Life Is Full Of Unique Experiences!
Who knew I’d be watching my ex-boss on the ID Channel with one of the most racial events in America that shaped and changed Boston. I moved to Weymouth, Massachusetts with my ex-husband and two kids in the summer of 1981 from my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. We had a thriving karate studio in Quincy, Massachusetts with many students of all ages. At one point we had a family come in that brought their young son to start classes with us. He was a great student that was with us for many years climbing in belt ranks as his proficiency blossomed. His mom and dad usually brought him to and from classes and my ex Billy and I got to be good friends with them. Their names were Jay and Mary Kakas, they and their family owned one of the oldest and most prestige retail fur companies in Boston. They had a beautiful storefront on swanky Newbury Street in downtown. Newbury Street is known for high-end art galleries, retail stores, obscure and unique shops that you won’t find in a typical mall.
Kakas Furs was well known for their giant taxidermied polar bear right inside their entry way. Most people walking by on the street couldn’t help but stop and be amazed at the sheer size of it. Many people wanted to enter past the security at the door to pose for a picture with it. Even though the store itself sold gorgeous mink coats, fox fur stoles etc. worth thousands of dollars, Mary, Jay and their associates were always very gracious to people that wanted to take a photo with the polar bear.
They were very nice and kind people and Billy and I both liked them immensely. As they got to know us over the years, Mary came to know that I went to school for fashion design. She also knew that I had been creating costumes for a couple of local rock bands for their shows. I had been having a couple of fashion shows at some nightclubs. I also had opened a shop for a short period of time with a couple of friends in Provincetown, Mass until the workload became too much. Soon, Mary asked me if I wanted a job making fur coats? She said that they could use me and would like to instill some new blood into Kakas Fur. She told me that the women that were presently there had been with them for years but she thought I would be a good fit.
I jumped at the chance I had no experience with fur but knew that I could learn. I was ready and willing. I also thought it would be fun to work in downtown Boston because I love anything new and adventurous. It meant I would have to take the T, which was the subway and I had never even stepped foot in any subway in my life. Or I could take a bus into downtown each day. I would have to figure it out. I was excited and anxious to start.
Fitting In And Finding Your Place!
I started my first day at Kakas Fur around the summer of 1986 I believe. I ended up working there about a year or so in total before our studio needed me full time. On my first day though, Mary met me and introduced me to everyone. The building was large with four floors. On the first floor was the showroom floor where there were various fur coats on mannequins displayed. Of course the giant polar bear, some fitting rooms, the storefront window, some offices, storage rooms and some other rooms. There was a brass elevator with glass and mirrors that went from the first floor to the forth floor. The Second floor held the executive offices and the fur cold storage vaults. The third floor was where the fur coats were made, redesigned, repaired, patterns were laid out and the skins were stretched and sewn. I worked on this floor. I don’t ever remember going up to the forth floor but I imagine there was primarily storage up there.
The store manager was a young guy named Charles Stuart. He was a preppy looking white guy with black hair and very pale skin. He would easily blush and I would remember how red his cheeks would get. He was telling the world how he was feeling in one way or another whether he wanted to or not. He seemed very nice and greeted me kindly and graciously. He would be my head boss from that day forward. I met all of the other associates as well and then Mary took me up to the third floor to meet the ladies I would be working with.
We rode the elevator up and as it opened on the third floor all eyes met me. Everyone stopped what they were doing as Mary made her round of introductions. All of the ladies working in this area were much older than me as I was about 28 years old at the time. The majority of them spoke with heavy Italian accents and some of them spoke little English or broken English. They all knew their stuff though. They were nice but a bit standoffish to me for the first several months that I worked there. They looked at me with skepticism that I could do the job. After they saw that I was a fast learner and they could trust me to do a good job they started to get more comfortable around me.
Over time they grew to absolutely love and adore me and I felt the same way about them. I loved making them proud of the work that I did and even though I am a devout animal lover I also grew to admire and respect the art of furriers. I know that this is a very controversial topic with many people but I happen to be someone that loves animals dearly but I also love fur coats. Take it for what its worth. Not everyone in this world agrees about things, I am OK with that. That is what makes this world so fascinating to me, that people are unique individuals with differing thoughts.
You Know When You Get That FEELING!
Over the year or so that I worked at Kakas Fur’s I became part of the family so to speak, part of the team. I became proficient at jumping on the tangle of subways or the bus and getting to work from my home in South Boston. I enjoyed getting out at lunchtime to grab a bite to eat and seeing the sites and all of the people. I loved the ladies I worked with and Mary and Jay were always great to me. They made me feel appreciated and I was grateful for the job. I did have one area in which I felt uncomfortable though. It was never enough of an issue that I felt I needed to do anything about it but it was something that made me feel uneasy.
That was my manager, my Boss, Charles Stuart.
He really gave me the creeps. It started subtly after I started working and then gradually over time got worse. I started to notice that whenever I came into the building and would greet everyone as soon as he heard my voice he would come out from wherever he was. I would always head immediately for the elevator and almost every time, he would find some reason or other to go up with me to the third floor. If there was someone else going up then he wouldn’t bother. If he knew we would be alone then he would high tail it to jump on with me. The really obvious thing that really bothered me was that he usually had no reason to go to the third floor so he would step out look around weirdly, step back on and go down. It made me so uncomfortable and I felt as though the ladies knew that it was odd. At times I would see them look and frown and then they would speak Italian to one another. Maybe I was imagining it but I think he creeped them out for me too. I believe that they knew I innocently was being subjected to his leering at me.
On our elevator rides up he would inundate me with small talk, just stupid stuff but I didn’t want to say more that hello how are you today? I didn’t want to engage with him at all because he made me feel uncomfortable. He had a slimy, smarmy ambience to him and if he said to me “ Gee, you are looking especially nice today!” it sent a chill up my spine. I wanted no interaction and he was forcing a response out of me. He saw that I had a wedding ring and he had one on too. I can appreciate male compliments and know where to place them but when I feel like your intentions may be headed somewhere I am not willing to go. Or you are being disrespectful? BACK OFF!
So he played this little cat and mouse game with me for months and I never spoke on it to a single person. He hadn’t crossed a line or I would have put him in his place. It hadn’t progressed to be anything serious enough to tell my husband or Mary or Jay at the time. So I dealt with it even though I was gritting my teeth and huffing and puffing.
One day my ex-husband had to pick me up from work for some reason. He pulled up in front and was waiting for me to exit the building. As I went down in the elevator Charles Stuart jumps in on the second floor and rides down to the first floor with me. He is busy saying his good byes to me and walking me to the front door to open it for me. He looks outside and sees my husband at the time standing by the car talking to Mary. He watches as I give Mary a hug good by and jump in the car. I turned and looked at his face and saw him looking at me, if looks could kill. I would have been dead. I realized at that moment that he didn’t know that my husband was black and obviously he had a major problem with that.
Things Changed On A Dime!
I was certainly right about what I observed, when I went back to work it was like night and day. No more rides up in the elevator with Mr Stuart. No more chit chat and telling me how lovely I looked even though I had work clothes on the majority of the time. No more stupid small talk or phony innuendo, nothing! It all stopped! Instead I was being sneered at and snubbed! Treated as though I smelled like horse shit from twenty feet. I was elated, thank you Lord! Finally I have this man off of my ass! That’s how I felt. Plus I loved that his ugly prejudiced rotten heart was exposed. Who knew I would be watching my ex-boss on the ID Channel.
Life Is Always Full Of Lessons!
Life is always full of lessons and situations and circumstances are all in how we deal with them. I don’t have hate in my heart but I do love understanding how others truly feel. I love the truth and it is scary when people hide dark secrets that are hurtful and harmful. We all have parts of us that we keep hidden sometimes for fear of being hurt. Sometimes for reasons only you can know or understand. Sometimes though there are people that are out there that are just plain evil. Ramon and I love watching the The ID Channel and The Forensic Files. We love true crime stories and are fascinated at the atrocities that human beings can perpetrate upon one another. It sparks conversations between us regarding do killers have a conscience, feel remorse, all kinds of questions.
You Never Know When Someone Next To You Is A Devil In Disguise
I will always fondly remember my time at Kakas Fur’s. It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Mary and Jay Kakas gave me a wonderful opportunity for which I will always be grateful. When we moved to California we lost touch with the Kakas family but their store remained opened until just recently to my knowledge.
The shocking event came about on October 23 1989, we had only been living in California a few months at that time. I turned on Fox News and saw that Charles Stuart, my old boss at Kakas Fur was on the news. WTF? That was my reaction! As I sat and listened I heard that he was coming from a childbirth class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston with his 8 month pregnant wife Carol. They were driving through the Roxbury area when he said that a BLACK MAN came up to their car at a stoplight. Charles Stuart said the man shot his wife in the head and him in the stomach then fled the scene.
His wife Carol died hours after the shooting and their baby boy, named Christopher was delivered 2 months prematurely. The baby lived for 17 days but also passed away. Immediately after the shooting Boston police started to stop nearly every black male they encountered. It is now looked upon as one of the most notoriously racially motivated harassment of black men by police officers.
Below is an except from The Washington Post:
News stories and TV reports portrayed the horrific murder as a symbol of a violent, drug-ridden inner city, playing on the fears of white suburbanites and fueling a public backlash against African Americans in Boston.
But one issue that often comes up as just a side note to Charles Stuart’s hateful act of deceit is the police force’s widespread use of stop-and-frisk in its search for the alleged murderer.
The controversial tactic has long been used by police departments across the country, bolstered by a 1968 Supreme Court decision that police could stop and frisk a citizen based on “reasonable suspicion” that a crime had been committed. (Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg apologized for using it during his three terms as New York mayor).
This was all incredulous to me! I continued watching this all play out over the next month or so through the news. The whole country was involved in this case everybody was talking about it at the time. Everyone had an opinion about it. I never thought that the end result of this would be that my boss would be a murderer. The African American community and people like me that were concerned about the racial profiling were up in arms. It was horrible how black men were being treated and it was the norm. It meant that my ex-husband could be treated like that, my brother in laws and even my son. It was scary.
It didn’t surprise me though as I thought about my experience with good ole Charles Stuart. He showed me what kind of fake ugly prejudice heart that he really had. He was a slimy, smooth talker trying to get at me even though we were both married. Until he saw that my husband was black then he couldn’t stand me, in fact he hated me! What a sad man!
Who knew The Extent Of The Evil In His Heart?
Just like the killers Ramon and I watch on The ID Channel, who knew what Charles Stuart was capable of doing? Not the woman he was married to and murdered. Not his unborn son who he conceived and then was so selfish that he didn’t want and also killed. Not his own mother or father. Not his friends and some family other than his brother Matthew who helped him in his heinous act. I never thought my boss would be a murderer. Yet, he planned the whole thing, shot his wife and then himself and then passed the gun to his brother who took it away and disposed of it. He then blamed the act on a black man and had the police harass and humiliate thousands of innocent men. Stripping them of their clothing on street corners in front of the public in the cold of winter. Ultimately his brother confessed their crimes and led the police to where he dumped the gun. He told the cops that his brother Charles didn’t want to be married anymore, he was already had a girlfriend and didn’t want the responsibility of a baby. He wanted the money for his dead wife’s life insurance policy to open a restaurant. He wanted a whole new life so he plotted and planned, he thought he was so smart he was sure if he shot himself the whole scenario would be believable. Well he got away with it for a minute and he hurt a lot of people and reeked alot of havoc. But I still never thought my boss would be a murderer. But, HE WAS!!
And on top of it all he was a coward!
When he knew he was going to be arrested he went to the Tobin Bridge and jumped off of it, killing himself. Committing suicide! He knew that he was going to go away for a very long time and maybe he wouldn’t have survived even being in prison? Who knows? There were some pretty outraged people that didn’t appreciate anything that he did. So that’s my story because, I Never Thought My Boss Would Be A Murderer!!
The Law & Order episodes “Happily Ever After” and “Daijin” are based on the Charles Stuart case. In the episode, there are two references to the initial suspect, Willie Bennett. David Brisbin plays Dr. Bennett and Kelly Neal appears as Willie Tivnan.
The Music Video “Wildside” by Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch(C) 1991 Interscope Records has a reference to this case in its lyrics.
The 2019 TV series City on a Hill opens with a title describing the murder and frame-up, as context for the setting for the racially polarized content of the series.