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Civil Suit Is Filed in Boston Murder Case : Courts: Carol Stuart's family wants to bar her husband's heirs from inheriting any of her estate. They claim 'public policy' prevents profiting from her death.

January 10, 1991|ELIZABETH MEHREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOSTON — In yet another twist to a bizarre murder that captured the nation's attention, the family of Carol DiMaiti Stuart has filed suit to prevent the family of Charles M. Stuart Jr. from inheriting any proceeds from her estate or that of the couple's dead son.

A statement issued by the DiMaiti family said the action "seeks to resolve legal issues which arose as a result of the death of Carol Stuart." Those issues involve tort claims that the estates of Carol Stuart and her son and Carol Stuart's parents have against the estate of Charles Stuart.

The civil suit also asks for damages resulting from the "severe emotional distress and physical harm" suffered by Carol Stuart's parents. It was filed Jan. 3 in Middlesex Superior Court, just one day short of the first anniversary of the day Charles Stuart apparently jumped to his death from the Tobin Bridge.

He had claimed a black man fatally shot his wife during an abduction and robbery Oct. 23, 1989. Carol Stuart, a 30-year-old attorney, was seven months pregnant. A baby boy delivered soon after the shooting, Christopher William, lived only 17 days.

Charles Stuart's story ignited tension in this racially divided city. Stuart himself was badly wounded in the incident, and his injuries lent credibility to his tale.

But early last January, rumors began to circulate that Stuart was a suspect. He apparently committed suicide Jan. 4, 1990.

Friends of Charles Stuart, a former short-order cook who had gone into the fur business, disclosed that before his wife's death, Charles Stuart had talked of needing money to open his own restaurant.

Within weeks of Charles Stuart's death, a grand jury was convened to consider the case. The role of Stuart's brother Matthew, who claims to have been an inadvertent accomplice in the case, has apparently been a stumbling block in grand jury deliberations. Charles Stuart's attorney invoked attorney-client privilege and was excused from discussing what Stuart might have told him before his death.

Under Massachusetts law, the suit cannot specify monetary damages. However, the couple's joint estate is thought to be valued at more than $500,000.

Charles Stuart was the beneficiary of nearly $300,000 in life insurance policies taken out in his wife's name. The Stuarts also owned a home in suburban Reading that they had purchased in 1987 for $239,000.

Attempts to reach Carl DiMaiti, Carol Stuart's brother and administrator of her estate, were unsuccessful. The suit was filed by DiMaiti against Dorothy Stuart, Charles Stuart's mother and administrator of his estate.

Lawyers for both sides of the dispute declined to comment.

The suit cites the doctrine of "public policy" in its claim that Stuart's estate and his heirs are prohibited from inheriting any of Carol Stuart's estate.

Public policy bars anyone from collecting insurance on someone he or she has murdered or otherwise profiting from the victim's death.

Last January, the DiMaiti family announced that it was establishing the Carol DiMaiti Stuart Foundation, a scholarship fund in memory of their daughter, and to date it has amassed more than $500,000.

In September, the foundation awarded 33 scholarships ranging from $500 to $3,000 to deserving students from the Mission Hill area of Boston, where the murder took place.

The three-sentence statement issued by the DiMaitis said lawyers are continuing to discuss the case in hopes of a resolution.

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