Fifteen years after a St. Thomas businessman was found dead in his home with a knife in his neck and four years since police dug into a cold case murder investigation, a Superior Court judge upheld the leading charges in the death of Egbert Stuart.
Investigators working with the Virgin Islands Police Department accuse two members of an apparent love triangle of killing Stuart, allegedly the third party in the deadly affair. Stuart was the owner of Manno’s Restaurant at the Fort Christian Parking Lot. Stuart’s widow, Viviane Stuart, and Jacques Cajuste were charged with murder, assault and use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of murder and assault.
Cold case investigators reopened the case in 2006 after test results from forensic evidence declared Cajuste as a major contributor of DNA material found at the crime scene. Cajuste and the victim’s wife were arrested in mid-September 2016. The advice of rights hearing for Cajuste and Viviane Stuart was held on Sept. 13, 2019, before Superior Court Magistrate Carolyn Hermon-Purcell.
A few days later, Cajuste filed a motion to dismiss the charges. On Dec. 30, 2020, Superior Court Judge Denise Francois upheld first- and second-degree murder charges against the pair but dismissed the assault and weapons charges.
By a ruling made in a memorandum and opinion, Francois dismissed charges of use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first- and third-degree assault. The assault charges were dismissed as well. The judge allowed the murder charges to remain.
“The court finds that counts two through six and eight of the information are barred by the statute of limitations,” Francois said.
Cajuste has been in custody at the Bureau of Corrections since his arrest, while Viviane Stuart’s case was assigned to the probation office. Now, by virtue of the Dec. 30 ruling, Cajuste may have a chance for pretrial release.
Defendants charged with first-degree murder can be detained pending trial. But Francois refuted an assertion that Cajuste was a flight risk.
At the time that cold case detectives filed charges connected to Egbert Stuart’s June 2005 death, Det. Sgt. Mario Stout noted Cajuste left the Virgin Islands between July and August of that year. The defendant moved to Pennsylvania, Stout said. Investigators also pointed to statements given by Cajuste to the police shortly after Egbert Stuart’s death, where Cajuste admitted he and the victim’s wife were co-workers, having an affair.
But Francois said the government could not prove they sought to arrest Cajuste, although the defendant said he moved freely between Pennsylvania, New York and the Virgin Islands between 2005 and 2016.
The court also ordered that a transcript of the Sept. 13, 2019, advice of rights hearing be given to the Bureau of Corrections, where Cajuste remains behind bars, and to the probation office, which is overseeing the case against Viviane Stuart.
That order was issued by Francois on March 20, 2020.