WAKESHMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A years-long search for the remains of Venus Stewart appears to officially be over.
Michigan State Police Lt. Chuck Christensen confirms detectives believe they have found the remains of the mother of two, who disappeared from her parent’s Colon Township home in 2010.
Christensen said a tarp found at the scene matched the one her estranged husband bought a day before the murder. However, he said the medical examiner must still confirm the identity.
MSP said the remains were discovered down a two-track in Wakeshma Township, about 20 miles southeast of Kalamazoo and 12 miles north of where Venus Stewart was last seen alive.
Christensen confirmed Doug Stewart led authorities to the remains eight years after the murder. He said they never would have found the remains without Doug Stewart leading them to it.
Christensen said state police have been talking with Doug Stewart for several years, in coordination with another media outlet. About a year ago, Doug Stewart admitted to killing his estranged wife but did not disclose what he did with her body, according to Christensen.
Det. Todd Petersen said time, pressure and authorities agreeing to a allow Stewart to have access to an Xbox ultimately changed his mind.
Venus Stewart, 32, was killed in front of her parent’s St. Joseph County home, where she was living with her daughters, who were 3 and 5 years old at the time. Around 7 a.m. on April 26, 2010, she was in her pajamas as she went outside to get the mail and never returned.
Issues between the couple started surfacing publicly in 2008, when Venus requested a personal protection order against her husband.
“I am scared to death and every day I live in constant fear,” the PPO stated. ” I am constantly looking over my shoulder wondering when he will appear again.”
Venus Stewart separated from her husband in February 2010 and moved from Virginia back into her parent’s Colon Township home.
A week before her disappearance, she was granted temporary legal custody of the couple’s daughters.
At the time of Venus Stewart’s disappearance, Doug Stewart claimed he was in Virginia. However, his alibi fell apart when a Delaware man named Ricky Spencer came forward and told investigators he had posed as Doug Stewart and stayed in Virginia while the real Doug Stewart carried out the crime.
Spencer said he met Doug Stewart through online gaming and agreed to help with his wife’s murder weeks before she disappeared.
Spencer told investigators Doug Stewart told him Venus Stewart was abusing the couple’s children, so Spencer agreed to help because he thought the kids were in danger.
Spencer said at Doug Stewart’s request, he wore Doug Stewart’s clothes, slept in his apartment and used his credit cards to give him an alibi at the time of the murder.
On May 4, 2010, police searched Doug Stewart’s truck in Virginia. In it, they found blood stains and a Walmart receipt for a shovel, tarp, cap and gloves timestamped the day before Venus Stewart disappeared. Surveillance video showed Doug Stewart buying the items at an Ohio store.
On June 1, 2010, police began to suspect Doug Stewart had an impersonator in Virginia after someone came forward, saying they had spotted Doug Stewart in Michigan on the day of the murder.
Doug Stewart was arrested June 22, 2010, after Spencer shared his story. A day later, Doug Stewart was charged with his estranged wife’s murder.
On March 11, 2011, Doug Stewart was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Venus Stewart, even though her body was never found. Jury deliberations lasted for about three hours.
On July 22, 2011, Spencer pleaded no contest for his role in Venus’ murder, and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Venus Stewart’s parents refused to move because they believed Doug Stewart, who is in prison for life, had buried her nearby.