`If There Was A Fault To Carol, It Was That She Was Gullible'

BOSTON - In her 1977 high-school yearbook, two simple phrases tell what Carol Ann DiMaiti wanted out of life.

Under ambitions, she wrote: ``To be a teacher. To get married and have a happy family.''

Eight years after graduating from Medford High School, DiMaiti wed Charles Stuart Jr. in St. James Church in Medford, Mass., just down Fourth Street from the house where she lived with her older brother, Carl, and their parents, Evelyn and Giusto DiMaiti.

The wedding day, Oct. 13, 1985, was a drizzly, foggy Sunday. Despite the nasty weather, Carol Stuart did not want to leave the reception for 300 to head for the Bahamas. It was the day for which she had waited. She had married the man of her dreams after a courtship of more than four years.

Carol Stuart seemed to have the world on a string. Now her wide assortment of close friends grope to make sense out of the night nearly three months ago when, seven months pregnant with her first child, she was killed by a shot in the head, apparently fired by the man she loved.

Investigators believe Charles Stuart pulled the trigger as part of a scheme to collect life insurance, possibly to finance his dream of opening a restaurant.

The torrent of stories that has flowed from Carol Stuart's death and Charles Stuart's apparent suicide Jan. 4 - hours after his brother told police of an elaborate hoax to cover up the crime - tell of motives and madness, of a killer who duped a city with his tale about a black gunman who surprised him and his wife as they left a childbirth class, robbed and then shot them.

Friends of Carol Stuart say she was incapable of deception. She was open, trusting, funny, outspoken, unable to hide rare bad moods, capable of lighting up a room simply by being there.

``If there was a fault to Carol it was that she was gullible,'' said a co-worker at Cahners Publishing Co. in Newton, Mass., where Carol Stuart worked the last two years of her life as a tax lawyer. ``She believed her husband because she loved him so dearly.''

Carol Stuart could not conceal her emotions. When she and her husband argued, it was clear in the office the next day. She would cry and tell friends of her problems. They would tell her not to worry, that her husband would send roses as a peace offering, which he would.

People who knew her at different times in her life use the same superlatives to describe her.

``If you had a daughter, that's what you'd want her to be like,'' said Marc Landy, one of her professors at Boston College.

``If I had a daughter, I'd want her to emulate Carol DiMaiti,'' said Sal Todaro, Medford High School headmaster.

From elementary school through law school, she excelled. Her father always carried one of her straight-A report cards in his wallet.

Her professors at Boston College, like those at law school, recall her with ease.

``I'm a hard-nosed grader, and she got A-minuses and As, and that's no small feat,' said Donald Hafner, associate professor of political science at Boston College.

And Landy said, ``I have taught for 15 years at BC and she is absolutely among the small group of most outstanding students I ever taught. . . . Intellectually, she was of the first rank.''

She was also spirited in her politics. DiMaiti believed in the ability of government to help those who needed it. She went to an election rally for President Ronald Reagan in 1984, proudly waving a Walter Mondale sign.

After graduating from Boston College with honors, DiMaiti took

a year off before law school and worked as a waitress.

She met Charles Stuart at the Driftwood restaurant in Revere, where her father was a bartender and Stuart was a short-order cook.

As her courtship with Stuart intensified, it included flowers and gifts and daily telephone calls ending with, ``I love you.''

Stuart proposed to DiMaiti on Christmas Eve in 1983.

To friends and relatives, it seemed like a good match. She was a law school student with strong potential. He was a fur salesman at Edward F. Kakas & Sons Inc. on Newbury Street in Boston and seemed to be on a fast track there.

``I remember Carol telling me how he hurt his knee while at Brown and he couldn't continue his scholarship, but she would say, `He has a good job,' '' recalled Carol Dunn, an administrator at Suffolk Law School, referring to a story that Stuart had attended Brown University.

Dunn said DiMaiti apparently never knew that Stuart had not attended the school. In fact, she said, Carol Stuart questioned very little about her husband.

``She had no idea,'' Dunn said. ``I wonder whether he thought she was his ticket. She would have been the perfect victim; she was head over heels for him, and he knew it.

The engagement lasted for nearly two years, until after DiMaiti graduated from Suffolk with honors and went to work as an accountant with the accounting firm of Arthur Young & Co. in downtown Boston at a salary of more than $30,000 a year.

Although she liked working at Arthur Young, completing tax forms for corporations, partnerships and individuals, the long hours took time away from her marriage. In the summer of 1987, Carol Stuart left to work as a lawyer in the tax department at Cahners Publishing.

At a going-away lunch, Carol Stuart reportedly cried so much she was unable to make a farewell speech. A co-worker did it for her, saying how much Carol Stuart loved everyone and how much she would miss working there. Carol Stuart nodded in agreement, while laughing at the scene through her tears.

She always had more than one thing happening at the same time. She was never just a student, just a waitress, just an accountant, just an attorney or just a wife. The move to Cahners allowed Carol Stuart the time to enroll in evening courses at Boston University to get an advanced degree in tax law.

She completed about half the course work, but took the 1989 fall term off because of her pregnancy. She was planning on returning in the fall of this year, a school official said.

On Aug. 28, 1987, a month after Carol started at Cahners, the Stuarts paid $239,000 for a split-level home in Reading, Mass., that had a pool and whirlpool bath. They financed the purchase with a $177,000 mortgage.

The purchase appears to have taken her husband a step away from realizing his dream of opening a restaurant. A colleague at Cahners recalled Carol Stuart asking whether they should buy the house in Reading or use the profits from the sale of their home in Medford to open the restaurant.

``Chuck wanted to postpone having a baby until they could save money for a restaurant,'' a friend, Bill Jaaskela said. ``He wanted to start one. One of his pet peeves was there wasn't good service - personal service, where people remember your name - at restaurants. It was a dream of his for a while.''

The couple enjoyed the benefits of their hard work. They traveled to Italy, dined out frequently, sometimes together, sometimes separately. They kept their old custom from courtship days, which dictated that each went out with their own friends on Friday nights. But it was something that irked Carol, especially when she became pregnant.

On Saturday mornings, when she and a neighbor, Maureen Vajdic, took regular walks, ``she'd tell me, `He came home late last night,''' Vajdic said.

One morning, Stuart asked her whether she had heard arguing the night before.

``I heard nothing, Carol,'' Vajdic recalled saying.

She said that Stuart told her, ``I yelled at him: `Why do you go out? I'm pregnant. Don't you have any concern for me?'''

Carl DiMaiti said Charles Stuart would get ``the hot tickets, the ones everyone wanted'' and go to Bruins games, Celtics playoff games, Red Sox games and Patriot games. ``Carol used to say, `Now I'm pregnant and he goes out, but once I have the baby he will be here.'''

The decision to have a baby

was presented to friends and family as a mutual one. And it was a delight to her. Having a happy family was no longer a high school ambition, it was about to become a reality.

``She called me on the phone and just started screaming, `I'm pregnant! I'm pregnant!' She knew everything about it, as if she had researched it before she even got pregnant,'' said Falk.

Stuart was so thrilled about being an expectant mother that she kept the strip from the test that showed she was pregnant.

Carl DiMaiti said his sister hated milk, but gulped it down during her pregnancy. ``She was in great shape. Christopher would have been fine if it hadn't taken so long. But he was very seriously injured.''

On Oct. 23, the night she was shot, her son was delivered prematurely by an emergency Caesarean section. Medical officials say the baby was without oxygen for at least a half hour before the delivery. The baby died 17 days after his birth.

None of Carol Stuart's friends recall any arguments over whether to have a baby. The Stuarts reportedly talked for more than a year about parentood.

The last time Jaaskela, their friend, saw Carol Stuart was Aug. 22, 1989. He and another Arthur Young accountant went to dinner with her a week before Jaaskela moved to San Francisco.

``She seemed to be in really good spirits,'' he said. ``I asked her how Chuck was and she said he was good but was really anxious to start his own business.''

Friends and relatives say there is a hollowness and a numbness in trying to figure how someone like Carol Stuart could have lived with and loved someone who apparently was so evil for so long without ever realizing the danger.

``I feel as if part of my future went with her,'' said Falk. ``I'd envisioned we'd be friends forever and our children would grow up friends.''

Her professors also are left grasping for explanations.

``The thought one could end up dead within the space of a decade, well that's not what college professors usually think of when talking with their students,'' said Donald Hafner, associate professor of political science at Boston College.

``She was a wonderful person and utterly without guile. Her husband clearly took advantage of that. She's not the type of person to entertain suspicions.''

``She was a very special little angel,'' said Dunn. ``Unfortunately, I just wish she knew better what the devil looked like.''