispatcher’s dramatic effort to help the wounded husband, turned out to be much worse. We learned later there was no carjacking or robbery; the slaying was a diabolical domestic hit by Charles Stuart, the husband in the “Camelot couple” everyone felt sorry for immediately after the Oct. 23, 1989, attack in Mission Hill. Except for a brother, Stuart fooled everyone initially and caused the Boston police to cast a disruptive, at times unlawful, dragnet for a fictitious assailant and nearly got an innocent black man, Willie Bennett, indicted in the murder of Carol DiMaiti Stuart and death of her son, Christopher. The US attorney’s office would conclude, in a report issued more than 1½ years later, that there was evidence of police misconduct directed at witnesses and individuals who were targets of the homicide investigation.
We bring up this sad and unfortunate episode in the city’s history 30 years on because it tugs at our memory and, we’re sure, still pains many people — the families and friends of the couple, the wrongfully targeted suspects and witnesses, the other civilians who were stopped and frisked on the street by police in their zeal to catch the killer. That would be Chuck Stuart, who took his motives with him into the Mystic.
It’s an endlessly compelling, real life story that was turned into a television movie in 1990 (“Goodnight Sweet Wife: A Murder in Boston”) and is being retold in a CNN-HLN crime series called “The Dead Wives Club.” The episode on the Stuart murder, “The Carjacking,” airs on HLN next Sunday at 8 p.m.
Two other happenings to note this week:
Animal lovers are expected to gather at the State House Tuesday to support legislation to ban the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows. Following the death of Beulah, an elephant brought to West Springfield to perform at The Big E Fair in September, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups are urging the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development to pass S. 2028/H. 2934; a hearing on the bill, sponsored by state Senators Bruce Tarr and James Welch and Representatives Lori Ehrlich and Bradley Jones, is scheduled for 11 a.m., and a rally, at 10 a.m. in front of the State House. For more information, visit www.humanesociety.org.
Framingham State University’s Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning is holding an open house on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. as part of Massachusetts STEM Week. This is also a good opportunity to view the full-size replica statue of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit that was recently donated by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, one of 15 created using 3D scans as part of an effort to conserve and digitize Armstrong’s spacesuit a half-century after his 1969 moon landing. The replicas were displayed at baseball parks throughout the country this past summer; the one donated to Framingham State was shown at Fenway Park. Established in 1994 to honor Framingham State alumna Christa McAuliffe, the first private citizen selected to serve on a space mission, the McAuliffe Center provides professional development for teachers and hosts visits from students throughout the year. Visit www.cm-center.org.