Richard & Maria Stuart
The news spread like wildfire, attorney Richard Stuart and his wife Maria were repeatedly stabbed at his home just before midnight on Saturday after a Bar Association dinner. Their murder was horrific and shocking. Stuart, a former magistrate who moved into private practice, was well known and highly connected in the United Democratic Party. His wife was a chartered accountant, they both had four children. Details are still coming in, but his vehicle used as the getaway car, was located near Saint Matthew’s village on the Western Highway this afternoon and police are questioning one person and looking for others. Stuart and his wife were attacked as they walked into the foyer of their home. Their housekeeper was on the third floor with the sleeping children. How their killers gained entry into the house is still not confirmed and News Five’s Jose Sanchez looks back at the Stuarts’ lives.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Forty three year old Attorney, Richard Stuart, and his wife Maria, also forty-three, were murdered on Saturday night at their home on Graduate Crescent in West Landivar. The couple had moved from Dolphin Drive to West Landivar only two months ago. But when the coupled arrived home, assailants were waiting for them on the second floor of the building. Neighbors allegedly heard the screams that preceded the bloodbath. Stuart and his wife were stabbed repeatedly with their own kitchen knife. Police officers arrived at eleven-fifty-six p.m. and found the Stuarts lying face up in a pool of blood. On the third floor, the housekeeper was reportedly found hiding in a closet and two of the Stuart’s four children were in their rooms. The couple, seen here in a picture of happier times, had just returned home about a Bar Association dinner for former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh. The Stuarts sat at a table with fellow attorney Dolores Balderamos Garcia. Garcia recollected their last dinner.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Attorney
“So actually at our table it was only Leo Bradley Junior and myself and Richard and Maria and we had a most cordial time and conversation. We chatted about family, we chatted about various things that their children are from nine going down to only months old. And so I was jinxing them and telling them that they have a long way to go in parenting. We chatted about various things. Richard was talking about one of his cases in family court, but he’s a most pleasant gentleman. I have to tell you it hasn’t even sunken in good as yet.”
Black bows are placed on the doors of the Anglican Diocese of Belize’s office, because Stuart was a prominent and active member of the church. In fact Bishop Phillip Wright says he was also his friend.
Bishop Phillip Wright, Anglican Diocese of Belize
Bishop Phillip Wright
“I went by to be with the family. When you receive news of that nature, you appreciate the impact that it can have on their family. As one of their pastors I felt like to be with them and pray with them, was an important thing.”
“If you can share a little bit about the people you knew.”
Bishop Phillip Wright
“First of all in terms of the church, Richard was a very supportive and very dependable member often going beyond the call of duty, if you will, to serve the church. He was also our diocesan registrar which means he held a senior lay position in the church and was one of the legal consultants of the church along with the chancellor.”
“So this is someone clearly that was very much with the church and that makes it even more a bit of a tragedy.”
Bishop Phillip Wright
“Oh definitely, definitely. It has impacted us tremendously. Also for the fact too that this week starting tomorrow, we go into Synod which is the highest governing body meeting of the church and Richard would have played a significant role in that meeting and his counsel his insights were always very much appreciated.”
“A valuable member of society loss.”
Bishop Phillip Wright
“Very much so and if I may add, a personal friend. Because outside of our responsibilities in the church, we shared a friendship; and we took trips together. He was also our representative on one of our major regional bodies, the Standing Committee of the Province which meant that we would have an opportunity sometimes to travel together. A colleague, a friend and in some respects someone that I had grown to respect quite a bit.”
No signs of forced entry were found in the building. The assailants might have climbed up the scaffolds on the side of the building which was still being expanded, or the other theory is that they may have entered with a copy of a key. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez
Police are still looking at recent events that could shed light into the murder of the Stuarts including the possibility that a former employee may be involved.
Attorney And Wife Stabbed To Death Inside Home
We report on violence nightly - so that's nothing new - but when those killings cross the unspoken social boundaries - that's when all of us really pay attention….like when businessman Jason Coombs was executed, or when attorney Rodwell Williams was targeted for execution. And now, there is another and it is one of the most extreme, invasive and disturbing acts of violence in recent recall. Well-known attorney Richard Stuart and his wife Maria were viciously stabbed to death inside their home after midnight on Saturday. The killing sent of shockwaves; they lived in a quiet residential neighborhood, a well-secured home, and Stuart was a well known, well-liked professional, an ardent UDP and former chairman of the Belize Advisory Council.
Tonight police have a major break in the case and we'll tell you about that shortly.
But first to Sunday morning, just after midnight when death stalked the Stuart's in their own home….Monica Bodden has the story:….
Monica Bodden Reporting
The body of 43 year old Attorney Richard Stuart and his wife Maria Stuart - were carried outside their West Landivar Home on stretchers -and taken away by police officers- around 2 o'clock on Sunday morning.
Two hours earlier they had entered the same door - returning from a function - where one or more persons was waylaying them inside….
They were stabbed to death - and were found lying face up in a pool of blood. The home was not burglarized.
It happened on the second floor of their 3 story mansion on Graduate Crescent.
Their four children aged 4 months to 8 years old along with the housekeeper -were also inside the house at the time. They were on the third floor.
In an interview today - the housekeeper asked to remain anonymous -fearing for her own life. She walked us through - as she described -one of the most horrific nights of her life.
"Earlier before I leave Mrs. Stuart came in the room and she talk to me about going and she gave a bunch a keys, She told me that the keys that she gave me was for incase of any emergency we can exit the house. She shows me 2 keys, one was for the downstairs office door to take us out of the house and she gave me a phone because the phone in the house does not have good signal. She tells the kids that she was going."
According to the housekeeper - after the couple left - she and the 4 children got something to eat from the kitchen and then proceeded to the third floor - where they all went to sleep in one room.
"I got the door shut and door safety on because I know that it was only us in the house. I went to sleep and in between that I heard the phone ringing and when I heard that, I heard Mrs. Maria said that they are ready to leave for home. I had told her that I was going to call my son and have him take a taxi to pick me up and she told me ok then, when Mr. Stuart come he will pay the taxi."
This was a little after 11 o'clock that night - about twenty minutes after the call from Mrs. Stuart - that the couple arrived home.
"I heard the door and between that I heard as the door open and I hear Mrs. Maria the first person I heard scream out. when I heard Mrs. Maria scream out I jump out off the bed, between that I heard Mr. Stuart scream out and they start to bawl, the first person that scream out was Mrs. Maria, I herad them bawling, I figure that something is happening."
The housekeeper along with the Stuart's eldest son who is eight years old -both heard the entire commotion the second floor. The other 3 children were asleep. Fearing for their lives - the two locked up inside a built in closet and dialed 911…
"We dial 911. I told them that something is happening in this house because my boss is downstairs and they are bawling out, I told them that something is happening and I was trying to control the little boy at the same time from trying to open the door. I told him to keep quiet and keep away from the door. They have these walk in closet and we went in the closet and at the same time I was praying that the baby would wake up or the other ones because if the baby wakes he would bawl. Mean while I was calling 911 and I was telling them to please come because something is happening in this house because my boss is bawling downstairs and the kids and I are upstairs in the room on the 3rd floor."
She said after a while - everything went silent - she was still on the phone with 911.
"After they stop bawling I heard silence, while I was on the phone with 911and telling them to please make the police come because something happen in this house. The person on the phone ask me signal them, I said how; they said to switch the light switch off and on they ask me which part of the building I was and I told them the left part of the building the room is. I start to switch the light and I went back to the window and I look and see police truck turn back in front of the yard."
When the police arrived at the house - Mr. and Mrs Stuart were already dead. They had both been stabbed to death.
"I ask the police where was Mr. and Mrs. Stuart? One of the police makes a sign to me like this that they were gone. i knew more or less what he mean. A police officer came up to me and told me that they were dead. I start to think about the bawling that I heard and then the kids that we were in the same house. That is the most terrible experience of my life."
So far police are investigating and the home was still considered a crime scene up to late this morning. There are a number of theories going around - since the couple's maintenance worker was accused last month of stealing one of their vehicles. He was fired from the couple's home. From what we understand a set of keys for their house went missing along with the vehicle keys. The couple bought new locks for their home but didn't get a chance to change them.
Well, that last piece of information has proven to be pivotal. Police followed up on that same termination and car theft, and believe this evening that they cracked the case.
This afternoon, police intercepted a man in a Toyota Scion at El Pedrigal bar in St. Matthews village at mile 40 on the western Highway. He was in a Toyota Scion which belongs to Richard Stuart. Now our information says that this is the same area where Richard Stuart himself found his stolen Blue Toyota Highlander one month ago - at the time the suspect was a former employee who he had fired.
That person - a man of Guatemalan descent - was driving today and is detained by Belmopan police tonight while the car is being processed. Reports say a knife was found under the car seat.
So, if this lead is definitive all appearances are that they were killed by a disgruntled former employee who had already stolen one vehicle from the family.
A security tape from one of the neighbors show two people leaving the house shortly after the stabbing. The security camera in a vehicle which appears to be that same Toyota Scion. There was only one sign of forced entry - a torn screen on window.
A post mortem concluded this evening today showed that both Richard and Maria Stuart had each been stabbed 25 times. It is a developing story and we'll have more tomorrow…
PROMINENT LAWYER AND HIS WIFE STABBED TO DEATH
Prominent Belize City lawyer, forty three year old Richard Stuart and his wife Maria are the latest victims of the spiraling crime wave in Belize. The couple’s bodies were found at the entrance to their home in the West Landivar Area of Belize City early on Sunday morning. They had been stabbed to death. According to friends, Richard and Maria Stuart had returned home from a farewell dinner for the former Chief Justice Dr. Abdulai Conteh, when they were reportedly ambushed and mercilessly killed. It’s a crime that has shocked the nation already which has seen the number of homicides go past the century in what will undoubtedly be a record year for murders. The Stuarts were the parents of four children, the eldest being nine years old, while the youngest is only six months old. Today Love News spoke with one of Stuart’s colleagues Audrey Matura-Shepherd about the last time she saw her long time friend alive.
Audrey Matura Shepherd; Friend
“I personally sat at the table with him and Leo Bradley and it was really a pleasant time. We were chit chatting updating each other about ourselves because we hadn’t seen each other for a while. It was the first time that I knew that he had a new born baby that was six months old and he was having a pleasant time with his wife. None of us would have expected that leaving from there he would be going to his death. The way I look at it he left before I did so he would have got home and when he got home this horrific thing happens to him that is when most of us who were left behind would have been leaving. We would never have thought that that was what would have happened to him. It is a tragedy for us as a family in the bar and for our national as well because when we have cold blooded people in this country who would kill a mother and a father together and leave four children orphaned then we have really reached a stage in this country where we are really heartless. I don’t see what motive there could have been and who would want to do such a thing to Richard because Richard is not a cantankerous person. He is very jovial, very nice and is like a diplomat so we are all in shock; we can’t believe what happened.”
Love News also spoke with members of the grieving Stuart family who have reserved comments until after the results of a post mortem examination has been released. Also weighing in on the murder is the Masons of Steadfast Lodge Number 683 who in a statement today expressed shock and deep regret at they called the “brutal, cowardly and tragic murder of their Marshall Brother Richard Stuart and his wife, Maria” end of quote. The Masons extend their heartfelt condolences to the family of their dearly departed brother and his wife and their young children. The Masons say they condemn in the strongest possible terms not only the senseless murder of the Stuarts but also the escalating violence against innocent people in our communities and our country. Richard Stuart was a member of the Belize Bar Association and served as Vice President in 2007; was chairman of the Belize Advisory Council, the Integrity Commission; Crime Control Council and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners; among others. Stuart was the recipient of the Belize Bar Association Award for Most Outstanding Belizean Student in 2000.