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Convicted Murders Get 35 Years for Stabbing Deaths of Attorney and Wife

Convicted Murders Get 35 Years for Stabbing Deaths of Attorney and Wife
November 17
05:27 2018
THE REPORTER: Marion Ali, - 

Milton Maza and Eli Lopez Avila have been sentenced to a prison term of 35 years for the murders of Attorney and former Magistrate, Richard Stuart, 43, and his wife, Chartered Accountant, Maria Stuart nee Fernandez, also 43 at the time of their deaths in 2010. However, because the defendants had already spent eight years on remand prior to their trial, they will spend 27 years, with effect from October 19, 2018, when they were found guilty of the double murder.

Supreme Court Justice, Colin Williams sentenced Maza, 32, and Lopez, 43, yesterday, after taking into account several factors into consideration. One of the underlying elements the Judge considered was the impact the incident has had on the lives of the couple’s four children, revealed by their eldest daughter, Priya, now a 17 year-old sixth form student.

At the mitigation hearing, she spoke of the adverse transformation of her life by the incident, when she and her three younger siblings were made orphans. At the time, she was nine years old. Now she is the only one of them still living in Belize. The others live in two different parts of the US.

“The siblings have been torn apart and the relationship between them has deteriorated. Priya says that her younger brother, Drachir, who was awake when the parents were being stabbed to death, is still traumatized by what he heard,” Justice Williams said in handing down the sentence, pointing to the distant relationship the children now share among themselves and the physiological, emotional and health effects on them, as described by their uncle, Orlando Fernandez and their grandfather, Glenville Stuart at the mitigation hearing.

The Judge also ruled that the aggravating features of the incident, including: the fact that this was the product of a planned home invasion, not a spontaneous or opportunistic offence; that the defendants travelled many miles to reach the home of the deceased to assault and rob; the manner of execution of the crime – both victims receiving 25 stabs each; that the pleas of the deceased went unheeded; and that this was an attack against persons who had been the employer to at least one of the assailants who would have previously been allowed access to the residence where the crime was committed.

Justice Williams also noted that the attorneys on both sides of the case observed that the defendants were not remorseful and showed no sympathy to the family of the deceased.

The Stuarts were killed with their own kitchen knives shortly before midnight on the night of Saturday October 16, 2010, after they were ambushed in the foyer of their home at 6031 Graduate Crescent in the West Landivar area of Belize City. They had just returned home from a BAR Association dinner for former Chief Justice, Abdulai Conteh. Their housekeeper was on the third floor with the children, who were asleep.

There were no signs of forced entry to the building and it is believed that the murders may have climbed up the scaffolding on the side of the building, which was still under construction, or that they used a copy of the house keys. The family had moved into the house only two months earlier.

The killers used the Stuart’s vehicle to escape the scene. That vehicle was found two days later near Saint Matthew’s village on the George Price Highway.

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