Children of Murdered Shell Executive to Return to Utah

Children of Murdered Shell Executive to Return to Utah

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- A local judge allowed the four children of murdered Shell Oil executive Todd Staheli to leave Brazil on Wednesday for their grandparents' home in Utah, a court spokeswoman said.

"The order was handed to the children Wednesday, at which point they left for the airport with their grandparents," said a spokeswoman for Rio de Janeiro Juvenile Court Judge Siro Darlan, who granted the order.

The ruling was made following a motion by the Staheli family's lawyer, Joao Mestieri. A spokesman for Mestieri said the children, accompanied by their paternal grandparents and by a maternal aunt and uncle, were to arrive in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Utah natives Todd and Michelle Staheli were found bludgeoned in their bed in a luxurious, high-security Rio de Janeiro condominium on Nov. 30 by their children. Todd Staheli died at the scene and his wife died four days later in the hospital.

However, no murder weapon was found in a case that has baffled investigators.

All four of the Staheli's children, ages 3 to 13, were home at the time of the murder.

Todd Staheli died almost instantly, police said. His wife died of her injuries four days later. The couple were found in their blood-soaked bed by two of the children, a 10-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.

Police initially acted to prevent the children from leaving Rio de Janeiro. However, police made no objection to Mestieri's motion following two formal depositions by the older children of the slain couple.

In his order, Judge Darlan wrote, "Now that the two oldest children have given their depositions, there is no longer any reason for keeping them in Brazil."

Earlier on Wednesday, police re-enacting the murder said the killer was either highly professional or a member of the household.

"This is an atypical crime for Rio. Either it was carried out by a super professional or the assassin never left the house," Roger Anceloti, general director of Rio's forensic police, told reporters outside the house during the re-enactment.

The couple's four children and another American couple called in to help with the re-enactment were not present, so police officers had to stand in for them.

The Staheli family's lawyer said he did not want the children to return to the crime scene. The American couple called in to help -- who lived in the same complex -- has since left the country.

"We can't allow the police to bring the girl there, to put an ax in her hands and re-enact the crime," said Mestieri. "To bring them back to the house to go through the barbarous experience of finding their parents dead is absurd."

Last week, State Security Secretary Anthony Garotinho seemed to suggest the murder weapon was a small ax that one of the Staheli children kept as a toy. But two tests failed to turn up any traces of blood.

Garotinho later denied he was casting suspicion on the children.

"All the possible entryways to the house have been checked, doors, windows, walls and there was no sign (of forced entry) anywhere. If no one entered that means no one left," Garotinho told reporters.

A maid and a driver worked in the house, but were not there on the night of the murder, police say.

Two FBI agents are in Rio to monitor the investigation.

The Staheli family had been in Rio de Janeiro for less than four months when the crime occurred.

Staheli, 39, vice president for joint ventures in the Southern Cone gas and power unit of Shell, was a native of Spanish Fork, Utah, and his wife was from Logan, Utah.

Although the homicide rate hovers around 50 per 100,000 residents in Rio, violence rarely spills into the city's high-security condominiums.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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