Convicted killer finally leads police to wife's remains 'in exchange for an Xbox'
On April 26, 2010, Venus Stewart went to check the mail, and was never seen again. The following year, her estranged husband Doug was convicted of her murder, but continued to deny his involvement during the beginning of his life sentence - at least until this week.
Not finding her body, the police continued to visit Doug in jail, hoping that he would admit to the crime and reveal some information about where he buried the body - and this week, he finally gave in.
His original conviction was largely based on the testimony of Ricky Spencer, who confessed that he had been persuaded to impersonate Doug, as he drove to Michigan from his home in Virginia to commit the crime. Venus had taken the children, moving in with her parents, after she accused him of molesting their daughter and instances of domestic violence.
"He mentioned he was going to bury her where they wouldn't be able to dig there for over 100 years, like a national park," Ricky said during the trial. "He said that in his will, like when he gets older, he'd have a location where she was."
Now, Doug has confessed to the crimes, and told them exactly where to find the body. “I put two stumps over the site.” He said, “I knew I couldn't forget where she was.” Due to changes in soil composition, the search took several hours, but eventually remains were found - and forensic crews are confident that they are in fact Venus'.
"I don't know what I was thinking back then, I was just on a mission," he told WWMT-TV. "I just sat there and looked at her, with my best friend in my lap. I didn't have a plan." However, it did sound as if he did put plans in place, even visiting the burial site before he visited his estranged wife.
“I had come here the night before, I had planned for this to be the spot," Doug said. "I don't know how I did it," he said. "I just can't believe I did it."
Once he realised his appeals weren't getting through, he gave up trying to convince anyone of his innocence, and confessed to the crimes. It was on Christmas last year, after he found out that his sister had reconciled with Venus' mother, that he had a change of heart, and decided to reveal where she was buried:
“I remained as silent as I could. I would never forgive myself. It finally hit a point where I finally wanted to tell my family.
"I let them know I didn't want this burden on the family or even selfishly myself. I didn't want it anymore. It's a horrible pain knowing you're hurting people. Even beyond the crime you committed."
However, Doug didn't reveal this information just to do the right thing, but used it as a bargaining tool with the police, making sure they promised him several perks while serving his life sentence. In return for this reveal, he was allowed to participate in various prison programs, and even asked for an Xbox.
Stewart's specialised housing unit in Saginaw Correctional Facility will receive access to an Xbox in their free time, after they found the remains. This 'special' model will not be allowed an internet connection, it has been confirmed. These privileges are reportedly contingent on his good behaviour.
Taking detectives and a Western Michigan University archaeology team to a wooded area in Kalamazoo County, a site 15 minutes from Venus' parents house, and a place that Doug used to visit with his father as a teenager.
The team sifted through the soil and excavated what is believed to be Venus' remains. Tests are still being done to be certain that it is a match, but detectives are extremely confident that it is her body. Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Todd Peterson told WWMT-TV:
"The criminal portion has been closed. We just kept at it to help find closure for Venus' family.
"It was purely for them that we kept going in the hopes that someday we'd locate her remains and give her some closure."
While Venus' death will undoubtedly continue to affect her family and loved ones, at least they now have some closure to this dark chapter.