On October 23, 1989, Charles, often called “Chuck,” Stuart and his pregnant wife Carol were driving back from a birthing class in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. That’s when a black gunman forced his way into their car and shot them. At least … according to Charles.
But what really happened that crisp autumn evening is far more chilling.
Charles Stuart, unhappy at the prospect of becoming a father, shot and killed his wife before shooting himself in the stomach—making it look like a botched robbery-murder. Charles was worried about his family’s financial situation, and took matters into his own hands—hoping to cash in on his life insurance policy on Carol.
Joe Sharkey’s true crime book, Deadly Greed, chronicles the murder and the racial tensions that Charles Stuart caused in Boston during the investigation.
Read on for an excerpt and then download the book.
The birthing class ended a few minutes early. Chuck and Carol—a classmate noticed that they walked out hand-in-hand—left by the front doors under the tall granite columns of the hospital’s Greek Revival façade, into a brisk October night that defines autumn in New England. When they got off the elevator on the lower level of the parking garage, Chuck asked to borrow his wife’s car keys to drive home.
He took the ramp onto Francis Street and turned left toward Brigham Circle. He could have gone right, toward Brookline Avenue, which would have been a slightly more direct route to the Storrow Drive along the Charles River that links with Interstate 93 going north to Reading. But Chuck, who hated getting lost even more than he hated being late, always made it a point to go home the way he came, so there was nothing unusual in the fact that he went left on Francis toward Huntington Avenue and Brigham Circle a half block away. Huntington would take them easily enough back up to Massachusetts Avenue, and from there Chuck knew the way to the Storrow—left on Beacon, hard right at Charlesgate toward the river.
Nor was there anything especially extraordinary in Chuck’s sailing right across Huntington, missing his turn. It was a tricky intersection, with cars merging from three directions. Carol, uncomfortably pregnant beside him, eager to get home, but always trusting Chuck’s ability to make the right decision, might have been impatient, but not alarmed. Crossing over onto Tremont Street, which climbs toward the church that crowns the hill, he seemed to be heading toward Columbus Avenue, which intersects Tremont near the Orange Line’s Roxbury Crossing station. Tremont was too busy to make a U-turn; going up to Columbus and turning left there would have made sense.
Downhill from the church, in a large pie-shaped wedge between Tremont, Huntington, and the Amtrak right-of-way just to the west of Columbia, the squat brick buildings of the housing project lay, out of sight from the traffic passing on the main streets. At Terrace Street, a narrow, dark thoroughfare one block before the lights of the Roxbury Crossing station at Columbus, Chuck casually flipped on his turn signal and made a left.
This turn would definitely have gotten Carol’s attention. As Chuck headed slowly down Terrace, the projects loomed ahead, just past a block of open fields and dark two-story warehouses.
At a deserted intersection where Terrace meets Station Street, Chuck made a right, and then a quick left onto Mindoro Street. Now Carol would have been alarmed. This was obviously not the kind of area one ventured into lightly. But it still made sense to explain that he was merely trying to turn around to get back onto Tremont, headed in the other direction.
Across the lots, lights shone yellow and bright in windows of the three-story blocks of apartments in the projects. Chuck stopped the car on the left side of Mindoro Street, with chain-link fences bordering the desolate parking lots on either side. He parked in a pool of darkness farthest away from the street lamps and the glow of the parking lot security lights. On the sidewalk, where weeds poked knee-high through the cracks, a soggy pile of junk—used tires, old mattresses chewed through by rats, rusted mufflers, even a discarded refrigerator—attested to the seclusion. It was a spot people found convenient for quietly discarding possessions that no longer had a place in their lives.
Chuck rolled down his window. Some city-tough crickets were still chirping in the stubby weeds despite the night’s chill. From the projects across the field, a boom box thumped out a pile-driver rhythm, gangster rap, its pitch rising and then falling, and finally fading away with the stride of an unseen stroller. Chuck reached into his gym bag in the back seat, and gazed for the last time into the wide brown eyes of his wife, who now was frightened. Being that close to her face, he may have kissed her, perhaps, for reassurance, maybe as a diversionary tactic. Slowly, he reached back into the gym bag and brought the gun up behind her head. From the project, muffled voices, a woman’s sharp laugh, the whump of a screen door banging shut on its creaky spring drifted through the night, as if over a dark, quiet lake.
Two quick gunshots echoed from the curbside on Mindoro Street.
The first, at point-blank range, smashed into Carol’s skull, high on her jaw, on the left side of her face. She gasped as the force of the blast slammed her shoulders against the passenger door. Then, with gunpowder searing his nostrils, Chuck carefully positioned the revolver over his right shoulder and deliberately fired a second shot into the roof of the car just above the visor on the driver’s side.
Beside him, Carol struggled frantically to suck air into her lungs. She clawed at him in desperation, her brain unable to grasp the horror her eyes had just seen. She struggled desperately, lunging toward him. He pushed her away, furious now. She was supposed to be dead, goddamnit! This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. She should be dead and still.
But Carol tried to fight her way back to life, struggling to pound against him and make him make it not be true. Chuck was sweating. He tried to hold her back, horrified at her gasps. He wished he had an extra bullet to solve the problem, but there had only been three stored with the gun in Kakas’s safe. And he needed the remaining one for himself.
It had never occurred to him that three bullets would not be enough. Besides, he would not have risked attracting attention buying ammunition in Massachusetts, even if he knew where to, which he did not. Soon, however, the fight went out of his wife. She slumped against her shoulder belt, breathing shallowly.
The boom box throbbed through the darkness. Chuck took a deep, shaky breath and gazed down at his wife. She was still now. Holding up the back of his wrist into what little light was reaching the car from a street lamp, he checked the time. It was twenty minutes to nine. Matthew had promised to be there without fail at ten of. Chuck considered his kid brother a dolt—“numb nuts” was the term he used—but he had made it clear that there would be no excuse for showing up late, or worse, not showing up at all.
He exhaled, then breathed in deeply again, remembering that Carol’s keys were in the ignition. She was gasping faintly—she wasn’t dead, but he guessed that she wasn’t able to say anything, either. Looking around nervously, he saw that the sidewalk and street remained empty. No one had been near enough to come and investigate the gunshots—not that anyone in this neighborhood would be idiotic enough to head toward the familiar crack of a gun. Warily, he removed Carol’s keys from the ignition and got out of the car, tossing them over the fence into the field, where they would be found days later by police. Then he dug his own keys out of his pocket and got back into the Toyota, where he reached over and took his wife’s little hand. It was cold; he felt the full weight of her nearly dead arm.
He held fast, avoiding her eyes, and laboriously twisted her rings off, her fingers swollen from the pregnancy. First he removed the marquis ruby with the cluster of tiny diamonds, and then the one-and-a-quarter-carat diamond engagement ring that he had given her on Christmas Eve so many years ago. When he got them off her fingers, he dropped the rings into the blue-and-tan Gucci handbag that lay partly open near the car phone on the console between them. Then he placed the gun in and snapped it shut.
Though the day had been sunny and mild, the night was now cold, in the low forties, but Chuck didn’t roll up his window. He needed the brace of the air for the next part. After glancing around again to make sure no one was loitering nearby, he steadied himself with a deep breath, then took the revolver and held it gingerly in his hands for a second, summoning the courage. Teeth clenched, his mouth tight in a grimace, barely aware now of the sound of Carol’s attempts to pull air into her lungs, he pulled his right elbow back between the bucket seats and twisted his right hand back awkwardly to position the barrel of the gun at the flesh of his waist, a few inches above his right buttock. He had made it a point to learn that a bullet would make an ugly wound but, if aimed straight out through the side of the belly, it would exit without tearing through anything more vital than a layer of fat. It would be just nasty and painful enough, though. It would take balls to do it.
But Chuck didn’t have the balls to do what obviously happened next between him and his wife, who refused to die easily. What he had clearly planned to be a convincing, painful but not life-threatening—bullet wound in the flesh of his belly instead became a very grave one when he turned the gun on himself. In her desperation to save herself and her baby, Carol seems to have summoned a last burst of primal physical strength that seriously complicated the killer’s plan to present himself as a victim of a horrific random shooting, though it definitely would make him a more persuasive one. There being no other reasonable explanation for the severity of Chuck’s self-inflicted wound, deductive reasoning says that this is what occurred next in the front seat of that dark car:
Chuck closed his eyes and held his hand still at its awkward angle. But just as he went to pull the trigger, something went terribly wrong. Carol seemed to lunge toward him, and the force of her body pushed his elbow forward, causing his hand to shift position just as he fired. Instead of exiting neatly from back to front, the bullet tore through his intestines, and with a sickening sensation, lodged deep in his abdomen. Only the fact that the ammunition was so old prevented it from continuing on its path and severing his spinal cord.
Chuck knew immediately that he had shot himself in the wrong place. He was overwhelmed with pain, terrified that he was about to die. He realized that the blood pooling cold against his crotch was his own. Despite his fear, he was also furious at his wife for causing him to do such a thing. For a few excruciating seconds, he lay back with his mouth open, as if to vent the pain, and waited for the cold darkness to fall over him.
Want to keep reading? Download Deadly Greed now.
Featured photo and photo of Charles Stuart: Murderpedia