Penthouse Retrospective

by Joe Sharkey Originally Published: June, 1991

Chuck Stuart | 30 Years Ago This Month

McLaughlin knew there wasn’t much time left before Chuck blacked out. “We’re on the way,” the dispatcher assured him. “But you’ve got to tell me a little better where you are.”

Static crowded the line. Chuck, having wound his way through the lower end of the project, had pulled the car over on St. Alphonsus Street. Carol was now slumped beside him silently.

“Hello, Chuck?” McLaughlin was saying. “Chuck, can you hear me? I lost him! Chuck? Chuckie? Chuck Stuart?”

Just then — the digital counter said it was past 12 minutes into the call — McLaughlin heard a thin, pulsing wail through the phone, well in the background. On the phone, Grabowski broke in. “Wait a minute. Can you hear a siren over there?”

“I can hear a siren!” McLaughlin confirmed. To Chuck, he said, “Can you hear me, buddy? Chuck? Chuck Stuart? Are you with me? I can hear you breathing. Chuck? Pick up the phone. I need a better location to find you.”

On and off, the cruisers signaled on the streets of Mission Hill. Finally, the sound of a police siren came across the car phone loud and clear.

“Chuck? Chuck? Do you hear a siren?”

Chuck muttered into the phone, “I can hear a siren. I hear the police. Right here, there’s Boston police.”

“Put the Boston police officer on the phone, Chuck,” McLaughlin said, collapsing back in his chair. There was commotion on the other end as police warily approached the Toyota. Then they could be heard pounding their way into the car .

“We’ve located him!” a cop shouted into the phone.

At the scene a half-dozen police cruisers and two ambulances had converged on the Toyota almost simultaneously. Three paramedics, Rich Serino, Dan Hickey, and Kevin Shea, jumped out of the first Emergency Medical Service ambulance that arrived. Hickey found the woman slumped on the front seat, bleeding profusely from the head. Shea rushed to the driver’s side, where Serino was already reaching in through the open window to unlock the door. To Shea it looked at first like an extreme case of those domestic-violence disputes that cops and emergency workers see all the time.

“Rich, make sure he’s not sitting on a gun or something,” Shea hissed to his colleague. But he immediately felt guilty for having even thought of it, because both occupants of the car were in very bad shape. The man was conscious, writhing, with his right arm raised over the passenger’s seat where the woman’s bloodied head bent toward his shoulder. Shea cut the front of Chuck’s shirt away and helped Serino ease him onto a stretcher while Hickey did the same with Carol on the other side.

Guessing at how long the woman had been without oxygen, they figured they had less than ten minutes to save the baby.

At this moment, as Chuck lay in an ambulance conscious and lucid while the paramedics labored to save his life, fate played a second trick on him, far more profound than the one that had caused his flailing wife to knock the gun into his gut: This new twist put him on national television. In the ultimate tribute the decade of the eighties could pay to one of its own, Chuck Stuart promptly got his 15 minutes of fame.

Alerted by the drumbeat in the local news media that seemed to indicate a crime wave exploding on Boston’s streets, a television crew from the network program “Rescue 911” happened to be in Boston that night, riding along with an emergency crew, hoping to chance upon some kind of street excitement, when Chuck Stuart made his call for help. The television crew arrived on the scene and found a national icon. With grim wonder, the long lens of the video camera fixed on the pain-wracked young man. In the shadows on the sidewalk, a handful of project residents, drawn by the sirens and the lurid, pulsing red lights, thrilled by the ratifying presence of television, murmured in quiet appreciation.

A cop with a notebook crouched by the wounded man’s head in the back of the ambulance. “You see who did this? One guy? Two guys?”

“A black male,” Chuck mumbled.

“What did he have on for clothing, do you remember?”

Chuck replied with difficulty through the oxygen mask, “Black running suit.”

Sadly, the Chuck Stewart story has been going on for centuries and shows no signs of slowing going forward. Love can be a dangerous dance.