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Oct 19, 2018

Guilty of Murder – Two Men are Convicted of Killing Richard and Maria Stuart

The families of Richard and Maria Stuart exited the court today in an emotional state. Ten years ago to date, the young couple was brutally murdered at their house in the West Landivar area of Belize City after returning home from a social event. In the days following, two men were charged for the couple’s murder. Today, at the end of a long trial Milton Maza and Eli Lopez were found guilty of the double murder carried out as a joint enterprise. Maza worked for the couple and police found items belonging to the Stuarts with Lopez. His attorney has been quick to point out that the evidence is circumstantial and will appeal the conviction.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The conviction of a pair of men after several years on pretrial detention, is a poignant outcome for the Stuart family who lost a son, as well as a daughter-in-law, to a callous double-homicide eight years ago to the day.  Richard and Maria Stuart were found butchered inside their West Landivar home on October nineteenth, 2010.  Since then, there has been an intense push for justice and closure by the family and the legal fraternity to which the husband belonged.  This morning, following a lengthy decision handed down by the Supreme Court, Milton Maza and Eli Lopez were both found guilty of murder.  Lopez was represented by attorney Leeroy Banner.


Leeroy Banner, Attorney for Eli Lopez

Leeroy Banner

“The judge is pretty much saying that because certain items were found at his house and those items belonged to the deceased, he is saying that based on circumstantial evidence that he was a part of this joint enterprise.  He was one of the party that went into the house that night and murdered the Stuarts.”


In common law, the principle of joint enterprise ascribes criminal liability to the participants in an illegal venture for all the results from that activity.  In this case, Guatemalan national Milton Maza and his Honduran accomplice, Eli Lopez, stood accused of killing the couple and making off with several items belonging to them.  According to Banner, his client was convicted based on circumstantial evidence.


Leeroy Banner

“He took the police to his backyard where the police found a suitcase that contained a bunch of keys and also laptops.  But what is important is that the keys had DNA that belonged to the deceased.  So because those items were found at his house it was linked to him.  It linked him to the house of the deceased.”

Richard and Maria had just returned from a farewell dinner for retiring Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh when they met a most brutal end.  As it turns out, Milton Maza was employed by the couple at the time of their demise.  Following the commission or the heinous crime, the couple’s vehicle was stolen from their residence and later recovered in St. Matthew’s Village.  Maza’s partner in crime told police that he was a farmer also residing in that western community.


Leeroy Banner

“My client is saying that he wants to appeal because he is of the view that not because stolen items were found at his house means that he committed murder.  And that is the issue, if the police go and find items at your house that were stolen from a house, does it mean that you are guilty of murder?  And that, for me, is the key question in this case and I believe that it is not sufficient, but we respect his Lordship’s ruling.  I will have to study the judgment again but my client is saying that he wants to appeal the matter and that is all I can say for now, that we are thinking about appealing the case because the evidence was not sufficient for a murder conviction.  To me, at most it’s handling stolen goods or theft, but not murder.”


The trial of both men was among the most high profile cases to be heard before the high court, particularly because of the Stuart’s place in Belizean society.  Richard was a well-known attorney with deep connections inside the ruling United Democratic Party, his wife an established chartered accountant.  So, if Lopez did not participate in the brutal slaying of the well-loved couple, how did he come by the items that were found at his residence?


Leeroy Banner

“It came out in court that those items were taken there by somebody else and he told the police that from day one.  From back in 2010, he told the police that these items belonged to X person and he brought them here and that came out in court and he took the stand and he told the court that under oath how those items got to his house.”


Isani Cayetano

“That person was never sought by police despite a name and an identity being given?”


Leeroy Banner

“Well that person is the first accused.”


A date for sentencing remains to be set.  Of note is that Maza and Lopez have been on remand at the Belize Central Prison for the past eight years.


Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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