COLON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Today marks seven years since a mother in St. Joseph County disappeared from her parents’ home.
Despite several searches,Venus’ body has never been found and the mother of two is presumed dead.
Police believe Venus’ estranged husband, Doug Stewart, who was living in Virginia at the time, went to his in-laws’ home, abducted Venus and killed her. The couple had been going through a divorce when Venus disappeared.
In the weeks following Venus’ disappearance, police in Virginia searched Doug Stewart’s truck and reported finding what appeared to be a blood spot and a receipt for items that included a tarp and shovel. In Michigan, police say there was evidence of a struggle near the mailbox and say the tread on the tires of Doug’s truck appeared to match tread patterns found at the scene.
Doug Stewart was initially named a ‘person of interest’ in the case, but ended up being charged with murder less than two months after Venus disappeared.
During his trial, a witness named Ricky Spencer testified he provided Stewart’s alibi by dressing like him and staying at his apartment in Virginia. Spencer said he also used Stewart’s credit cards and computer in his absence.
After about three hours of deliberations, a jury convicted Doug Stewart on first degree murder and conspiracy charges. A verdict that was reached without a body in the case.
Doug Stewart was sentenced to life in prison. During his sentencing in 2011, he spoke in court, maintaining his innocence.
“I can’t believe he would hurt me and my family this way, we haven’t done anything to him. And then for him to sit here and say he’s innocent when all the phone calls and everything lined up was exactly what happened,” said Venus’ brother, Dustin Jasper during the sentencing.
In exchange for his testimony, Ricky Spencer was given one year in jail and three years probation. He was released from the St. Joseph County Jail in March 2012.
Since the guilty verdict, Doug Stewart has tried to overturn his conviction, claiming he was denied ‘due process’ during his trial and that there was an error with jury instructions regarding first degree murder charges. The State Court of Appeals denied his motions, saying there was no error.
Loved ones of Venus Stewart have created a Facebook page dedicated to the mother to help keep her memory alive and to keep the public updated on any searches or updates in the case. The page is also active in helping keep the word out about other missing persons, as well as preventing domestic violence.