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Stuart found dead in shelter

He aided brother in covering up infamous killing

Matthew Stuart was arraigned on drug charges in 1997. Matthew Stuart was arraigned on drug charges in 1997. (Tom Landers for The Boston Globe/File)
By John M. Guilfoil and Meghan Irons
Globe Staff / September 4, 2011

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CAMBRIDGE - Matthew Stuart, who confessed to helping his brother, Charles, cover up the fatal shooting of his pregnant wife in one of Boston’s most notorious crimes, was found dead early yesterday morning in a Central Square homeless shelter.

Stuart, 45, was found dead shortly after 1 a.m. at the Heading Home shelter on School Street, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

Stuart was the younger brother of Charles Stuart, whose infamous killing of his wife, Carol DiMaiti Stuart, in their car on Mission Hill more than two decades ago, roiled Boston and inflamed racial tensions.

A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone confirmed that a 45-year-old man was found dead at the shelter, but declined to release his name because the death was not being investigated as suspicious.

“It does not appear to be suspicious or involve foul play,’’ said Cara O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

O’Brien would not elaborate, saying the office does not provide names or additional details on cases of nonsuspicious deaths.

The law enforcement officials also did not say how Stuart died. An autopsy will be conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

According to one of the law enforcement officials, Stuart was found unresponsive in a bathroom at the shelter and declared dead at the scene.

His body was taken away by officials from the medical examiner’s office.

A sister from Revere was notified as Stuart’s next of kin, according to one of the officials. No one answered at an address in Revere.

At an address for another relative in Marblehead, a man who answered the door refused to comment.

At the shelter yesterday, a house unmarked by a sign, two employees declined to comment, citing residents’ privacy.

“We have no comment,’’ said one worker.

“We respect the privacy of our residents.’’

Heading Home provides emergency shelter, housing, and supportive services to more than 2,000 homeless and low-income people in multiple locations yearly, according to its website.

It was unclear how long Stuart, who had experienced drug problems, had been staying in the shelter or why he was there.

Matthew Stuart’s public notoriety began with a killing that gripped Boston.

On the night of Oct. 23, 1989, a wounded Charles Stuart, then 29, told police that he and his pregnant 33-year-old wife had been robbed and shot by a black man in Mission Hill as they left a childbirth class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

As part of his cover-up, he had shot himself in the abdomen. Their baby, Christopher, died 17 days later.

The shootings drew sympathy for Charles Stuart and exposed racial divides in Boston.

Police combed the city, looking for the shooter before focusing on a black man named Willie Bennett.

But the case fell apart as Matthew Stuart confessed that he had helped his brother dispose of the weapon and jewelry from his sister-in-law on the night of the killing.

Before he had to face police, Charles Stuart jumped off the Tobin Bridge to his death on Jan. 4, 1990.

Two years later, Matthew Stuart accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy, insurance fraud, and possession of a firearm, in exchange for three to five years in prison.

Matthew Stuart, then 26, apologized to his sister-in-law’s family in a tearful courtroom address.

“I am truly sorry, and hope that my actions today will help heal some of the pain of this horrible tragedy,’’ he said.

After his release in 1995, he was soon arrested again by Revere police on drug charges.

He was sent back to prison, but his lawyer at the time, Martin Rosenthal, appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, and prosecutors later dropped the pending drug charges.

In 1997, Judge Vieri Volterra formally ended Stuart’s probation, ruling that the evidence was not strong enough to consider him in violation of probation.

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globe_guilfoil. Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanIrons. Globe correspondent Alexander Kaufman also contributed to this report.